President Donald Trump told a crowd of supporters Wednesday that if U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill doesn’t support his push for tax cuts, “you have to vote her out of office.”
“You gotta make that commitment,” he said.
Trump traveled to Springfield to discuss a sweeping overhaul of the country’s tax system during an event at Loren Cook Co., which manufactures fans, blowers and laboratory exhaust systems. He didn’t delve into policy specifics, focusing more on the notion of why reducing taxes and closing unspecified tax loopholes would benefit the economy.
He urged Congress to get in line to push through “our once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver real tax reform to everyday Americans.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
“I’m committed to working with Congress to get this job done,” Trump said. “And I don’t want to be disappointed in Congress.”
The White House promoted the event as a policy speech, but the atmosphere inside the packed event felt very campaign-oriented. That was particularly true when Trump singled out McCaskill, who is considered among the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats running for re-election next year. The president said he expects Democrats will stand in the way of his attempts to cut taxes.
“The Democrats are looking to obstruct tax cuts and tax reform, just like they have obstructed administrative appointments and health care,” he said.
Last week, when Trump’s visit to Missouri was announced, McCaskill voiced support for working with the president on tax reform.
“This is an area on which I’m optimistic President Trump and I will find common ground,” she said in a prepared statement. “I’ve talked in a lot of my town halls about my support for simplifying the tax code by cleaning out loopholes and goodies for special interests, and lowering the corporate tax rate — as long as we’re doing it all through the lens of strengthening Missouri’s working families.”
A spokesman for McCaskill declined comment on the president’s remarks, referring reporters to her statement from last week.
Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt, who regularly sponsored tax cut legislation during his time in the state Senate, said McCaskill’s record does not give him hope she’ll get on board with the president’s plan.
“I know she’s going on a tour and talking about being an advocate for the heartland,” Schmitt said, “but that’s not her record.”
U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican, saw the president’s remarks as an invitation for Democrats like McCaskill to get involved in the process of cutting taxes.
“I think he was a bit disappointed in the past with the healthcare bill or other legislation that he hasn’t been able to get Democrats on board. But this is a new day. It’s something that everyone, I hope, will be able to support.”
The president focused his speech on the idea that corporate and individual tax cut would ensure that “our country will be, just as it says on that beautiful red cap: Make America great again.”
“What could possibly be more bipartisan than helping people keep more of what they earn?” Trump said.
Before discussing taxes, Trump talked about the historic flooding in Texas, calling the work of the first responders “absolutely heroic. They represent the very best of America.”
To the people in Texas who continue to suffer, Trump said: “We are here with you today. We are with you tomorrow. And we’ll be with you every single day after to restore, recover and rebuild.”
But the political nature of Trump’s visit during an ongoing natural disaster was troubling to Erin Kappeler, a member of the steering committee for Springfield Indivisible, a liberal organization that helped organized a protest of the president’s visit to Missouri.
“It’s not just upsetting, it’s disrespectful that in the middle of a natural disaster in Texas, our current president is here attempting to harm Sen. McCaskill’s re-election bid,” Kappeler said. “We’re deeply upset that the president is choosing to campaign rather than help people who are hurting in Texas.”
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and Rep. Billy Long joined Trump on Air Force One. Gov. Eric Greitens, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson and U.S. Reps. Hartzler, Sam Graves, Ann Wagner, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Jason Smith met the president at the airport.
Schmitt, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and a smattering of Republican legislative leaders arrived at Loren Cook Co. early to attend the president’s speech.
Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Columbia Republican exploring a run for U.S. Senate next year against McCaskill, was the only statewide Republican official to skip the president’s visit.
Hawley has been catching flak from conservatives for not attending Trump’s event. He is on a weeklong vacation with his family, and even tweeted out vacation photos of his children on Tuesday.
But it’s his relationship with former Republican U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth that’s causing Hawley headaches with some conservatives.
Danforth, who represented Missouri for two decades, has diligently recruited Hawley to run for U.S. Senate, and last week he urged his fellow Republicans to disavow Trump and avoid being seen with him during his visit to Springfield.
Trump won Missouri by 19 percentage points in November.