Faced with deep divisions within the Republican party, the White House and some conservative groups are targeting red-state Democrats in hopes of winning support for a sweeping rewrite of the nation's tax code and salvaging their economic agenda.
White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters Monday that he is making the case for tax reform to Democratic lawmakers in the Upper Midwest and from states with strong manufacturing industries, such as Pennsylvania. Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips said his group, a conservative advocacy shop funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, will pressure Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana. Its sister group, Freedom Partners, has called out West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin for previously supporting lower tax rates.
The strategy is an acknowledgement that Republicans' fractious caucus has been unable to reach consensus on key issues—most notably the long-sought effort to repeal and replace Obamacare—but also the budget and raising the debt ceiling. In the House, Short said he has met with the centrist Blue Dog Democrats and the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is spearheading a bipartisan health care bill.
Even in the Senate, where Republicans only need a simple majority to pass tax reform using special parliamentary rules, victory is far from guaranteed. Republicans hold a narrow control of just 52 seats, turning the backing of just one or two Democrats into a possible game-changer.
"We've learned how difficult it is to thread the needle with 52 senators," Short said at an tax reform event Monday sponsored by the Koch groups.