WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is planning lunch with GOP senators after sparring with several of them, as congressional Republicans turn to overhauling the tax code.
It will be Trump's first appearance as president at Senate Republicans’ regular Tuesday policy lunch at the Capitol. The gathering has the potential for awkward moments, because it follows spats between Trump and GOP senators such as John McCain of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, as well as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
McConnell and Trump had a joint news conference last week to announce they had smoothed things over and underscore their common focus on taxes. But Trump's comments at that event spawned the controversy over his treatment of fallen U.S. troops, underscoring how the president's lack of discipline repeatedly takes the White House off-message, a continuing frustration for members of Congress.
Nonetheless, Republicans and the Trump administration are determined to get tax legislation into law this year, and all sides seem to think they can unite around that goal.
Corker told NBC's “Today” on Tuesday that he hopes the White House will “step aside” and give the House and Senate tax-writing committees room to figure out how to pay for the tax cuts. Corker, who has publicly criticized the president's job performance, suggested that recent decisions by the White House have been unhelpful. In a tweet on Monday, Trump ruled out changes to popular 401(k) retirement plans to help pay for the tax cuts.
Asked whether his recommendation to the president would be to leave well enough alone, Corker said: “I would recommend that, based on recent history and just interactions. And I think that's the best way for us to have success.”
No. 3 Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota said he hopes to hear Trump “drive home the message that he wants to be a partner, a constructive partner that helps us get accomplishments that help everybody.”
“If you have people who are running for re-election next year, whether it's a House member or one of the senators who's up this year, I think the best thing you can go back and talk about is that you got results,” Thune added. “And I think that to the degree the president delivers that message it will be very well received by Republican senators.”
Corker, who is retiring, recently suggested that Trump's undisciplined rhetoric about international affairs could lead to World War III, leading an angry Trump to dismiss him as “Liddle Bob Corker.” McCain implicitly criticized Trump on Monday, though not by name, for getting a draft deferment during Vietnam for bone spurs in his foot. And Trump spent much of August lashing out at McConnell and blaming him for the Senate's failure to pass legislation to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”
The tax plan crafted by Trump and Republican leaders calls for steep tax cuts for corporations and potentially for individuals. It would double the standard deduction used by most Americans, shrink the number of tax brackets from seven to three or four, and repeal inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. But crucial details of the plan have yet to be worked out, notably what income levels would fit with each tax bracket.