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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, November 07, 2017 1:00 am

Democrats to meet officials about tax plan

2 senators look for accord with Republicans

Ed O'Keefe | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – A group of Democratic senators is set to huddle with a top White House official to discuss potential changes to the Republican tax plan, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, are set to meet today with several Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin, W.Va., and Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., according to aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about private meetings.

What, if any, substantive change to the emerging proposals might come out of the meeting is unclear –but it will allow the White House and the moderate Democrats to claim they're at least trying to forge bipartisan consensus.

Manchin and Heitkamp are among 25 Democratic senators facing re-election next year, as well as among the 10 running for office in states that President Donald Trump won handily.

So far, Republicans have completely controlled debate over what is now their marquee legislative goal, understanding that failure to enact changes to the nation's tax code this year could spell doom for GOP congressional incumbents at the ballot box next year.

Despite being shut out of the talks on taxes, several Democrats have insisted they are willing and eager to reach accord with Republicans.

That's why the White House has made cautious but calculated outreach to Manchin, Heitkamp and Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. Heitkamp and Donnelly even flew aboard Air Force One and appeared with Trump at tax cut rallies, where he needled them in front of supportive crowds, hoping they will sign on to GOP proposals.

Manchin has also huddled with Vice President Mike Pence about potential lines of agreement. The outreach continued a few weeks later over dinner at the White House with Trump and other Democrats.

At a more recent White House dinner, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, presented Trump with two proposed tax bills. One would expand access to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, while the other would give tax credits to companies that pay workers at least $15 an hour and offer health-care and retirement benefits.