Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) had what he deemed a fruitful phone conversation with President Trump on Wednesday that involved convincing him that part of the tax bill he signed into law last year was causing problems for people who voted him into office.
“He really didn’t know that his tax bill had that total giveaway to these companies and that incentive to move offshores,” Brown told The Daily Beast in an interview on Thursday. “I explained it to him. He agreed with it. He agreed with our fix, our solution.”
The White House didn’t immediately offer its view of the conversation when asked Thursday evening.
The Ohio Democrat, the only statewide member of his party to win reelection earlier this month, was trying to get the Republican president on his side to address the best way to save General Motors factory jobs in his state and elsewhere. The conversation came on the heels of an announcement from the company that it would be idling five factories in North America with a cut of approximately 14,000 jobs. One plant that was affected was in Lordstown, Ohio, where the Chevrolet Cruze was manufactured and which served as a major employer in the northeastern Ohio town.
Trump initially responded to GM’s announcement with anger and a threat:
But Brown, who has recently said that he is now considering the possibility of a 2020 White House bid, told The Daily Beast that Trump has said he’ll back the senator’s American Cars, American Jobs Act, announced earlier this year when GM said it had planned to build the new Chevy Blazer in Mexico. The bill is meant to eliminate incentives for offshoring for companies like GM by both providing consumers with a $3,500 price deduction on a purchase or lease of an American-made car and changing the language in the GOP tax law that Brown says creates incentives for companies to generate more profits overseas.
“I know that Republicans aren’t going to revisit the whole tax bill,” Brown said. “But if the president of the United States says we should pass the American Cars, American Jobs Act, I cannot imagine—if he really pushes for it. If the president pushes on it, the Congress usually does what he tells them.”
“We got to stay with him and stay on him and make sure he does what he says,” Brown added.
The concession Brown contends he earned this week came after Trump specifically singled the Ohio senator out for criticism in a Wall Street Journal interview conducted just after GM’s job-cutting announcement.
“Well, it’s one plant in Ohio,” the president was quoted as saying. “But I love Ohio. And I told them: You’re playing around with the wrong person. And Ohio wasn’t properly represented by their Democrat senator, Senator Brown, because he didn’t get the point across.”
But Brown thinks it’s the president who did nothing to prevent the closure, particularly following a prior conversation he says the two had in June about the Lordstown factory.
“I asked the president to intervene,” Brown told The Daily Beast. “He said nothing then and he did nothing. So he now is just trying to come up with something and my bill will help him fulfill that promise that we’re going to bring jobs home.”
Brown said that Trump’s threat to cut federal support for electric car makers wouldn’t have much of an impact as the “subsidies were finite” and “they’ve pretty much already been spoken for, collected, dispersed.”
“There is no real hammer there for the president,” he said adding that Trump was “flailing” on the issue.
Instead, Brown suggested that the president talk to GM CEO Mary Barra “about using the huge tax cuts they got from the tax bill, from the president’s tax bill, using that money to invest in retooling the plants in Ohio and Michigan or wherever.”
“The problem is the sort of phony populism of the administration has meant that these tax bills help corporate interests at the expense of workers,” he continued. “And that tax bill is a betrayal of American workers and the president needs to fix it.”
Asked if he was surprised that he had to walk the president through the basic economics of the issue, Brown replied: “No, not really. Are you?”