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 ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race MORE (R-Pa.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke calls for Trump's impeachment over Putin summit Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate rips his own parents for donations to Dems The Memo: Trump leaves chaos in his wake in UK 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.
 
 
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 DeVosDon’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Overnight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to take over Afghan war 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.