WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump intensified his efforts to sell Democrats on his tax reform plan on Wednesday even as Senate Republicans edged closer to passing a budget measure that would push forward a tax bill without Democratic support.
Trump, whose plan would bestow up to $6 trillion in tax cuts on businesses and individuals over the next decade, talked with 18 members of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, including Republicans and Democrats.
The White House said both parties shared a willingness to work with the president on tax reform.
Five of six Democrats at the meeting are up for re-election in states that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. The White House hopes they will be open to working with Trump because they face voters next year.
Senator Ron Wyden, the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, was also at the meeting, but another six Democrats on the panel who hail from states that Trump lost were not invited.
“We’re going to have a great discussion today, and I‘m sure we’ll have unanimous support. I have no doubt, right? Right, Ron? I think, right?” Trump joked as the meeting got under way.
It was the latest White House attempt to recruit Democratic support to ensure that tax reform does not meet the same fate as Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, which failed in the Senate when Republicans could not muster enough votes.
Republicans control the Senate by only a 52-48 margin.
Most Democrats have offered to pursue bipartisan tax reform only if it does not benefit the wealthy, raise taxes on the middle class or increase the federal deficit. But they have largely rejected the Trump plan, saying it does all three.
Still, Republicans moved closer on Wednesday to an agreement on a budget resolution that would allow them to move tax legislation through the 100-member Senate with a simple majority instead of requiring 60 votes.
The budget resolution would allow tax legislation to expand the deficit by up to $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
The Senate is expected to vote on the fiscal year 2018 spending blueprint on Thursday. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes from their own ranks for the measure to pass.
Republican Senator Rand Paul, a fiscal hawk, has already threatened to vote against the measure. [L2N1MS18K] But on Wednesday, the number of other potential no votes shrank to within the margin of safety as conservative Senator Mike Lee indicated he would support the measure.
“As long as we follow through on this budget’s proposed spending cuts, this is a good start towards a fiscally responsible plan that cuts deficits,” his office said in a statement.
That appeared to leave only conservative Senator Ted Cruz as another possible no vote from within Republican ranks. Cruz declined on Tuesday to say whether he supported the budget. His office did not respond to queries seeking comment on Wednesday.
Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman