Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday told a ballroom full of Republicans in Greenwood Village that a unified GOP will fulfill a key campaign pledge of President Donald Trump by enacting tax reform legislation.
“I’m going to make a prediction tonight: We’re going to pass the largest tax cut in American history, and we’re going to pass it this year,” Pence told about 300 donors at a fundraiser for the Colorado Republican Party at the Denver Marriott Tech Center.
Republicans cut the price of the least expensive tickets to the event a week ago from $275 to $150, responding to what party officials called high demand for cheaper seats.
Outside before the dinner, under grey skies that threatened snow, dozens of protesters marched in the familiar, distinctive red robes and white bonnets worn by characters in the dystopian novel and TV show “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Organizers said they wanted to bring attention to what they call Pence’s “far-right, archaic agenda for women’s rights and health.”
But inside, the mood was bright and the crowd was pleased.
“We’re going to make it possible for nine out of 10 Americans to fill out their taxes on their own without hiring a professional,” Pence said, adding, “We’re going to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent — and not one penny more.”
Although details remain up for grabs — there could be three or four tax rates, ranging from 12-35 percent with higher rate likely for the wealthy, and plans to eliminate a tax on multi-million dollar estates remain tentative — Pence maintained that sweeping tax reform will spur the economy while also demonstrating that the Republican-controlled Congress can notch a legislative win after failing several times this year to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
After 20 Republicans defected Thursday, the GOP-controlled House passed a $4 trillion budget resolution with just four votes to spare, setting the stage for next week’s introduction of the long-awaited tax-reform package. Republican leaders have said they intend to pass a bill out of the chamber and send it to a conference committee to reconcile a Senate version by Nov. 16, before the Thanksgiving recess.
But fissures among Republicans appear to be widening, as lawmakers from states with high tax rates protest a plan to do away with the state and local tax deductions, and others oppose proposals to curtail pre-tax contributions to retirement plans such as 401(k) and similar plans. Deficit hawks object to the plan’s $1.5 trillion in deficit spending. Proponents say the massive deficits will be reduced by economic growth stimulated by the tax cuts, although skeptics counter that Republicans have been making this claim to justify tax cuts for decades without it actually happening.
“The truth is, cutting taxes is the key to a new era of more jobs, soaring incomes and a thriving middle class,” Pence said.
Colorado Democratic Party Chair Morgan Carroll panned the budget passed by House Republicans and predicted many middle-income Coloradans will see their taxes go up while the rich reap the lion’s share of the tax cuts.
“If there’s a program your family depends on, chances are Republicans are gutting it so they can give a tax cut to millionaires and billionaires,” Carroll said in a statement. “This budget is a betrayal of middle-class and working people, especially older Americans who will see Medicare and Medicaid cuts while Donald Trump sees another tax cut.”
Moving quickly from topic to topic, Pence lingered for a while on an announcement Trump made earlier in the day when he declared a national emergency “to fight this opioid crisis as never before.” Pence emphasized each word by punching a clenched fist into the air and added, “Under this president’s leadership, you can be sure: This will be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic in America.”
At Pence’s urging, the crowd gave a standing ovation to U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, the Aurora Republican who represents the district where the fundraiser took place.
And while Pence repeatedly tipped his hat to the Republican members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, he didn’t acknowledge U.S Rep. Ken Buck, one of the 20 House Republicans who voted against the budget resolution, who was seated at a table near the stage.
Pence mocked the Democrats and made a case that Republicans aren’t as divided as the party’s legislative record and recent high-profile controversies might suggest.
“The other party’s already decided on their agenda, and it can be summed up in one word: Resist. Guess what, I think our agenda can be summed up in one word, too: Real results for the American people.” After a pause and at least a few puzzled looks in the audience, Pence continued, making clear which word he meant: “’Results’ is the answer to the resistance agenda.”
Then Pence scolded the media for emphasizing rifts among Republicans.
“Don’t underestimate the unity within the Republican Party,” he said to cheers.
Pence’s tribute to GOP unity came days after two Republican senators who have both announced they aren’t running for reelection next year — Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee — denounced Trump as unfit for office, calling the president a bully and questioning his competence.
Outside the Capitol, former top Trump strategist Steve Bannon has declared “a season of war” on the GOP establishment and is vowing to recruit insurgent challengers to nearly all the Republican senators on the ballot next year. In Colorado, Bannon met last month with former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo to discuss a possible gubernatorial run against the establishment that Tancredo has said “could get ugly.”
Addressing the crowd of donors after Pence departed, former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez sounded a similar note to Pence’s call for unity. Invoking Ronald Reagan’s famous commandment, Beauprez urged Republicans to embrace what they have in common.
“It’s time we put our differences aside and we come together again united in a purpose and a strategy,” Beauprez said
Pence brought donors to their feet again and again, as nearly every sentence in his 25-minute speech turned out to be a crowd-pleasing applause line.
“By the way,” Pence said after taking the stage to a standing ovation, “I always stand for the flag and our national anthem.”
He kept the favorite lines coming.
Trump, Pence said, has “cut more red tape than any president in U.S. history,” and the crowd went wild. A moment later, donors were again clapping when Pence said, “The president put America first when he withdrew the United States from the job-killing Paris Climate Accord.”
Trump was committed to defending the Second Amendment, Pence added, drawing more applause. “This president has stood without apology for those who stand on the thin blue line of law enforcement,” he continued, and then urged the crowd to continue applauding to recognize law enforcement officers and first responders. A couple minutes later, after noting that he’s the father of a Marine, Pence asked the veterans in the room to stand and invited the crowd to applaud their service.
On and on, the litany of favorites kept coming. Illegal border crossings are down, and ISIS is on the run, Pence said.
“President Trump has restored American strength at home and abroad,” Pence said. “But, as this president likes to say, that’s just what we call a good start.”
Pence drew perhaps the loudest sustained applause of the night when he praised Trump for appointing “Colorado’s own Justice Neil Gorsuch” to the Supreme Court.
Earlier that afternoon, Pence toured the Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Littleton with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, where he met with the company’s top executives and vowed that America will “lead in space once again.”