When President Trump staged his first event to promote his tax reform proposal in Missouri last week, he attacked that state's Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill.
That is because Heitkamp will be a special guest in Trump's traveling delegation, jetting with him from Washington aboard Air Force One in what the White House is trumpeting as the first indication of bipartisan support for overhauling the tax code.
Trump will be touting his tax plan at the Andeavor oil refinery in Heitkamp's hometown of Mandan, just outside of Bismarck, the state capital.
The Democratic senator is expected to face a difficult challenge for reelection next year in a state Trump carried in 2016 by 36 percentage points, one of his biggest margins of victory. So Heitkamp may see a political advantage in being friendly with Trump and open to his ideas, even if she does not ultimately vote to pass his agenda.
In his speech Wednesday, Trump intends to pressure Heitkamp to support his tax-reform agenda — in part by reminding North Dakotans that the last time Congress passed meaningful tax reform, in 1986, during Ronald Reagan's presidency, their Democratic senator voted yea.
“Both of the Reagan tax cuts were passed by a Democratic majority in the House, a Democratic speaker, and the vast majority of Democrats in the Senate, including a Democratic senator from the great state of North Dakota,” Trump plans to say, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks. “If Democrats continue their obstruction — if they don’t want to bring back your jobs, raise your pay, and help America win — voters should deliver a clear message: Do your job to deliver for America or find a new job.”
In a conference call with reporters to preview the trip, a senior White House official read past statements Heitkamp has made supporting comprehensive tax reform and the notion of partnering with Trump to suggest that she may endorse Trump's plan.
Although Heitkamp has voiced general support for overhauling the tax code, she has not explicitly supported Trump's proposal. So far, the president has only outlined his plan in broad terms, and corresponding legislation has not yet been introduced.
“Ask any small business owner, energy industry worker, farmer or parent in North Dakota about what they think of the current U.S. tax code and they’ll most likely tell you that it’s broken,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “That’s why I’m glad to welcome President Trump to North Dakota where North Dakotans are eager to hear more about his tax reform plan.”
President Barack Obama traveled to the state in 2014 when he visited the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The last president to visit the Bismarck area was George H.W. Bush in 1989, to celebrate North Dakota's centennial.
By traveling with Trump to North Dakota, White House officials said, Heitkamp becomes the first Democrat to join the president in his push for tax reform. The state's other U.S. senator, John Hoeven, and its lone House member, Kevin Cramer, both Republicans, also are scheduled to travel with Trump aboard Air Force One. Trump and his delegation will be greeted at Bismarck Municipal Airport by Gov. Douglas J. Burgum, first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford.
Trump intends to talk about the business climate in North Dakota and hold it up as a model for the country.
“I want all of America to be inspired by the North Dakota example,” the president plans to say, according to the prepared remarks. “This state is a reminder of what can happen when we promote American jobs instead of obstructing them.”
Trump — who is scheduled to be joined on Wednesday's trip by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn — plans to reiterate many of the policy priorities he announced last week, during his visit to Springfield, Mo. And the president will frame his plan as beneficial to everyday workers, even though it also includes large tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, as well as corporations.
“The pipe fitters and plumbers, the nurses and police officers — all the people like you who pour their hearts into every penny earned in both the offices and oil fields of America — you are the ones who carry this nation on your backs, and it is time you got the relief you deserve,” Trump plans to say, according to his prepared remarks.