- President Donald Trump invited members of the Senate Finance Committee to the White House on Wednesday.
- Republicans are going to use the reconciliation process to try to pass tax reform without Democratic support.
- Democrats feel left out of the process, which they say is antithetical to a bipartisan process.
WASHINGTON — Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee left their meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday feeling unheard and ignored as the effort to reform the tax code moves forward.
“I have had people on both sides — and I promised not to mention the name of the people on the other sides, or names — but a lot of people are liking this very much, and I think we’re going to have tremendous support,” Trump said to reporters after the meeting concluded. But the Democrats who returned to Capitol Hill were less optimistic.
Trump hosted mostly Republicans, but also included Senate Finance ranking member Ron Wyden, of Oregon, as well as four Democrats up for reelection next year in swing states the president won in 2016: Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown.
“Two big issues that I raised — or ones I raised over and over again — were it’s a giveaway to the one percent, not middle class,” Casey told Business Insider of the tax reform plan. “They don’t get a kind of tax cut they should get and secondly, the cut in the budget resolution, Medicare and Medicaid, a trillion and a half, is just totally unacceptable. So I didn’t get good answers to those questions.”
Stabenow echoed that sentiment.
“During today’s meeting, I expressed concerns that the Republican tax proposal would give 80% of the benefits to the top one percent, take away important tax incentives for Michigan manufacturers and small businesses, and add to our nation’s deficit,” Stabenow said in a statement. “I told President Trump that instead of spending over $1.5 trillion on tax cuts for the wealthy, we should work together to stop tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and give middle-class families a bigger tax cut.”
Most frustrated with the meeting and overall process by which Republicans are planning to pass a tax reform bill was McCaskill, who told reporters there are a number of nonstarters in the GOP’s framework.
McCaskill’s frustrations stem from what Democrats believe is a distortion of the regular order, bypassing the 60-vote threshold through the budgetary process known as reconciliation. This process would allow the GOP to pass tax reform without any Democratic support.
“My point I made to the president is it’s very clear: ‘Mr. President, you’ve got a deserved reputation for being a great negotiator, would you ever negotiate when you had no idea what the other side is proposing?'” she said. “That’s not a negotiation. That’s not how we get to the middle.”
“I’m somebody who’s not ashamed to say I’m a moderate,” McCaskill added. “I like to bring people in from the ends and try to get something done. So I am perfectly willing to negotiate. I can’t do it in a vacuum and it feels like the reconciliation is a gun to our head to say ‘well you gotta negotiate in a vacuum.’ It doesn’t work that way.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who was not present at the meeting but regularly communicates with Trump, suggested that the forthcoming GOP tax bill will likely face the same fate of the several failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Again, it’s gonna be like health care,” Schumer said in a press conference Wednesday. “They’re gonna make their sell by trying to do a tax bill that comes from the hard right, that benefits the Betsy DeVoses, the cabinet, and other billionaires. They’re going to let every single Republican member hold them up and the bill will collapse.”