WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday’s dinner with President Donald Trump and six other senators provided a productive discussion on addressing infrastructure and tax reform issues.
The senator added he has a better relationship with the Trump administration than he did with former President Barack Obama.
Manchin was invited to the White House as Congress begins discussions regarding tax reform. He noted Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; John Thune, R-S.D.; and Ron Johnson, R-Wis. as dinner attendees. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn were also present.
Hatch also serves as Senate Finance Committee chairman. Toomey and Thune are also on the committee.
“We had all the players there that were driving the train,” Manchin told reporters Wednesday. “It was very nice and was very pleasant.”
The conversation started with infrastructure and the need for improving the United States’ transportation system. Manchin said the conversation ranged from repairing current infrastructure to innovations in transportation, but he told Trump rural states like West Virginia face challenges in providing internet and telephone access, which is a significant factor in economic growth.
“High-speed trains are wonderful to think about, but I said we’d like to have high-speed connectivity, broadband and internet services,” he said.
“They know about the need we have for King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway and connecting the south, giving them some opportunities.”
Manchin said the conversation then transitioned to tax overhaul, which still lacks specific plans from the White House and Congress. Trump has said in the past he wants to lower the corporate tax rate from the current level of 35 percent to 15 percent.
But Manchin said despite a lack of specifics, Trump does not want a proposal that benefits the wealthiest Americans.
“The president started out the conversation saying, ‘I want this to be very clear. This is not going to be my presentation. My proposal will not be a tax cut for the wealthy,'” Manchin recalled. “He was very clear and upfront about that.”
Manchin said Trump wants a tax plan that lowers taxes for middle-class families and improves the United States’ global competitiveness.
“When you are competitive and you do things that people believe are fair and reasonable and make common sense,” Manchin said, “the confidence goes up to the point where people start jumping off the couch and getting involved. What I mean by that is they’ll start investing, they’ll start taking risks, they’ll start doing things that really stimulate an economy.”
Manchin, along with Donnelly and Heitkamp, did not agree to conditions among Democrats regarding tax reform. It included not supporting a deal that includes tax breaks for the wealthy as well as any legislation that raises the deficit.
He explained Wednesday he did not want to agree to anything without seeing a full proposal.
Manchin also said his relationship with Trump is better than his with Obama, noting while he does not do not agree with Trump on everything, respect between the two remains.
“Most every time I’ve been with him in person, it’s a completely different persona than what you’re seeing on television,” he said. “I’ve always had a very easy way of talking to him and we’ve been able to talk on terms we’ve both understood.
The senator told CNN in April there was not a relationship between he and Obama.
Manchin, known for pushing for bipartisan efforts, applauded the president for reaching out to Democrats, adding Trump seems “more comfortable” pursuing legislative action between both Republicans and Democrats.
“I would think everybody wants to cooperate and work together because, damn, it takes so much energy fighting every day,” Manchin said. “Wears me out.”
Trump hosted a dinner Wednesday evening with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program established under former President Barack Obama to providing protection to people who came to the United States illegally as children.
According to a joint Pelosi-Schumer statement, the deal will provide protections to those under DACA and not include funding for a wall along the United States-Mexico border.