Dems knock Toomey over proposed college provision in tax plan

Dems knock Toomey over proposed college provision in tax plan
© Greg Nash

Republican negotiators have slipped into the tax bill a provision that would exempt Hillsdale College, a leading conservative college in Michigan, from an excise tax on schools with more than 500 students or large endowments.

The GOP amendment making final changes to the tax bill includes language sponsored by Sens. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNewly declassified memos detail extent of improper Obama-era NSA spying Overnight Tech: FCC won't fine Colbert over Trump joke | Trump budget slashes science funding | Net neutrality comment period opens Appeals court decision keeps lawsuit against NSA surveillance alive MORE (R-Pa.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (R-Texas) that would exempt any university that does not accept federal financial aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act from excise taxes, Democratic aides said.

Hillsdale College is the only college or university that meets this definition, according to Democratic sources.

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Senate Democrats hammered Toomey on Friday night over the proposed amendment, arguing it would specifically benefit the conservative college in Michigan.
 
"It feels like this is a very limited provision written for a very special person," Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillDemocrats turn on Al Franken Trump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Mo.) said on the Senate floor.
 
Toomey defended the provision, saying it would broadly apply to schools that don't take federal funds.
 
"My view is, if a college chooses to forgo federal money and the students that attend have to find their own way to get in, it is diminishing the burden that that college would otherwise impose on the taxpayers," he said. "And so it's perfectly reasonable in my view to exempt such a college from the tax on endowments that we're applying generally."
 
The tax earmark is a big win for a school with several connections to the Trump administration.

For example, Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosTrump considering spy network to combat 'deep state' enemies: Intercept Bharara, Yates top Twitter list of most followed new political accounts GOP higher-ed bill would eliminate Obama rule on career-prep programs MORE, graduated from Hillsdale in 1992.

Hillsdale graduates who joined the Trump administration include Josh Venable, chief of staff at the Department of Education; David Morrell, associate counsel to the president; Trump speechwriter Brittany Baldwin, and Stephen Ford, a speechwriter for Vice President Pence. 

A spokesperson for Toomey, the sponsor of the bill, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Spokespersons for the Senate Finance Committee did not respond immediately either.

Updated: 10:30 p.m.