After Health Care Debacle, Trump Eyes Democrats for Tax Deal

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s brief flirtation with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi is over — or at least on a break — and the president has his eyes on a new set of Democrats: Business-minded moderates.

On Wednesday, Schumer joined other leading figures in his party in denouncing Trump’s new tax plan as a giveaway to the wealthiest Americans. “This is ‘wealth-fare,'” Schumer quipped on the Senate floor. “It’s little more than an across-the-board tax cut for America’s millionaires and billionaires.”

But Democrats say it will be hard for Schumer and Pelosi to hold their members in line in the face of a proposal that would slash tax rates for corporate titans and potentially many middle-class families alike, as the president seeks his first major legislative accomplishment.

“There is an opening to bring some of those moderate Democrats in,” said Kristen Hawn, a political strategist and former aide to the centrist Blue Dog Coalition in the House.

Democratic votes give Trump at least the patina of bipartisanship and they also serve as a cudgel in his negotiations with the GOP. The threat: If Republicans oppose him, he can just sweeten the pot for Democrats and bring more of them on board to get what he needs.

The courtship is well under way. Trump invited Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat facing a tough re-election bid in 2018, to ride aboard Air Force One to an Indianapolis rally touting the tax plan on Wednesday, and he asked several Democratic members of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee to the White House to discuss the outline on Tuesday.

Donnelly, one of three Senate Democrats who declined to sign a letter to Trump laying out conditions for a bipartisan discussion of tax reform, praised portions of the president’s plan in a statement but stopped short of promising his vote.

“I’m pleased the President has been supportive of my proposal to address the outsourcing of American jobs, and I am hopeful that any tax reform proposal includes measures that support American workers as well as the middle class and encourage domestic investments,” he said in a statement.

Rewriting the tax code is a tough goal — it’s been 31 years since the last major overhaul — and Trump has his work cut out for him in getting Republicans aligned behind his plan. Some will be wary of the overall price tag, while others may be reluctant to kill certain breaks that benefit allies in the business community or their constituents — for example, lawmakers from New York, California and other states where taxpayers get a deduction for the state and local taxes they pay.

Since it would take just three Republican defections to kill a tax bill if Democrats were united in opposition, that’s given some Democrats optimism that they’ll have a chance to help shape legislation that would actually implement Trump’s blueprint. They’ve been encouraged by Trump’s work with Schumer and Pelosi on a bill that kept the government running, raised the debt limit and provided aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey, his frustration with Republican leaders’ inability to pass his agenda, and his willingness to buck GOP orthodoxy in the interest of a deal.

Image: Donald Trump, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi

President Donald Trump pauses during a meeting with, from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House on Sept. 6, 2017 in Washington.