WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) described “productive conversation about areas of agreement as well as areas where we will have to find compromise” — as well as interesting-shaped ice cream — at a White House dinner Tuesday evening with GOP and moderate Dem senators.
Along with Manchin, Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) were at the wining-and-dining.
That will be reportedly followed tonight by a dinner with President Trump and the Dem leaders he referred to last week as “Chuck and Nancy” — Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Manchin told MSNBC this morning that, after dining on steak medallions, “the dessert came out and everybody asked about the ice cream. The ice cream was so perfectly shaped I thought it was an egg. And I’m thinking, OK I’ve seen this kind of a strudel, it was an apple strudel but I says, I’ve never seen an egg come with it.”
“So I’m thinking, what do I do with this? So I got my fork and I just got the end, I said, well we’re going to find out,” he said. “And it was ice cream! So it was good.”
Asked if he sensed a new bipartisan spirit at the meeting, Manchin replied, “I sure did.”
The conversation began with infrastructure, he said, “and then we got right into depth of tax reform.”
“And the president was adamant from the get-go this is not a tax cut for the rich. And I repeat that, this will not be a tax cut for me or any rich people. That kind of started off the conversation. It went pretty good from there,” Manchin added. “…Any tax overhaul, they call it tax cut whatever, tax overhaul has to be geared towards job creation, the economy, competitiveness.”
The senator noted that “we’ll have to wait and see the details” of the GOP plan.
Toomey told MSNBC that “there was virtually no discussion about the deal with Sen. Schumer and Nancy Pelosi” on the debt ceiling — “I think there was a passing reference, but that was not what the focus was.”
“The focus was the need to do tax reform and the president talked about, you know, having a competitive tax system so that American business can compete,” the Pennsylvania Republican said.
“From where I sit, it’s a little hard to have a constructive conversation with the folks — the 45 Democratic senators who signed a letter basically declaring their lack of interest in working with us. If you look at the conditions that they stipulate for working with us on a tax bill it’s pretty clear they’re not interested in working with us,” Toomey noted. “Well, the three Democratic senators at the dinner last night did not sign that letter and I think that’s a clear indication that they’re still open-minded about this.”
The White House said in a readout that the meeting was to “discuss advancing the administration’s legislative priorities, in particular tax cuts for the middle class.”
“The president asked the bipartisan group of Senators to help deliver tax cuts for American families, which is essential to economic growth and prosperity. Through bipartisan outreach efforts like this, President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to fulfilling his promises, and that includes producing tangible results on important issues like tax reform. The meeting was highly productive, and will spur constructive discussion moving forward.”