Rep. Mike Thompson emerged from a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday unconvinced by the administration’s promise for bipartisan effort on tax reform or that the tax plan to be unveiled by the president Wednesday would meet Democrat demands that it not add to the national debt.
Describing Trump as “toned down” in his meeting with 17 members of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Thompson, D-Napa, said the president made clear he “wants some bipartisan results.”
“But I’d ask why they would call us together 24 hours before they are going to release a bill that’s already been written,” Thompson said. “They have their bill,” drafted without any Democratic involvement, he said.
“I just hope it was a sincere invitation to work on tax policy, not an effort to check the box (for bipartisanship),” Thompson said.
There were nine Republicans and eight Democrats, including Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Whittier, at the meeting, called by the White House.
Trump gave few details on the tax plan, but said it would be “simple and fair” and would include relief for middle-class taxpayers, such as higher standard deductions and increased child tax credits, Thompson said.
Combined with lower corporate tax rates and other measures, the plan would be a “massive tax cut, probably the largest ever,” Thompson said, quoting the president.
Trump asserted there are no benefits for wealthy Americans, “but that’s not what we’re hearing as the details are rolling out,” Thompson said, also noting that Trump has previously said there would be lower rates for high-income earners.
House Democrats are firm in their demand for a “revenue neutral” tax plan, meaning “it doesn’t cost anything,” Thompson said.
All tax cuts must be paid for, he said, rather than adding to the nation’s $20 trillion debt and passing it along to future generations. He rejected the Republican notion of a “dynamic scoring model” that assumes tax cuts will stimulate the economy and generate new tax revenue.
“You can’t find an economist who will say that a tax cut pays for itself,” said Thompson, a fiscal conservative in his party. “It’s real critical that you pay for tax cuts.”
Thompson said he did not know whether Trump’s tax plan would pass the revenue neutrality test. Some House hardliners have said they would accept a plan that boosts the deficit by $1 trillion to $2 trillion over the next decade, asserting that 10 years of economic growth would cover it.
“We’ve put our marker down. He knows where we stand,” Thompson said.
With Trump and congressional Republicans “in search of a victory” following repeated failures to rescind the Affordable Care Act, they “may go straight for a tax cut,” he said.
“They have accomplished nothing in the time they have been here,” said Thompson, an 18-year House veteran whose district includes Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma Valley.
In his conversation with the lawmakers, Trump explained he was using the term “tax cut” instead of “tax reform” because the former is “easier for people to understand,” Thompson said.
The president talked freely about nontax topics and “listened to what we had to say,” Thompson said. But he was under no illusion that the tax plan was necessarily open to bipartisan debate.