U.S. President Donald Trump met Tuesday with the majority Republicans in the Senate, hoping to advance his plans to cut taxes for corporations and the middle class, even as he traded taunts with a key lawmaker, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.
Trump had lunch with the lawmakers, including Corker, on Capitol Hill amid wide discussions on the shape of his tax overhaul.
Trump left the meeting without taking reporters' questions, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republican lawmakers are unified with the president in seeking major changes in the country's tax law.
McConnell, however, deflected questions about Trump's hours-long verbal tirade with Corker.
"There's a lot of noise out there ... but what we're concentrating on is the agenda the American people need," McConnell said. "I think there's great cohesion among Republicans of all persuasions to achieve this goal [of tax reform] before the end of the year."
The Senate last week approved a budget that could eventually lead to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts during the coming decade that would add the same amount to the country's ever-increasing $20 trillion national debt total. Trump has called for passage of the tax legislation by the end of the year.
But the Republican-controlled Congress has yet to agree on specific tax changes, with intense closed-door discussions occurring about which provisions of the country's labyrinth tax code to keep and which to abandon. Trump has ruled out cuts in government pensions for older Americans and revisions in tax-advantaged plans many workers use to build their retirement savings accounts.
Corker, who is retiring from Congress after the 2018 elections and has become a frequent critic of the president, told ABC News that Trump should leave tax law changes to congressional committees to decide and not "take things off the table" that limit lawmakers' ability to agree on a plan.
Corker said he has not seen the will, skill and commitment from Trump to enact a tax overhaul.
"It's easy to talk about cutting peoples' rates and doing this, the things that benefit people, but the spinach, if you will, is in doing all of these reforms, which make filling out your taxes much more simple, which is what the American people have asked for for years. But if you start taking things off the table before you get started you make that very difficult," Corker said.
Corker, who recently said Trump's bellicose rhetoric could lead to World War III, renewed his attack, saying Trump should leave foreign affairs "to the professionals for a while."
In a Twitter response, Trump retorted that Corker helped craft "the bad Iran Deal" that curbed Tehran's nuclear weapons program, "couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee" and "is now fighting Tax Cuts. Corker dropped out of the race in Tennessee when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!"
Corker responded on his Twitter account, saying of Trump, "Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff," repeating a recent comment that Trump's White House was like "an adult day care center."
He later told CNN, "The president has great difficulty with the truth."
Trump countered, "Isn't it sad that lightweight Senator Bob Corker, who couldn't get re-elected in the Great State of Tennessee, will now fight Tax Cuts plus!"
Later, Trump added, "Sen. Corker is the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee, & look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn't have a clue as the entire World WAS laughing and taking advantage of us. People like liddle' Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we move forward!"
Whether Corker eventually votes for the tax overhaul is uncertain. But his vote could be crucial in the Senate, where Republicans hold only a 52-48 majority and many Democrats are lining up against Republican tax cuts they say will benefit the country's wealthiest taxpayers at the expense of the middle class with more modest incomes.