Trump will woo Democrats through White House dinner

President Trump is ramping up his efforts to persuade a trio of endangered Democrats to back his tax reform package.

Tonight, they’ll his dinner dates at the White House, an honor the president doesn’t bestow on just any legislator in Washington.

The president is treating Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana to a meal this evening at his official residence.

Three Republicans are also confirmed to attend the small group dinner: Sens. John Thune of South Dakota, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Orrin Hatch of Utah. 

President Trump is going on a charm offensive by inviting a bipartisan group of senators to the White House for dinner Tuesday night, as he begins a real push on tax reform 

Hatch heads the Senate committee that is leading the charge on a tax overhaul. Toomey and Thune are also on the Senate Finance panel.

Trump is leaning on his new friends across the aisle to get tax reform legislation over the finish line when it reaches the full Senate.

Republicans hold a bare majority of seats in the upper chamber. If more than two Republicans withhold their support for the party’s tax package, it will fail, without the support

The White House said this morning that after the health care debacle this summer in the Senate, when a basic repeal bill failed by a single vote, Republicans could not be counted on to single-handidly approve a tax reform bill.

‘Despite promises of comm that they’ve made to voters since 2010, we don’t feel like we can assume that we can get tax reform done strictly on a partisan basis,’ Marc Short, the president’s legislative affairs director, told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast this morning.

Republicans plan to use a legislative maneuver known as reconciliation to get a bill through the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes. If 50 legislators give the bill their support, the vice president can act as a tiebreaker.

Ideally, the White House would like to pass the reforms that the president has said will be even bigger than the cuts that were championed in the ’80s by Ronald Reagan through regular order.

For that to happen, eight Democrats would have to lock arms with every Republican in the Senate. 

‘I think that we would love to have enough bipartisan support to get 60 vote,’ Short said on Tuesday morning.

‘Thus far, what I think we’ve faced is, unfortunately resistance to that because I think that in many cases, rather than looking out for the interests of the American people, many people in the other party are looking to try to deny victories to the administration,’ the White House official charged. ‘So getting to 60 votes, I think will be a challenge. It’s one we would like to see happen, but it can be a challenge.’

GOP leaders do not think it will realistically happen. They’ve told the White House that reconciliation is likely to be the only path forward. 

Reconciliation is a measure that’s part of the budget process. In order for it to be deployed, legislators must pass a fiscal year 2018 budget. That’s another legislative battle entirely.

The president wants to slash State Department spending and make deep cuts to the EPA. His proposed budget would give the Department of Defense a $54 billion boost in turn.

Short told reporters this morning that he expects Congress to pass a budget in October, providing an avenue for expedited tax reforms.

A deal with Democrats to extend the government’s spending cap and appropriations through the beginning of December cleared the decks for a tax reform debate until then, the White House has said.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., was one of the Republicans invited to the White House Tuesday night

Additionally, Sen. Orrin Hatch was invited to dinner tonight

Among the Republicans invited to tonight’s dinner are Sens. John Thune (left) of South Dakota and Orrin Hatch (right) of Utah

Trump has held events in two states that voted for him that have embattled Democratic senators, including Heitkamp’s North Dakota, since the end of August, and he’s thrice invited lawmakers to the White House to break bread with him.

Last week he met with the ‘Big Six’ – a group comprised of GOP leaders, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn. He then hosted House Speaker Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell at the White House along with their Democratic counterparts, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

The Big Six will meet again, without Trump, to discuss tax reform legislation this afternoon before the president’s dinner with Hatch, Toomey, Donnelly Heitkamp, Manchin and Thune.

All three Democrats coming to dinner are running for reelection in states that Trump won in the November election. All three abstained from a letter Schumer sent to the White House laying out Democratic priorities for tax reform.

Trump told North Dakotans last week that Heitkamp is a ‘good woman’ and called her on stage with elected Republicans during an event he held to rally support for tax cuts in Bismarck.

But he also told her constituents, ‘If Democrats don’t want to bring back your jobs, cut your taxes, raise your pay, and help America win, voters should deliver a clear message: Do your job to deliver for America, or find a new job. Do something else. Just do something else.’