Ivanka Trump’s visit to Capitol Hill on Wednesday was short, subdued and relatively unremarkable — in short, everything her father’s visit the day before was not.
While President Donald Trump crowed about the “multiple standing ovations” he received from Republican senators at their weekly lunch on Tuesday, Ivanka Trump on Wednesday graciously allowed her host, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., to emcee an event where she was an invited guest.
The president started his Tuesday tweeting insults to Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and left the Capitol just was Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., was preparing to take to the Senate floor and acidly describe the politically toxic atmosphere that triggered his decision to retire at the end of his term.
Fast forward to Wednesday. At a press conference just steps from the Senate chamber, called to promote an expansion of the child tax credit, Ivanka Trump did not mention her father. She stuck instead to reciting data about how working families are struggling to raise their children in an era of wage stagnation.
Her pitch was gentle, measured and straightforward.
“It is a priority of this administration and it is a legislative priority to ensure that American families can thrive and that we deliver real and meaningful tax relief to middle income Americans,” she said.
Ivanka Trump then watched attentively as a small group of House and Senate Republicans delivered remarks. She slipped out before the question-and-answer session, quietly thanking lawmakers for their hospitality. She might have been a more forceful presence in the closed-door meeting that preceded the media event, but there was no indication that that had been the case.
While the Trumps’ styles were different, their missions, at least on paper, were aimed at similar goals. Both were giving congressional Republicans a push as the GOP begins rewriting the nation’s tax code for the first time in 31 years.
The president’s message was more sweeping, talking largely about the big picture. His daughter was more precise, crusading for a $2,000 child tax credit, up from $1,000 currently.
The president’s effort has a long, probably tortured path ahead. His daughter’s effort is, for now, regarded as a winning issue.
Their longterm political targets, while aimed at boosting the Republican Party, are aimed at somewhat different audiences. While Donald Trump’s nationalist rhetoric attracted a huge swatch of independent-minded Americans to vote Republican in 2016, and he maintains a fiercely conservative base, Ivanka Trump is championing of an issue specifically geared towards middle-income families can help project the kinder, gentler image the Republican Party needs for 2018 and beyond.
The importance of getting a child tax credit extension in the Republican tax bill is also not lost on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who arranged for Ivanka Trump to come to the Capitol on Wednesday in the first place.
In further recognition that the tax credit would help party optics, McConnell appointed Scott to facilitate the meeting and press conference. Scott is already one of Republican leadership’s big tax overhaul players. He was recently become the point person for spinning the party’s positions on the portions of the tax code dealing with personal and family income taxes and deductions.
Scott has centered much of his work on Capitol Hill in promoting his “opportunity agenda,” a series of bills aimed at improving access to education, workforce training and jobs, in many cases through creating various tax incentives. He’s also a compelling voice for the Republican Party as the only black GOP Senator who approaches the legislative process from his personal experiences as the son of a single mother, growing in poverty.
Democrats and their allies, however, have called the child tax credit a red herring for legislation that won’t sufficiently protect low- and middle-income Americans.
“It is cruel and dangerous for Ivanka Trump to perpetuate the lie that simply expanding this tax credit will be a saving grace for working and middle class families or this tax plan,” said Morris Pearl, chairman of the activist group Patriotic Millionaires.
Criticisms from the left could explain why Republicans, with Ivanka Trump’s help, are so intent on launching an aggressive public relations campaign on what a $2,000 credit would accomplish.
“Some of our critics like to poke holes in our proposals because they might not be a silver bullet that’s going to solve and fix all the problems the country has alone,” said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala. “Well, the people I represent don’t expect a silver bullet. They don’t expect easy fixes … what we can do is make life just a little bit easier.”
Lesley Clark, Alex Daugherty and Lindsay Wise of the Washington bureau contributed to this report.