- John Wagner The Washington Post
With a critical Senate vote looming, President Donald Trump on Wednesday pitched the Republican tax plan as a boon to his working-class supporters, even as independent analyses have indicated that the wealthy and corporations would be the biggest beneficiaries.
"Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mail rooms and the machine shops of America, the plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers . ... the people that like me best," Trump said in remarks to an enthusiastic, invitation-only crowd of about 1,000 at a convention center in a state that he carried comfortably in last year's election.
"Really, the people that like me best are those people, the workers," Trump said. "They're the people I understand the best. ... They came out to vote for me. They came out to vote for us."
A report released Sunday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the GOP Senate plan would give substantial tax cuts and benefits to Americans earning more than $100,000 a year while the nation's poorest could be worse off.
By 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 a year would be net losers under the plan, the CBO found. Meanwhile, millionaires and those earning between $100,000 and $500,000 would be big beneficiaries, according to the CBO's calculations.
Senate Republican leaders have questioned the analysis, which takes into account the projected effects of a provision in the bill that eliminates the requirement that almost all Americans buy health insurance or else pay a penalty. The CBO has calculated that health insurance premiums would rise as a result, leading 13 million to lose insurance by 2027.
Trump appeared upbeat as he addressed the crowd from a stage lined with Christmas trees, urging the Senate to pass the bill in coming days.
"The big day will be either tomorrow or the next day," Trump said. "I would say, 'Do it now.' "
If the bill passes, the Senate will have to work out differences with the House, which has passed its own version of a tax-cut bill. Trump referred to the process as "a mixer" and said he hopes to have compromise legislation on his desk by Christmas.
"Together we will give the American people a big, beautiful Christmas present," Trump told the crowd. "You're going to have something I predict is going to be really, really special."
Several recent polls show that more Americans oppose than support the Trump and GOP tax plans. A Quinnipiac poll this month found about twice as many disapproving as approving (52 percent vs. 25 percent), with nearly a quarter offering no opinion.
Polls have also found a widespread perception that the Trump tax plan is geared toward the wealthy. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll this month, 60 percent said his tax proposal favors the rich, while 13 percent thought it favors the middle class, 2 percent said it favors the poor, and 17 percent said it treats all equally.
During his remarks here in the St. Louis area, Trump suggested that the GOP efforts were widely popular.
"We have tremendous support for this plan, tremendous," he said.
Trump also said that he would not fare well under the plan — a contention that independent analyses have disputed — and that some of his wealthy friends have complained to him about it.
Trump acknowledged that critics are saying that the legislation would benefit the wealthy.
"If it is, my friends don't know about it," he said.
Trump said the tax plan would be good for corporations, which would see a drop in the tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Trump and other Republicans have argued that companies would use the windfall to create more jobs and raise wages, benefiting the middle and lower classes. Many economists have questioned that premise, however.
Trump's trip to the "Show Me State" was his second since becoming president. In August, he launched a concerted public effort to pass tax legislation during an event in Springfield, Missouri.
During last year's election, Trump carried the state against Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than 20 percentage points — a victory he mentioned at several points in his 40-minute remarks on Wednesday.
Trump also used his latest visit to take a shot at Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who voted against the Senate tax bill in committee and is up for reelection next year.
"She wants your taxes to go up," Trump asserted, promising to return to Missouri next year to campaign on behalf of her Republican opponent.