WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday his public feud with Senator Bob Corker would not harm his push for a tax-code overhaul, hours after he aimed a new insult at the influential fellow Republican by mocking his physical stature.
In remarks that raised new uncertainties about the barely 2-week-old tax plan, Trump also told reporters that adjustments to it were coming within weeks. He did not give details.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said later: “We don’t have any adjustments to make to the framework at this time.”
Asked if his spat with Corker would affect the tax effort, Trump said: “I don’t think so, no.”
The president has engaged in a risky Twitter dispute over the past few days with Corker, a Tennessee lawmaker who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a leading “deficit hawk” committed to reining in the federal deficit.
Corker has said he will oppose any package of tax changes that adds to the deficit.
His position matters because Republicans control the Senate by a narrow 52-to-48 margin as they push to notch their first major legislative achievement during a year in which they have controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress.
If Democrats, who have criticized Trump’s tax plan as a giveaway to business and the rich, unite against a tax bill as they did in opposing efforts to repeal the Obamacare healthcare law, Republicans can afford to lose only two of their own senators to get the tax changes passed.
In his latest tweet on the senator on Tuesday morning, Trump dubbed Corker, reported by U.S. media to be 5 foot 7 inches (1.70 m) tall, “Liddle’ Bob Corker.”
He said Corker had been made to “sound a fool” by the New York Times, “and that’s what I’m dealing with.”
Corker tweeted over the weekend that the Trump White House was an “adult daycare center” and said in an interview with the Times that Trump risked setting the country on a “path to World War Three.”
Corker, who is not seeking re-election next year, has not responded on Twitter to Trump’s latest comments.
In his remarks in the Oval Office, Trump focused on tax reform, saying it was politically positive and desired by Americans.
“People want to see tax cuts, they want to see major reductions in their taxes, and they want to see tax reform, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “And we’ll be adjusting a little bit over the next few weeks to make it even stronger. But I will tell you that it’s become very, very popular.”
Asked to clarify Trump’s comments about making the plan stronger, a White House official said the administration had always planned to work with Congress to make the proposal one that people could get behind.
“The word ‘stronger’ could imply larger tax cuts, more base broadeners or a number of other things,” said Kyle Pomerleau, federal projects director at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation think tank. “It’s hard to tell what direction that’s going in.”
Two congressional tax-writing committees are preparing to unveil legislation that Republicans hope to enact before January.
But first, congressional Republicans are aiming to adopt a fiscal year 2018 budget resolution that would allow them to pass tax legislation in the Senate by a simple majority through a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation.
Without reconciliation, Senate Republicans would need to work with Democrats to garner the typical 60 votes required to pass legislation.
“If there is no reconciliation, then there is no tax bill,” the Wall Street investment banking firm Keefe Bruyette & Woods advised clients on Tuesday.
The House of Representatives passed a budget resolution last week and the Senate is expected to vote on its own version next week. Resolving the differences between the two budget measures could take weeks unless the House decides to pass the Senate’s version quickly.
House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black told Reuters on Tuesday that she preferred a conference committee to work out the differences, so House Republicans could fight to keep proposed budget cuts to government programs such as food stamps and the Medicaid health insurance program for the poor and disabled.
“Getting our spending under control is a part and a piece of getting the country back on track,” Black said in an interview.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Morgan; Writing by Amanda Becker; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney