Democrat Heitkamp to fly with Trump on Air Force One to North Dakota

Story highlights

  • Heitkamp is one of several red state Democrats up for re-election in 2018
  • The White House is targeting her as a potential Democratic vote for tax reform

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump is giving his efforts to wrangle red state Democrat support for his tax reform push the Air Force One treatment.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, will become the first Democratic lawmaker to join Trump on the presidential jet when she accompanies Trump on his trip to North Dakota on Wednesday, where Trump will continue his push to drive up public support for tax reform.
Heitkamp is just one of several Democrats up for reelection next year hailing from states Trump won in 2016 that the White House hopes to pressure into backing the tax reform push.
    "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 is expected to say on Wednesday, according to excerpts of his speech released in advance by the White House.
    "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," he is expected to say.
    Heitkamp's office confirmed she would join Trump for his speech, but a Heitkamp aide said the senator will not speak at the event.
    Heitkamp welcomed Trump's upcoming visit to her state in a statement last week, noting that she has "been pushing for both sides of the aisle to work together in Congress toward permanent, comprehensive solutions that will do away with loopholes and handouts for special interests and instead promote our small businesses, farm economy and energy industries with the fiscally responsible reforms they need to grow and expand."
    Trump's visit to North Dakota on Wednesday comes a week after he kicked off his fall push for tax reform last week during a visit to Missouri, where he called on the state's Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill to join Republicans' tax reform efforts -- and called on voters in the state to vote her out of office should she vote against tax reform.
    Trump won both Missouri and North Dakota during the 2016 election. The White House is also targeting Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, as another vulnerable Democrat to join the tax reform effort.
    "What Heitkamp has said in the past gives us hope," one senior White House official said.
    But while the White House has called for bipartisanship in supporting the push, legislative proposals to reform the tax code are being discussed among a group of Republican congressional leaders and administration officials -- without any Democratic input.
    Trump met earlier Tuesday with those officials -- known as the "Big Six" -- to discuss the path forward on tax reform.
    Like last week, Trump is not expected to delve into the details of the tax reform proposals congressional Republican leaders are mulling, two senior administration officials said Tuesday.
    Trump, who will be joined Wednesday by his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, will also continue to frame his tax reform push in populist terms.
    "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 is expected to say on Wednesday, according to the White House-provided speech excerpts.
    The administration officials also downplayed any disagreements between the plans for tax reform Trump has expressed in the past, and the direction the talks with congressional leaders are headed.
    While Trump last week said he hoped to bring the business tax rate down to 15%, that figure has been dismissed by congressional leaders on Capitol Hill as unrealistic.
    "The President has been very open about that particular number as something that he's driving toward, but I think we are also -- the White House is working very closely with our friends on Capitol Hill with what that number is going to be," a senior White House official said.
    The White House has turned its focus to tax reform amid a packed legislative schedule on Capitol Hill, which must also reach an agreement to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling by the end of the month.
    "How do you spell what the top priorities for the President are? It's what he's spending his T-I-M-E doing," the official said. "He's going to spend a great deal of time over the next months going around the country and selling tax reform."