BERKELEY TOWNSHIP — Ivanka Trump, special adviser to and daughter of President Donald J. Trump, looked out at a small sea of friendly faces Monday at the Bayville fire hall as she touted the impact the Republican tax plan will have on the middle class.
Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared at the invitation-only event alongside Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd, and Gov. Chris Christie to discuss the plan, which supporters claim will benefit the middle class and spur job creation.
The Ocean County township, population 41,689, is one of the few Republican enclaves in a Democrat-dominated state. During the 2016 presidential election, the township voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton 66 percent to 30 percent.
“We need a tax code that reflects the modern reality, and we feel this does this,” Ivanka Trump told the 150 people at the fire hall Monday morning.
Republicans are calling for cutting corporate rates and reducing the number of income-tax brackets from seven to four.
MacArthur said the House bill won his support after the $10,000 property-tax deduction cap was included, while the Senate plan calls for the elimination of the deductions.
Ivanka Trump has been promoting the plan throughout the country.
At each turn, the audience, which included numerous local and county Republican lawmakers, applauded the plan.
Outside supporters stood in the rain hoping to get a seat inside the hall, while protesters picketed the event.
“People don’t understand that nothing goes down,” said Brian Gingrich, 72, of Berkeley Township. “There is nothing free, everyone wants to get something on the dime and we can’t do it. The middle class has been paying for so long for everything. ... Steps have to be taken.”
During the 45-minute event, MacArthur, Trump and Mnuchin did not take questions from the pro-Republican crowd. Those who attended were allowed to fill out question cards before the event and those questions were given to the group.
Asked about why more audience questions — especially critical ones — weren’t included, MacArthur said the event was about giving Trump and Mnuchin a platform to talk about tax reform.
“What we wanted was to give them a chance to speak and let people hear them speak,” he said. “As you know, town halls can get out of control. That’s not what I was after today.”
As the event wrapped up, Marianne Clemente, one of the few Democrats who was able to get in, loudly questioned the panel about not interacting with the public. Clemente drew the ire of many in the crowd, including some who confronted her.
“This is an outrage that they had an invite-only, when MacArthur doesn’t have any town hall meetings,” said Clemente, a resident of Barnegat Township. “Only Republicans got invited.”
MacArthur has held town-hall meetings, including two over the past year surrounding health care reform.
The makeup of the crowd was a topic even before the event started. Jason Ireland, of Brick Township, came inside the venue and yelled, “Why aren’t Democrats allowed?” before he was ushered back outside by security.
Ireland was one of the 30 people gathered outside the fire hall to protest the tax plan. The protesters held signs voicing their disapproval of the plan. One read “GOP Tax Bills Bad for NJ,” while another stated “Tom MacArthur vote no on tax bill.”
“They are trying to rush it through,” said Carla Loundsbury, 68, of Waretown, as she held an “RIP Middle Class” mock headstone. “This is going to hurt the middle class, and no one seems to care.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.