Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday refreshed his attack on Donald Trump’s tax cuts, criticizing the measures for making cuts to middle class Americans temporary but those to corporations permanent.
Sanders’ criticism came as a report claimed Trump had said to wealthy guests at a dinner at Mar-a-Lago on Friday evening, “You all just got a lot richer”.
The senator, speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, said: “At the end of 10 years, 83% of the the benefits go to the top 1%, 60% of the benefits go to the top one-tenth of 1%, meanwhile well over 80 million Americans will be paying more in taxes, 13 million will lose their healthcare and we will have an additional $1.4tn deficit …”
Trump’s comments, reported by CBS News, were said to be directed to friends dining nearby at the exclusive club that has become known as the “Winter White House.” Earlier in the day Friday he signed the sweeping $1.5tn tax cut bill into law before leaving Washington for the holiday break.
Trump spoke at length during the signing, thanking congressional Republicans. He predicted the measures would be “a tremendous thing for the American people”.
“It’s going to be fantastic for the economy. It’s going to keep companies from leaving our shores and opening up in other countries.” Companies, he said, would go “wild” about this.
But his reported comments to guests at Mar-a-Lago, where initiation fees cost $200,000 and carries annual membership fees of $14,000, are certain to grate opponents who reject Trump’s characterization of the tax bill as a break for the middle class.
Critics of the measures argue the cuts disproportionately benefit the most affluent Americans. Trump has said the tax bill is “not good” for him personally, though by some estimates Trump could enjoy a $15m tax break. However, Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns makes this hard to gauge accurately.
In his comments Sunday, Sanders flatly rejected Trump’s tax claims: “His tax plan was going to benefit the middle class, but the bulk of the benefits go to the rich and to large corporations.”
“He was going to take on the drug companies but he appoints the guy to health and human services who comes from the drug companies etc, etc.”
Asked to characterize Republican electoral losses in Virginia and Alabama, Sanders described them as a referendum on both Trump’s leadership.
“This is a man who said one thing during the campaign, but his actions are very different. He said he wanted to ‘drain the swamp,’ but now it looks like the swamp now has more billionaires in his administration than any in American history.”
Sanders added that the electoral results should also give party leadership in the House and Senate reason for grave concern.
“What we’re seeing in Alabama, what we’re seeing in Virginia, New Jersey and in states all across this country, are large voter turnouts, are people standing up and fighting back and demanding that we have a government that represents all of us, not just the 1%.
“If I were the Republicans, I would worry very much about 2018,” Sanders added.
Asked by CBS News about Trump’s reported comments on Friday, the White House reiterated the tax cuts would help the middle class.
Picking up on Sander’s theme on Sunday, retiring Arizona senator Jeff Flake, a frequent critic of the president, told ABC’s This Week he believed Republican electoral losses signaled his party’s death throes.
“When you look at some of the audiences cheering for Republicans, sometimes, you look out there and you say, ‘those are the spasms of a dying party.’”
Flake repeated his call for a fundamental re-evaluation of what his party stands for, including its lack of social and racial diversity. “We’re appealing to older white men and there are just a limited number of them, and anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”
He added that he hoped that former Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon would be marginalized in that process.
“The last thing we need is to push that ultra-nationalist, ethno-nationalist, protectionist kind of element of the party. That’s not good for us,” he added.
The senator said he would not rule out challenging Trump in the next presidential election, predicting that if the president continues on his current path, a “huge swath of voters” will be “looking for something else”.
Asked if he might run against the Republican incumbent, Flake said “That’s not in my plans” but “I don’t rule anything out.”
Early Sunday, Trump renewed his attacks on “Fake News” in an early morning tweet.
Early Saturday, Trump placed a video conference call with soldiers deployed overseas. According to pool reports, he complimented the military on “how well we’re doing” in the fight against terrorism. “We’re winning.”
“I just want to wish everybody a very, very merry Christmas, we say Merry Christmas, again, very, very proudly. Very, very merry Christmas. We’re going to have a great year, an incredible year. I’m thrilled to bring seasons greetings on behalf of the first lady and our entire family and most importantly, on behalf of the American people.”
He then told “the wonderful people of the media. Enjoy yourselves. Really appreciate it, have a great Christmas”.
The president then departed for a round of golf at the Trump International Golf Club.