Trump sells tax reform with trucker backdrop in Pennsylvania

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — President Trump said Wednesday his tax proposal will be a boon for the trucking industry, the type of working-class constituency he won over during last year’s presidential election.

“When your trucks are moving, America is growing,” Trump told a crowd of truckers inside an aircraft hangar near the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg.

He said his “huge” tax plan would help “remove barriers that slow you down.”

The president spoke in front of a giant semi truck with a trailer that said “Win Again: Lower Taxes, Bigger Paychecks, More Jobs.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Trump’s speech is an attempt to breathe new life into his push to overhaul the tax code at a time when his administration has been consumed by culture wars, personal feuds and criticism over his response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

The future of the tax plan faces fresh doubts, just two weeks after the White House and congressional Republicans released a framework outlining their tax priorities.

Senate GOP leaders are struggling to hold their conference together ahead of a critical vote next week for the tax overhaul. Senators will vote on a budget resolution, which will need to pass in order for them to consider a tax bill under special rules that would allow them to approve it on a party-line vote.

The president drove home his claim that his tax plan would benefit the working class, and not the wealthy.

“It’s a middle class bill. That’s what we’re thinking of. That’s what I want,” he said.

He ticked off provisions that the White House argues would help truckers — such as lower taxes for individuals, a reduction in the top rate for pass-through businesses taxed through the individual system, and repeal of the estate tax.

Trump said that business tax changes in his plan would likely lead a typical household to see a $4,000 pay raise. The president’s Council of Economic Advisers will release a white paper detailing this estimate in the near future, according to the White House.

But the estimate has already received pushback from Democrats and outside groups.

“I have not seen any evidence that even comes remotely close to that suggestion,” Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said at an event hosted by The Hill Wednesday.

Convincing the public that the plan will help the working class is only one part of the challenge for Trump.

His fight with Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Tenn.) has the potential to alienate a GOP lawmaker whose support for the tax plan could be critical.

Corker voted for the budget in the Senate Budget Committee, but he has pledged not to vote for a tax bill if it adds to the deficit. The senator has also said he wants a tax bill to be permanent.

Both of these goals would be challenging to achieve, with top House tax-writer Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) saying Wednesday that lawmakers are not going to be able to make as much of the bill permanent as they would have liked.

Trump has visited a series of states he won in 2016 that are represented by Democratic senators, including Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana, a tactic designed to win their support for the tax plan.

The president blasted the Democrats as “obstructionists” who support “open borders and high taxes.”

He did not specifically mention Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator, Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe GOP tax bill will be a health care burden on American families Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  GOP campaign committees call on Democrats to return Franken donations MORE, but did laud Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaDemocrats expand House map after election victories GOP Senate hopefuls reluctant to back McConnell as leader Trump gives Barletta edge in crowded Pa. primary MORE (R-Pa.), one of several Republicans challenging Casey in next year’s midterms.

“You’re going to win big,” Trump told Barletta, one of several lawmakers attending the speech.

While vulnerable Democratic senators have attended some of Trump’s past tax speeches, Casey did not show up and spent the day instead attacking the president’s plan as a boon for the wealthy that could actually end up raising taxes on middle-class taxpayers.

Casey, who serves on the tax-writing Finance Committee, issued a series of tweets throughout the day — including during Trump’s speech —  criticizing aspects of the GOP framework. And he sent a letter to Trump asking him and GOP leaders to “reverse course, abandon this partisan process and come to the table to work with Democrats on a tax proposal that benefits all Americans, not just the wealthy and the powerful.”

Casey also held a press conference in Philadelphia to blast the tax plan ahead of Trump’s speech on Wednesday.

“This isn’t tax reform. They’re calling it tax reform — it’s a tax cut for the super rich. It’s a tax cut for corporations,” he said.

During his event, Casey suggested the finance panel hold about 20 bipartisan hearings to see if Democrats and Republicans can work together to overhaul the tax code.

“If you’re not in the top 1 percent, you should be in favor of open, bipartisan hearings,” he said.