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Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden Takes A Lead Role In Fighting GOP Tax Plan

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, arrives for votes at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, arrives for votes at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

At a White House meeting earlier this month, President Donald Trump talked up his proposal for a massive tax cut and then looked down the table to Sen. Ron Wyden.

“I’m sure we’ll have unanimous support,” said Trump as he pointed to the Oregon senator. “Right, Ron?”

Wyden didn’t say anything right back, but Trump no doubt knew that the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee would be a tough sell.

The full plan is expected to be unveiled in the House on Wednesday. But just the rough sketches have been enough to turn Wyden into a leading opponent.

 “Our job right now is to show that what is essentially on offer today is a huge array of goodies and breaks for the people at the top,” Wyden said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office Oct. 26.

The senator argued that GOP leaders and Trump have made so many promises to their wealthy donor base that they have to “dip into the middle-class person’s pockets” to help finance it.

Wyden said this could be particularly true for Oregon taxpayers because the GOP plan contemplated removing the federal deduction for state and local taxes. A report from the non-partisan Government Finance Officers Association found that only six states had a higher percentage of taxpayers who take the break than the Beaver State.

The uproar in states with relatively high property and income taxes led House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, to announce Saturday that the bill would be amended to allow continued deductions for property taxes.

Republicans have chiefly sold the tax cut as a way to increase economic growth and create more jobs.

“We’re going to restore America’s competitive edge,” Trump said at that White House meeting with lawmakers, “rebuild  America’s middle class — very much aimed at the middle class — and renew the promise of the American dream.”

A White House economic analysis says the plan could increase average household income by more than $4,000 a year. Wyden called that “unicorn economics.”

“It’s not going to happen,” Wyden said. “Republican economists come to the finance committee and say it’s not going to happen.”

If the GOP tax cut were to become law, Wyden argued, it could produce a “sugar high” for the economy but would eventually drive up the deficit and put more pressure on Medicare and other social programs.

Wyden said he would be happy to work with the Trump administration on a bipartisan tax plan more along the lines of those he has sponsored in the past with Republican senators.

Those plans didn’t call for cutting or raising taxes overall. Instead, they called for simplifying the tax code and lowering rates enough that some tax breaks could be trimmed. Wyden argued that this kind of approach could spur steadier economic growth by putting more money in the pockets of middle-class consumers.

At the Oct. 18 White House meeting, Wyden said Trump agreed with him that the tax plan should be focused on helping the middle class. But the two clearly appear to have a different idea of how to accomplish that.

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