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Pence Prods Donnelly on Tax Reform, Previews Trump Address

Posted on September 25, 2017 by Luca Gattoni-Celli, Jonathan Curry

Vice President Mike Pence used an Indiana trip to pressure the state’s Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly, to support tax reform, while also giving what he said was a preview of the president’s planned September 27 economic address.

Though Pence’s September 22 speech in Anderson, Indiana, did not substantively address the GOP’s plans for tax reform, it was part of a White House push on the issue. President Trump is expected to discuss tax reform, among other subjects, at a White House dinner September 25, a White House spokesperson confirmed.

Pence’s speech was part of a White House strategy to tie tax reform to the 2018 reelection campaigns of Democratic senators in states that Trump won. During his speech, Pence noted that Donnelly was in attendance, along with two of the senator’s likely Republican challengers for 2018, Indiana Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer.

Pence’s appeal to Donnelly was not subtle. “Senator Donnelly, we need your help,” the former Indiana governor insisted. “So, Joe, let’s decide today, we’re [going to] get this tax cut done, and we’re [going to] get it done together.”

President Trump also called for bipartisanship in a September 22 address focused on tax reform, with a special emphasis on middle-income families with children. “I am asking members in both parties to come together, to put aside partisan differences, and to pass historic tax reform and tax cuts for the great citizens of our nation,” Trump said.

The week of September 25 is shaping up to be a busy one for tax reform, with House Republican taxwriters and the larger House GOP conference planning retreats to discuss it and the tax reform “Big Six” GOP leaders planning to release a framework meant to guide the effort.

Dinner Conversation

For the upcoming White House dinner, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) President Tim Phillips plans to convey how his organization’s state chapters “have kept a laser focus on driving support for tax reform” to build momentum for its final passage, AFP spokesman Levi Russell told Tax Analysts.

“We're looking forward to an update on how legislative language is taking shape and how we can work together to guarantee a bill gets done . . . this year,” Russell added.

“Indiana is a big part of our strategy and the White House’s strategy,” AFP Chief Operating Officer Sean Lansing said on a September 21 conference call. “We, too, are strongly urging Sen. Donnelly to get on board with real tax reform.”

Justin Stevens, AFP’s state director for Indiana, said on the call that his group would be closely watching Donnelly’s response in the coming days to “keep him accountable” to past statements he’s made in support of bipartisan tax reform. 

Follow Luca Gattoni-Celli (@TheGattoniCelli) and Jonathan Curry (@jtcurry005) on Twitter for real-time updates.