In Pennsylvania, Trump Hunts for Democratic Support for Tax Plan

HARRISBURG, Pa. — President Trump took his campaign for tax cuts to another key battleground state on Wednesday in search of elusive Democratic votes as he argued that his plan would benefit middle-class Americans, like truck drivers, more than it would help his fellow business tycoons.

At a rally in an airport hangar reminiscent of his fiery events during last year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Trump told hundreds of truckers that slashing rates would produce more hauling contracts and put more money in their pockets. Uncertain that he can count on a fragile Republican majority during a critical Senate vote next week, he sought to pressure Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator to support the plan.

“We’re going to fight, and we’re going to get those Republicans and maybe of few of those Democrats to raise their hand,” Mr. Trump told the cheering crowd. “And you’re going to have so much money to spend in this wonderful country and this great economy. That is why we have proposed tax cuts that are pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker, pro-family and pro-American.”

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But if he hoped to turn Senator Bob Casey, the Democrat, Mr. Trump made little traction. In a statement, Mr. Casey called the president’s plan “a massive tax giveaway” to the richest Americans at the expense of the middle class.

“It’s time for the administration and Congress to stop advocating for this scheme to cut taxes for the superrich and focus on raising wages and creating good-paying jobs for our families in Pennsylvania,” Mr. Casey said.

The short trip to the Pennsylvania state capital underscored the complicated politics of the tax fight for the president. The 52-vote Republican majority may not be enough next week to secure a budget measure needed for the tax cuts, given that some of that party’s senators are balking or on the fence. Mr. Trump has been hunting for Democrats without any certain converts.

In addressing truck drivers, Mr. Trump sought to dispel the impression that his plan was tilted to wealthy people like him. “It’s a middle-class bill,” he said. “That’s what I want.”

He added: “I’ve had rich friends of mine come up to me and say, ‘Donald, you’re doing this tax plan — we don’t want anything. We don’t.’ Now, they gain when the economy gains. They gain when companies get better. They gain in lots of different ways. But they don’t want that. So many people have come up to me and say, ‘Give it to the middle class. Give it to people that need it. Give it to people that want to spend it.’”

The White House argued that truckers would benefit because many own their own businesses and pay through individual tax rates that would be slashed to 20 percent. They would also benefit by the elimination of the estate tax when they try to leave their businesses to their children.

But the vast majority of truckers would not be affected by the change in so-called pass-through business taxes. Rough estimates from trucking associations show that there are 3.5 million truckers in the United States and 350,000 owner-operators, meaning about one in 10 truckers is self-employed.

Moreover, the estate tax applies only to estates over $5.49 million for individuals, or about $11 million for couples. At a median income of $41,340, the average truck driver would have to have no expenses for 133 years to amass an estate large enough to be subject to taxation.

But Republicans said Democrats were tilting the debate for political reasons. Bob Paduchik, a chairman of the Republican National Committee, accused Mr. Casey of flip-flopping from his past support for tax cuts.

“Putting this type of blind partisanship ahead of the needs of families and business owners suffering under our nation’s tax burden is irresponsible and unacceptable,” Mr. Paduchik said.