WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the rich might see a hike in taxes as he pursues a major tax overhaul with outreach to Democrats who oppose cutting rates for the wealthy, while Republicans in Congress set a timetable to unveil their plan.
The White House and the Republican-led Congress have not put forth a detailed tax plan despite months of talks that have excluded Democrats. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said an outline would be unveiled during the work week beginning Sept. 25, with congressional tax-writing committees crafting detailed legislation in the subsequent weeks.
Democrats have criticized the Republican tax overhaul efforts as benefiting mainly the wealthiest Americans. Trump, a real estate mogul, said the rich would not be making gains with the plan, which he said was geared toward providing the largest tax cut ever for the middle class and creating jobs.
“I think the wealthy will be pretty much where they are,” Trump said of taxes on the rich, without specifying the income level. “If they have to go higher, they’ll go higher, frankly.”
Trump will host Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday evening to discuss the legislative agenda with a focus on the tax overhaul after meetings with bipartisan groups of lawmakers on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.
“We should be able to come together to make government work for the people,” Trump told reporters as he met with eight Democratic and five Republican House members to try to find common ground on taxes as well as immigration and healthcare.
Asked what his message was to skeptical conservatives who worry he is cozying up to Democrats, Trump said: “I‘m a conservative, and I will tell you I‘m not skeptical. And I think that if we can do things in a bipartisan manner, that’ll be great. Now it might not work out.”
Trump blindsided Republican leaders last week by striking a deal with Schumer and Pelosi on the U.S. debt limit and federal spending for three months, and also spoke to them about how to resolve the fate of 800,000 young adults brought into the United States illegally as children, the so-called Dreamers.
‘NO MATTER WHAT’
Ryan said the outline being worked on now would reflect the consensus of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Trump administration.
“I would love to have the Democrats supporting and working with us in a constructive way on tax reform, but we’re going to do it no matter what,” Ryan said.
Asked about Trump’s comment on a possible tax increase for the wealthy, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said: “My goal is to lower taxes on every American as much as possible and help them keep more of what they earn.”
Trump reiterated his goal for a 15 percent corporate tax rate, down from the current 35 percent, even as Ryan and the president’s own treasury secretary cast doubt in recent days on the ability to go that low.
“It would bring us to the level where China and other countries are. And we will be able to compete with anybody,” Trump said of the 15 percent rate.
There has been no comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. tax code since 1986, and the starkly different visions embraced by the two parties for how to move forward promise to make the task difficult.
Ryan and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed confidence last week that Congress would pass the tax legislation this year.
In his nearly eight months in office, Trump has failed to get his major legislative goals through Congress. A bid to dismantle the Obamacare healthcare law fell apart and he has not unveiled detailed proposals on taxes and infrastructure spending.
Democratic aides said Schumer and Pelosi would press Trump for action to protect the Dreamers after the president rescinded a five-year-old program to spare them from deportation, and to stabilize health insurance markets under Obamacare.
Some Republicans chafed at Trump’s Democratic outreach.
“The problem here is we don’t have a clue what’s in the tax plan, now Trump is talking about doing bipartisan stuff with Chuck and Nancy on taxes,” said David Brat, a member of the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Democrat Joe Manchin, one of the senators who met with Trump on Tuesday, told CBS News that Trump promised the plan would not be “a tax cut for the rich” and was “very aggressive” on the need for a bipartisan deal.
“The perfect piece of legislation can get 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans in the (100-seat) Senate. That’s 60. We’re not going to get the fringes,” Manchin said.
Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Roberta Rampton, Makini Brice, Richard Cowan, David Morgan and Susan Heavey; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney