INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence returned to his home state on Friday to make the Republican case for an overhaul of the federal tax code, while calling on Democratic Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly to get on board with the effort.
"There's an old joke that says the tax code is 10 times the length of the Bible, with none of the good news," Pence said before turning his attention to Donnelly, who was in attendance.
"Indiana needs this tax cut. Hardworking Hoosiers need this tax cut," Pence said. "So Joe, let's decide today we're going to get this tax cut done and we're going to get it done together."
Pence's choice of venue, the struggling former General Motors town of Anderson, Indiana, was no coincidence. Rather, it was the continuation of a campaign by President Donald Trump's administration that is alternately attempting to woo and strong-arm Donnelly into supporting whatever the GOP plan ends up being.
In advance of the speech, aides to the vice president hyped it as an attempt to pressure Donnelly. Pence's visit was also a week before Trump's planned trip to Indianapolis.
During the speech, Pence called for a reduced overall tax rate while ending "the handouts and the carve-outs and the loopholes that benefit the wealthy and well-connected."
Later, Donnelly mostly brushed it off.
"I'm glad to hear them talk about taxes and I look forward to the details," Donnelly told The Associated Press. "I've said all along that I support a tax cut for the middle class, a tax effort that's focused on creating more jobs and opportunities."
When asked what he made of the vice president's tactic, Donnelly added that Pence is "a native Hoosier and we're always happy to have him home."
Donnelly is one of three vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2018 who represent states Trump won. Last week, Donnelly joined Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia for a working dinner with Trump at the White House focused on the GOP tax overhaul.
Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly are the only Democratic senators who did not sign a letter addressed to Republican leaders and Trump that said the Democratic caucus would not support a tax overhaul that cuts taxes for the "top 1 percent" or adds to the government's $20 trillion debt.
In the weeks ahead, Republicans say they will continue to press the case.
Meanwhile, the group Americans for Prosperity is launching its own efforts to pressure Donnelly into supporting the GOP tax overhaul. The group, which is financed by billionaire conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch, says it is considering running TV ads, launching a door-knocking campaign or targeting Donnelly with direct mail.