WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., did not say he would vote for or against the most recent version of the Senate tax bill Tuesday, instead joining 14 other senators in a press conference to urge Senate Republicans to join Democrats in drafting and passing a bipartisan bill.
Manchin spoke at the U.S. Capitol alongside 13 Democratic senators and one independent senator — Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats — hours before the Committee on the Budget passed the chamber’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act along party lines.
The U.S. Congressional Budget Office reported earlier this week the legislation would increase the national deficit by more than $1.4 trillion over the next ten years. The office also reported taxes would increase for Americans making less to $75,000 a year by 2027.
The Senate measure also includes the repeal of the current health care law’s individual mandate, which the CBO estimates would decrease the number of people with health insurance by 13 million in 2027.
Manchin said Democrats are serious about passing tax overhaul legislation and are willing to work with Republicans on reforming the tax code, which was last done in 1986.
“I’ve never seen in my life in anything I’ve been involved — in business or in my political life — a partisan type of approach for fixing a major problem,” he said.
Manchin added while Republicans could find themselves struggling to reach the 51 vote threshold in order to pass a bill, they could easily pass legislation requiring 60 votes if they include input from Democratic lawmakers.
“People are looking for different gimmicks, if you will,” Manchin told reporters. “Use us as the gimmick. We can be the gimmick to get to 60 and do something meaningful for the country.”
Manchin was one of multiple lawmakers invited to the White House in September to talk with President Donald Trump about passing tax legislation, as well as how the country should address infrastructure needs.
The other two Democrats at the dinner, Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, spoke Tuesday about wanting to work with Republicans on passing tax legislation. Like Manchin, both will be running for re-election in 2018.
“I flew back and forth to Indiana with the president. I went out to Indiana when the vice president (Mike Pence) went out there. I’ve met with one group after another on this to try to get this done,” Donnell said. “This country is so much better off with a tax bill that passes with 60 or 70 votes than one that ends up at 50 with the vice president breaking a tie.”
Heitkamp struck a similar message with her remarks, saying cooperation on drafting legislation would be more beneficial for the country.
“This is our opportunity I think here in the last days of this debate to say let’s work together,” she said. “Let’s achieve a result that will be lasting, that will provide permanency and predictability to American taxpayers.”
Manchin and Heitkamp did not say if they would vote against the Senate tax bill, noting they did not know what the final version would include.
“We still think they’re trying to find ways to get 51 votes,” Manchin said. “We’re saying: Why work on getting 51 votes? Why don’t you work on getting 60 votes? Here we are.”
The Senate Budget Committee passed the bill in a 12-11, with only Republicans voting in favor of the measure. A procedural vote is scheduled for Wednesday, with a full vote happening as early as Thursday.
The Joint Committee on Taxation is aiming to release a dynamic score of the Senate proposal by Wednesday evening.