Dem accuses Treasury secretary of dodging pledge not to give tax breaks to rich

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday accused Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin of reneging on a past promise that the Trump administration's tax reform proposal would not include an absolute tax cut for the wealthy, warning that such a backtrack would stifle a bipartisan deal.

"We will not get bipartisan tax reform when the secretary of Treasury walks back a pledge to have no absolute tax cuts for the wealthy," Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenators debate new business deduction, debt in tax law hearing Trump’s CIA pick facing brutal confirmation fight Trump struggles to get new IRS team in place MORE (D-Ore.) said during a Finance panel hearing. 

Mnuchin said Monday during the hearing that while the administration hoped to avoid a tax cut for the wealthy, doing so would not be the paramount rule of tax reform efforts.

That statement appeared to create distance from the Treasury secretary's claim last year on CNBC that Trump's tax reform plan would not call for an absolute reduction in the tax rate paid by the wealthiest Americans. 

"You made a commitment that there would be no absolute tax cut for the wealthy, and yesterday you changed that," Wyden told Mnuchin during a heated exchange. "You said, 'We have an objective to do that,' so maybe it'll happen, maybe it won't."

Trump released a bare-bones outline of his tax plan in April, proposing a reduction in the number of tax brackets from eight to three. The highest earners under that proposal would pay 35 percent — nearly 5 percent less than the top bracket under the current system.

"Our focus is on getting tax reform done. to get tax reform done it’s my job to figure out what meets the president’s objective, what meets the House and the Senate so that we can get something signed into law and there will be compromises along the way," Mnuchin said Tuesday.