Trump launches 'once-in-a-generation' effort to sell tax reform

President Trump on Wednesday launched his efforts to sell tax reform, urging both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to get behind his plans for an overhaul of the code.

“This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver real tax reform for everyday hardworking Americans, and I am fully committed to working with Congress to get this job done, and I don’t want to be disappointed by Congress,” Trump said in a speech at a manufacturer in Springfield, Mo.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Do you understand me?,” he continued. “I think Congress is going to make a comeback. I hope so. I'll tell you what, the United States is counting on it."

Trump laid out four principles he would like to see in a tax-code rewrite: A tax code that’s simple and easy to understand, a globally competitive tax code, tax relief for middle-class families and bringing back trillions of dollars in money held overseas.

He touted tax reform as a way to help boost the economy, jobs and paychecks for middle-class workers.

“We're here today to launch our plans to bring back Main Street by reducing the crushing tax burden on our companies and on our workers,” he said.

The president was bolstered by new data released ahead of his speech that found the economy grew at 3 percent in the second quarter, up from an initial estimate of 2.6 percent and the strongest rate of growth since the first quarter of 2015.

“We just announced that we hit 3 percent in GDP,” Trump said. “It just came out. And on a yearly basis, as you know, the last administration during an eight-year period never hit 3 percent, so we're really on our way.”

The White House is eager to hang its first major legislative victory on the board and Republican leaders in Congress are under pressure to deliver after failing to repeal ObamaCare.

Trump directed his calls for tax reform at Congress on multiple occasions during the speech.

“Today I’m calling on all members of Congress — Democrat, Republican and Independent — to support pro-American tax reform,” he said. “They have to do it. It’s time.”

The president has spent the last two weeks clashing with GOP leaders over his stalled agenda and dealing with intraparty blowback over his response to the racially-charged protests in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump has been openly feuding with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.), who has reportedly expressed concern that the president may not be able to salvage his administration.

The president has also attacked Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.), who he blamed for creating a political “mess” around the debt ceiling.

But Trump stayed on message during his speech and echoed many of the themes that Ryan and other GOP lawmakers have espoused as they’ve advocated for tax reform. Trump also praised former President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax-reform law, which he had called a “catastrophe” in the 1990s.

Ryan and other key congressional Republicans on tax reform were positive about Trump’s speech.

“President Trump is taking the case for tax reform straight to Main Street,” Ryan said in a statement. “Here in the House, we’ve made it clear that our top priority this fall is reforming the tax code and cutting people’s taxes.”

Republican leaders appear to be on board, even if the specifics have not been hashed out. Ryan, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyGOP eyes limits on investor tax break Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot Swing-seat Republicans squirm over GOP tax plan MORE (R-Texas) and other GOP lawmakers have been making the case for conservative tax reform at home while Congress has been on recess.

Trump accused Democrats are looking to “obstruct” on tax cuts, and he specifically called out Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Las Vegas highlights Islamist terrorism is not America's greatest domestic threat MORE (D-Mo.), whose home state was the site of the speech.

McCaskill faces reelection in 2018, and while she doesn’t have a GOP opponent yet, the two-term senator is one of only a few remaining statewide Democratic officeholders in the state.

“We must lower our taxes and your senator, Claire McCaskill, she must do this for you, and if she doesn’t, you have to vote her out of office,” Trump said to cheers from the friendly crowd.

“You can't do this anymore with the obstruction and the obstructionists,” Trump added.

McCaskill and most other Senate Democrats have said that they won’t support any tax-reform legislation that cuts taxes for those in the top 1 percent of income.

Trump said in his speech that he wants to eliminate “the loopholes and complexity that primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans and special interests.”

As a billionaire, he said in calling for those changes he is “speaking against myself.”

Democrats suggest Trump’s tax plans could be a boon to the wealthy, since proposals from the White House and the Trump campaign have been found in analyses to largely benefit the rich.

“The President said today he wants to unrig the economy, which begs the question: unrig it for who?” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. “If President Trump’s previous tax plans are any indication, the wealthy and big corporations will be the ultimate winner at the expense of the middle class.”

Trump’s speech was light on specifics, since the White House is relying on Republican leaders and the tax writing committees on Capitol Hill to develop the framework for tax reform.

The president did, however, call for cutting the tax rate on business income to 15 percent. Trump has repeatedly called for lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, but some GOP lawmakers and tax experts have suggested that meeting that goal would be challenging.

Trump also said that middle class tax relief will include provisions that help parents afford child care, an issue that he noted is a top priority to his daughter, Ivanka.

The president singled-out Ivanka, who works in the White House, and many of the administration officials and lawmakers who attended the rally. However, he notably did not mention White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who will play a key role leading the push for tax reform from the White House.

The White House this week shot down rumors that Cohn was planning to leave after he was reportedly infuriated by Trump’s equivocal response to the white nationalist protesters that marched in Charlottesville.

Trump’s tax cuts push comes amid deadly flooding from Hurricane Harvey, which has resulted in more than two dozen deaths and displaced tens of thousands in the Gulf region.

Trump stopped in two Texas cities on Tuesday to survey the damage and meet with government officials coordinating the federal response.

Trump opened his Wednesday speech with subdued remarks about the resilience he saw in response to Hurricane Harvey. For the first time, he offered condolences to those who have lost loved ones because of the natural disaster.

“All of America is grieving with you and our hearts are joined with yours forever,” Trump said.

“The citizens of Texas and the Gulf Coast need all the prayers, support and resources our communities have to offer,” he continued. “Recovery will be tough, but I have seen the resilience of the American spirit first-hand all over this country.”