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Sen. Claire McCaskill Says She Would Like To Have A Bipartisan Tax Bill


Donald Trump, who's in Missouri today, has said that if that state's Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, doesn't support his tax plan, then she should be voted out of office. McCaskill is up for re-election next year. And given Trump's victory in Missouri last November, she is seen as one of the vulnerable Senate Democrats. And she's also our guest right now. Welcome to the program, Senator.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: You've said that you could support doing a tax bill in a bipartisan way, and yesterday you said that would occur if Republicans would just work with you. That implies that there's some potential common ground on taxes. If that's the case, is there something in the Republican tax bill that you could support if it weren't there with the rest of it?

MCCASKILL: Oh, sure. I could support doubling the standard deduction. I could support enhancing the child tax credit. I could even support some corporate tax relief as long as we were cleaning up some of the loopholes that allow so many corporations to avoid paying their fair share - and repatriation - you know, giving a one-time pass to bring money back from overseas, especially if we could take a big chunk of that money and invest it in roads, and bridges and other projects that our country desperately needs to address.

SIEGEL: If Congress passes a tax bill with Republican votes only and President Trump signs it into law, as I understand it, hardly any provision of that law would take effect until after next year's elections. Can you win over Missouri voters with the argument that the tax bill wasn't worth supporting when people won't have filled out a tax return yet, based on the new law? It's an argument over how good the bill is.

MCCASKILL: Well, there's certainly been an awful lot of independent analysis and a lot of coverage on who this bill helps. And frankly, most Missourians are distrustful of the idea that anything that happens in Washington is to help them, so I think they've got a hard-sell job here, that this is a bill that really is about Missouri families that are living in the suburbs of St. Louis where Donald Trump is visiting today.

You just look at the numbers, and the average is about 160 bucks to most Americans that make less than $75,000 a year, whereas for millionaires and billionaires, the average is going to be around $57,000. It is so counterbalanced to the wealthy, and I think that they will see this, that they're not really benefiting from it. And it's our job to get the facts out there.

SIEGEL: Right. What's your view of the idea of a trigger mechanism that would raise taxes or stop cutting them if the economy doesn't grow as fast as a tax bill assumes it's going to grow by?

MCCASKILL: I think that would be a good idea. I think what the Republicans are banking on and the reason they've written this bill behind closed doors and the reason they have shunned any participation by any Democrats in this bill is that they figure they'll get all these tax cuts in place, which they've wanted to do for a long time, and then it would be up to a future Congress to reverse those, especially all of those that are temporary, which is a huge swath of them, especially - 90 percent of the businesses in America are getting just a temporary cut because they're being treated through the pass-through provisions. So they're just banking on that it's harder to raise taxes after the fact.

SIEGEL: So you're saying there would be a virtue, though. There would be a virtue to the trigger mechanism then.

MCCASKILL: There would be a virtue to the trigger mechanism because it's hard to believe that there's going to be that much growth. We're not talking about economy now that's struggling. Our economy is near full employment, and there's plenty of capital available. So I don't think the growth is going to occur that they're projecting. I think it's going to balloon our deficits and, most importantly, our debt. And so I would like to see those trigger mechanisms. And you would think that the deficit hawks that have been righteously indignant about spending and the size of our debt would be all-in on a trigger mechanism to protect the next generation from just a crushing debt.

SIEGEL: Briefly, on two issues that are connected here, there's no agreement yet on a bill to keep the government going - a spending bill. And there's no agreement on protecting the so-called DREAMers from deportation. Should it be a condition of Democratic support for keeping the government running that there be a deal on DACA to protect the DREAMers?

MCCASKILL: I think we draw too many lines in the sand as it is in Washington. We do our best work when everyone is willing to compromise, so I am not big on drawing lines in the sand. However, I think protecting the DREAMers has to be a very top priority. There is no reason that we would punish young people who came here through no fault of their own who have known and loved no other country but the United States of America.

SIEGEL: Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, thanks for talking with us today.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LETTUCE'S "PHYLLIS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.