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 Toomey (R-Pa.) and Ted Cruz (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.

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 McCaskill (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 DeVos, 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. 

Tags Betsy DeVos Claire McCaskill Pat Toomey Ted Cruz

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