Democrats Criticize President Trump's Tax Plan

By Janet Hook Features Dow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump will need at least a modicum of bipartisan support for his tax cuts to make them permanent and far reaching, but the administration's actions Thursday may have made it even easier for Democrats to unify in opposition.

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The White House billed the plan as a middle-class tax cut, but officials had a hard time answering questions about exactly how it would affect those families.

In television interviews since the one-page plan was unveiled, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin couldn't say what the plan would do for a family of four making $70,000 and declined to promise that taxes wouldn't rise for the middle class.

"I can't make any guarantees until this thing is done and on the president's desk," Mr. Mnuchin said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "But I can tell you that's our No. 1 objective."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Thursday that there is room for bipartisan legislation overhauling the tax code, but the president's plan isn't headed in the right direction.

"Instead of focusing on hardworking families, his tax outline is a wish list for billionaires, trickle-down all over again," Mrs. Pelosi said.

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Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) was equally blunt: "This plan is a nonstarter for Senate Democrats."

Even some Democrats up for re-election next year in states where Mr. Trump is popular, who might face more political pressure to support his plan, shrugged off the idea that it would provide tax relief for middle-class families.

"This scheme is a massive tax giveaway to millionaires, billionaires and big corporations at the expense of middle-class families in Pennsylvania, " said Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.), who faces a competitive re-election race in a state that Mr. Trump won.

The president is expected to promote his plan at a Saturday rally in Mr. Casey's state. That event will also mark his 100th day in the White House.

Mr. Trump's proposal would double the standard deduction and collapse the seven individual tax brackets into three: 10%, 25% and 35%. Those changes could help some middle-income households, but the plan lacks crucial details, such as the fate of personal exemptions.

Adding to uncertainty about the impact of the Trump plan, White House spokesman Sean Spicer briefly cast doubt on the future of the current tax incentive for 401(k) retirement accounts. The administration quickly clarified Mr. Spicer's comments to stamp out any lingering ambiguity about the status of the popular tax break.

The confusion and lack of specifics about the impact on middle-income families fueled Democratic arguments that the Trump plan was skewed to the wealthy and moneyed interests, with proposals such as the abolition of the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax, and cuts in tax rates for corporations and large businesses, including hedge funds and large law firms.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas) told reporters Thursday that middle-class families would benefit from wage growth and job creation that he believes would result from major tax cuts.

Mr. Brady was unfazed by differences between the plan being developed by House Republicans and the president's plan. GOP members of the Ways and Means Committee will meet Sunday and Monday to discuss tax policy options, he said.

In the Senate, Democratic support would be crucial for passing the legislation because of daunting budget and procedural hurdles.

Some Democrats who face tough re-elections were noncommittal: An aide to Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has been more open to working with Mr. Trump than most Democrats, said he was withholding comment until there were more details.

But others worried it would cause the deficit to widen further. The administration offered few specific proposals to offset to the revenue loss, promising instead that economic growth from the tax cuts would keep the deficit in check.

"I'm open to tax reform, but it has to be paid for -- and not with fairy dust," said Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.).

Write to Janet Hook at janet.hook@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 27, 2017 18:50 ET (22:50 GMT)