Trump courts Democrats over tax cuts

‘We’re going to get corporate tax down to a very competitive level,’ says treasury secretary

US president Donald Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell at a meeting about tax reform. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US president Donald Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell at a meeting about tax reform. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

 

Republicans will publish details of their tax reform proposals the week beginning September 25th, House speaker Paul Ryan announced on Wednesday, as negotiations on revising the US tax code gathered pace in Washington.

President Trump was due to host Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi in the White House for dinner on Wednesday evening, the second time in a week he has courted Congress’s top Democrats in a bid to win bipartisan support for a measure.

Tax reform has been identified by Republicans as the primary policy focus for this congressional term, but divisions remain both between Republicans and Democrats and within the Republican party itself about how to tackle a tax code that has not been revised for decades.

Republicans will also have to pass a budget resolution to trigger a procedural motion that would allow them to pass tax legislation by a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes in the Senate, which would allow them to bypass Democrat support. Republicans control 52 seats in the chamber.

This week has seen an intensification of activity on tax reform. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and economic adviser Gary Cohn met members of Congress on Tuesday for talks, with President Trump hosting several Republican and Democratic members of Congress for dinner on Tuesday evening.

Among the proposals up for discussion are a phasing-out of inheritance taxes and a repeal of deductions for state and local taxes. There are growing signs that Mr Trump’s preference to reduce corporate tax to 15 per cent is unattainable.

Mr Mnuchin said that, while Mr Trump is still committed to that rate cut, there could be room for compromise. “The president has made it clear since the campaign, ideally he’d like to get it down to 15 per cent. I don’t know if we’ll be able to achieve that given the budget issues, but we’re going to get this down to a very competitive level,” he said.

Mr Trump urged progress on tax reform on Twitter on Wednesday: “With Irma and Harvey devastation, tax cuts and tax reform is needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!”

Florida hospital deaths

The recovery effort continued in Florida yesterday as the true devastation of Hurricane Irma continued to be revealed. Three people were found dead at a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, and a further three died after being transported to hospital, following a power cut at the facility. About 100 people were evacuated from the facility. With temperatures reaching more than 32 degrees over recent days, the lack of air conditioning may have contributed to the deaths. The Florida Health Care Association said the incident was a “profound tragedy within the larger tragedy of Hurricane Irma,” and noted that about 150 of the 700 nursing home facilities in the state are currently without full power.

“I am going to aggressively demand answers on how this tragic event took place,” said Florida’s governor, Rick Scott. “Although the details of these reported deaths are still under investigation, this situation is unfathomable. Every facility that is charged with caring for patients must take every action and precaution to keep their patients safe – especially patients that are in poor health.”

Officials said that about 3.7 million utility customers remained without power across Florida on Wednesday as the state continued to battle with the aftermath of the category four hurricane that hit the US mainland on Sunday morning.