While there is plenty of GOP support for the liability regime, the president’s popular tax cut is another story. Republicans are not general for it. And McConnell hates sharing his conference because it weakens his bargaining power.
When asked about Trump’s demand for payroll taxes on Tuesday, McConnell said, “If there is a red line, it’s about litigation.” And in interviews with a number of Republicans on Tuesday, it became clear why McConnell focused on the angle of liability rather than the cut in wages.
South Dakota (R-S.D.) Senator John Thune, McConnell’s chief deputy, said protecting employers and workers from lawsuits was “straightforward.” But when asked about the tax cut, he replied, “I’m not a big fan of it.”
“I think I am open to being convinced that it is something that could be effective, but I think some of the things we are currently doing are having a bigger impact,” he said, listing small business aid programs and direct payments to the public. “The tax cut only helps if you’re on the payroll.”
The March Congress postponed employers’ income tax for the year. Trump has however explicitly pointed out that more needs to be done for workers.
“We don’t do anything without a wage tax cut,” Trump told Fox News over the weekend. On Tuesday, he reiterated this request, adding that he wanted to remove cities of protection for undocumented immigrants and “maybe” also want to lower capital gains taxes.
A White House official said the president was “passionate” about the idea of a wage tax cut that would give workers more purchasing power and help businesses move their employees more easily. After Trump didn’t back it up in previous aid bills, he may be more determined this time around.
“It should be on the table. The president supports it. You support the trust fund with a transfer, ”agreed Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.). “This is one way to get more money into the hands of workers and employers.”
Democrats are averse to both wage tax cuts and liability reform. When asked about Trump’s statement on income tax during a Monday appearance at CNN, Pelosi said “no way” and drawing a line in the sand was counterproductive. But she also said that she would not negotiate in the press.
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Said Tuesday that protecting companies from coronavirus lawsuits was a “grave mistake” and would not exclude payroll taxes. He also made it clear that Democrats “have the impression that Nancy Pelosi is in the lead in the negotiations”.
Some Republicans said the word war between Pelosi and Trump was part of the dance.
“I heard the speaker say” no way “and the president said he wouldn’t sign a bill without him, so it sounds like the start of a negotiation,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), but added that it was although there would be a debate about the reduction of wage tax, the liability reform was a “requirement”.
However, two completely different messages from the White House and Republicans in Congress often undermine the GOP’s negotiating stance. And if Trump wants to win his party over, he has work to do even with strong allies.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Who is close to the president, said he agreed with McConnell’s focus on liability protection and that while he liked the idea of cutting taxes, it bothered him to clear social security accounts. Perhaps, he said, the best thing Congress could do was nothing.
“I’m not really here for more things. I’m here to defend myself against anything that comes from Washington,” said Paul. “Because there is nothing to be had.”
Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.