(UPI) — Senate Republicans who met with President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he was focused on passing tax reform.
Trump headed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to have lunch with the group of lawmakers, seeking an agreement on tax reform legislation.
Sen. John Barrasso, of Wyoming, said it was a “productive and active meeting.”
“The president was very strong and very focused” on tax reform and to “give people a raise by cutting their taxes,” he added.
Though the group of lawmakers discussed a variety of topics — including healthcare and regulatory reforms — Trump’s high-stakes visit to the Hill was mainly mainly expected to deal with passing tax cuts, an issue that Republicans widely agree they need to pass. However, some in the party disagree over how they need to get there.
Lawmakers say tax reform could make or break Republican chances in next year’s midterm elections, raising the stakes to get legislation passed.
“We’ve been looking for the opportunity to do this literally for years,” McConnell said after the meeting. ‘We now have a president who will sign it, who believes in what we’re trying to do and we’re going to concentrate on what our agenda is and not all these other distractions.”
Although party leaders have plenty of room to agree, Trump has weathered tense relationships with some of his GOP colleagues in the Senate, specifically Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Tuesday morning, Corker escalated tensions during an appearance on NBC’s Today, by calling the lunch meeting as nothing more than a “photo op,” and suggested Trump could be more helpful passing tax legislation if he tweeted less and let Congress work at it alone.
Corker, who once referred to the White House as an “adult day care center,” was joined by McCain, who recently criticized people who avoided the Vietnam War because “they had a bone spur” — an ailment that granted Trump a deferment.
Trump, hit back on Twitter Tuesday and said Corker is a “lightweight,” calling him the “incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, also spoke after the Republicans’ meeting, reiterating Corker’s statement that Trump tells “untruths,” this time that the wealthy wouldn’t benefit from his tax reform plan.
“Unfortunately what the president says about tax reform has been correctly characterized by Senator Corker as ‘untruths.’ And Corker was being kind,” Schumer said. “What the president says and what the Republican plan does are polar opposites.”
A Republican-backed tax bill can only afford to lose two GOP votes to pass without any Democratic support. Any three GOP Senators defeat the bill.
Republicans are looking to pass a tax package by the end of the year or early next year, so that an economic boost could occur before the 2018 midterm elections.
“We’re certainly looking for the president to put the full force and power into helping put through a good tax reform bill,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday he hopes the House will pass it by Thanksgiving.
When Trump arrived at the policy lunch, a protesters inside the Capitol shouted “Trump is treason” and threw Russian flags at the president as he walked next to McConnell.
“Why are you talking about tax cuts when you should be talking about treason?” the man — who identified himself as Ryan Clayton of the group “Americans Take Action” — can be heard saying.
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