Politics & Government

Hawley embraces Trump tax plan

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, spoke at a news conference in June in St. Louis. Hawley is a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Claire McCaskill.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, spoke at a news conference in June in St. Louis. Hawley is a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Claire McCaskill. AP file photo

Missouri Attorney Gen. Josh Hawley endorsed President Donald Trump’s framework for tax reform on Wednesday, saying it was “the right way forward.”

Hawley, the top GOP recruit to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill next year, told Missouri reporters on a press call Wednesday morning that Congress needs to act soon to fix the current tax system, which he said unfairly benefits the rich.

“It is important that right now D.C. seizes the opportunity to do something for the American people and particularly for the middle class ... It needs to be done and it needs to be done now,” Hawley said.

Hawley attacked McCaskill for not fully jumping on board with Trump’s tax proposal, despite “having promised for years on end that she’d be a bipartisan senator.”

“This irks me,” Hawley said. “It’s just no, no, no, no, no ... She’s just in the posture of permanent no.”

Hawley’s effort to paint McCaskill as uncooperative with Trump on taxes came two weeks after he announced his run for Senate in Missouri, a state Trump won by 19 percentage points in November.

The accusation conflicts with McCaskill’s own public declarations that she’s interested in working with Trump to overhaul the tax code. McCaskill recently sat next to Trump at a meeting with other members of Congress to discuss the president’s proposal. She also attended a dinner with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to talk taxes last week.

After those meetings, McCaskill said she believes the president wants a bipartisan deal on taxes, as does she. But she said she has some concerns about elements of his proposal that would benefit wealthy people like herself over ordinary Missourians.

McCaskill told reporters last week that it’s “very difficult to discuss what if anything (Democrats) can agree to” when Republicans don’t have a detailed plan yet.

“Claire has been crystal clear that she supports tax reform that provides relief to the middle class, but she will not support a plan that only benefits millionaires and billionaires,” said Meira Bernstein, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Democratic Party who is authorized to speak on behalf of McCaskill’s campaign.

“That sounds a lot to me like the classic D.C. two-step: ‘Maybe I won’t support that, or maybe I’ll support that later,’ but in the end they’ll vote no,” Hawley said.

Hawley said he’s “not crazy” about some Republicans’ proposals to cap 401K retirement plan contributions or eliminate popular deductions. He favors keeping the mortgage deduction in place and protecting the deduction for charitable donations.

Asked if he would support the president’s tax plan even if it added to the national debt, Hawley said the emphasis should be on tax relief for Americans.

“Our focus right now needs to be providing tax relief and we can worry at the next stage what needs to happen on the spending side of the ledger,” he said.

Hawley said he would blame Republican leadership in Congress as well as McCaskill if they couldn’t pass tax cuts.

“This is the time to deliver and it is incumbent on D.C. to deliver,” Hawley said.

Lindsay Wise: 202-383-6007, @lindsaywise

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