Senate Dems talk bipartisan on taxes - with conditions
Senate Democrats and independents told Republicans on Tuesday that they are willing to work on rewriting the nation's tax code so long as any overhaul doesn't mean the middle class pays more and the top 1 percent pays less.
In a letter to Republican leaders, including President Donald Trump, 45 of 48 Senate Democratic caucus members spelled out their conditions for bipartisan tax reform.
"We are confident that, by working together, we could modernize our tax system to increase working families' wages, improve middle-class job growth, promote domestic investment, modernize our outdated business and international tax systems and put in place sound fiscal policy that raises the revenue needed to meet the needs of our country," the Democrats wrote.
On Tuesday morning, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin met with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., at the Capitol.
Republicans controlling Congress are gearing up to advance their tax measure this fall, promising to lower rates on businesses and individuals, while clearing out many tax breaks and deductions. The terms laid out by Democrats are unlikely to tempt Republicans, who are planning to use a filibuster-proof Senate procedure to advance the legislation without their help.
Any tax reform effort should not benefit the wealthiest individuals, who have already seen outsized benefits from recent economic gains," said the letter, authored by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and others and provided to the media. "Tax reform cannot be a cover story for delivering tax cuts to the wealthiest."
The contours of the GOP tax plan are fuzzy at best, but House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says he's not pressing for a large, deficit-financed tax measure. But keeping GOP promises for large rate cuts won't be easy under those conditions, given the difficulty in eliminating popular deductions and tax breaks.
The most recent successful tax reform effort was in 1986 and required a bipartisan push to overcome opposition from powerful interest groups.
GOP leaders also intend to reject another Democratic demand: advancing the measure under regular legislative procedures instead of through the planned fast-track path.
Three Democrats from states easily carried by President Donald Trump — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota — did not sign the letter. All three are up for re-election.