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New report on deficit impact complicates Senate tax reform efforts
The Senate Republican tax bill was stalled on Thursday after the release of a Joint Committee on Taxation report that said the legislation would add $1 trillion to federal deficits in the next decade, contradicting GOP claims that the plan would for itself by growing the economy.
Republican leaders are now scrambling to make changes to the bill that would increase revenue in an effort to placate Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and other GOP deficit hawks. Corker's initial idea, a "trigger" that would have raised taxes if certain standards of economic growth were not met under the bill in the future, was struck out of the bill by the Senate parliamentarian on Thursday. After that decision, Sens. Corker and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) briefly wavered on a procedural vote forced by Democrats that would have sent the bill back to committee; the trio huddled on the Senate floor with Republican leaders until eventually voting not to impede the legislation's progress.
The Senate ended its day on Thursday without holding any more votes on the bill; now, with more votes just hours away, Republicans still don't know the details of their own tax overhaul. According to Axios, the GOP is searching for provisions that will raise as much as $500 billion in revenue, partly offsetting the tax cuts. Some ideas on the table reportedly include "reinstating the alternative minimum tax on some corporations and individual" or "increasing the corporate tax rate above the 20 percent after a period of years," according to the New York Times (the rate would slowly increase every few years, in a "stair-stepping" effect).
However, many Republicans aren't keen on including tax increases in their tax cut bill. "Fifty-one senators want to raise taxes," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told Bloomberg. "One is trying to raise taxes. That's not right." Yet, GOP leaders are hoping to have support from Corker and his fellow deficit hawks, looking for Republican unity; the Tennessee senator had previously said that he would not support legislation "adding one penny to the deficit."
Other Republican senators provide obstacles to a unified vote on the bill: Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Steve Daines (R-MT) are calling for parity between smaller, "pass-through" business and larger corporations. Daines told reporters this morning that he had succeeded in changing the deduction for "pass-throughs" to 22 percent, from 17.4 percent in the current bill. It also remains unclear how Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will vote. Daines announced this morning that he would vote for the plan, a victory for GOP leadership
According to the Wall Street Journal, Collins' vote is dependant upon "passage of an amendment she has offered to include a deduction for property taxes up to $10,000"; she also succeeded in extracting a promise from GOP leadership to advance two bills designed to stabilize the health insurance market, offsetting the tax bill's repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), meanwhile, announced on Thursday that "after careful thought and consideration," he will support the legislation, a relief for Republican leaders, although making key changes to the bill so close to a vote could upset him and violate the Arizonan's demands for "regular order." Republican leaders can only afford to lose two GOP votes and still still pass the plan.
Conyers, Franken face pressure from Democrats to step aside
"Congressman Conyers should resign," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Thursday, calling for Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the longest-serving current member of the House, to step down over allegations of sexual harassment. Pelosi's statement -- just days after she called Conyers an "icon" on NBC's "Meet the Press," dismissing his accusers -- comes as an increasing number of rank-and-file Democrats have urged him to resign, both publicly and behind closed doors, reportedly including his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which he helped found in 1971.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has also called for Conyers to "resign immediately." The Michigan congressman is currently in his Detroit district; aides said he was hospitalized on Wednesday night, "after suffering chest pains and dizziness Wednesday night," according to Politico.
Some CBC members say there is a double standard evident, claiming that race plays a role in calls for Conyers -- but not Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who has also been accused of sexual misconduct -- to resign. "Nancy Pelosi is going to have to explain what is the discernible difference between Al Franken and John Conyers," Arnold Reed, Conyers' attorney, said to reporters. Some Democrats have said that both men should step aside, including caucus chairman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY), but Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been much quieter on the allegations against Franken.
Still, according to the Washington Post, he also faces pressure to resign, especially in light of two additional allegations that emerged on Thursday, triggering the calls from Crowley and Ryan. Army veteran Stephanie Kemplin told CNN that Franken groped her breast while they took a photo during a 2003 tour with the USO, while a New England elected official told Jezebel that Franken attempted to kiss her without her consent at a live taping of his radio show in 2006. Six women have new accused the Minnesota senator of unwanted advances.
The Senate Ethics Committee took the rare step on Thursday of formally announcing an investigation into Franken's behavior, following calls from many senators (including Franken himself). The House Ethics Committee has already opened a probe on Conyers.
"Rexit": The New York Times and other outlets reported on Thursday about a White House plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo in the coming weeks. Under the reported plan, Pompeo would likely be replaced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). There has been reporting for months on the frayed relationship between President Trump and Tillerson, especially after reports that Tillerson labeled Trump "a moron," causing the President to publicly challenge his top diplomat to an IQ test.
According to CNN, the White House leaked the plan "to express President Donald Trump's deep displeasure and publicly shame his secretary of state," hoping that he will resign in embarrassment rather than force Trump to fire him (despite his famed catchphrase, Trump is always hesitant to cut aides loose).
Installing former Tea Party congressman Pompeo at Foggy Bottom would bring a much more hawkish ideology, more in line with Trump's thinking on Iran, North Korea, and other issues than Tillerson.
Trump called GOP senators about Russia probe, per report: In a series of calls over the summer, President Trump urged top Senate Republicans to end the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the New York Times reported. Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) confirmed that Trump spoke to him, asking "something along the lines of, 'I hope you conclude this as quickly as possible.'" Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Intelligence Committee member Roy Blunt (R-MO) were also on the receiving end of Trump's requests to end the probe.
Trump blasts Steinle verdict: Via ABC News: "President Donald Trump lashed out Thursday night at a not guilty ruling in a murder trial he had used to argue against illegal immigration."
"Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant, was found not guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter. He was convicted on a lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm."
"Garcia Zarate admitted to shooting Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in 2015, but said he had picked up the gun, wrapped in a T-shirt under a bench, and it accidentally went off, according to The Associated Press. The prosecution argued he carelessly handled the weapon, which the Bureau of Land Management previously said was stolen from an agent's vehicle."
..."San Francisco is a so-called sanctuary city and does not notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when an undocumented immigrant is detained."
"The president took to Twitter shortly after the Thursday verdict to condemn the ruling."
The "special relationship" deteriorates: Via NBC News: "With a few retweets, President Donald Trump has prompted outrage across the British political spectrum and severely tested relations with one of the United States' closest allies."
"Many in the U.K. said Trump was explicitly endorsing extremism by sharing inflammatory anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant videos posted by a senior member of a fringe far-right group."
"The mood here was further soured by Trump’s decision to double down and seemingly criticize Prime Minister Theresa May from his social-media pulpit."
The President's Schedule
At 11am, President Donald Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.
At 11:45am, he meets with Prime Minister Fayes al-Sarraj of Libya.
At 12:30pm, Trump will have lunch with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, an eyebrow-raising summit in light of reports that the White House is attempting to force Tillerson's resignation.
Finally, at 3:15pm, the President gives remarks at the White House Christmas reception.
Today in Congress
The Senate returns at 10am today. After 20 minutes of debate on each, the chamber is scheduled to vote on 11am on two Democratic amendments to the GOP tax reform plan. Other than that, the Senate's schedule is unclear, as GOP leaders race to make changes that will notch support for the legislation from Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and others.
All times Eastern