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Wake Up To Politics - November 1, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, November 1, 2017. 6 days until Election Day 2017 (and one week until my 16th birthday). 370 days until Election Day 2018. 1,098 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Happy November! Per presidential proclamation, it's National Native American Heritage Month, Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month, National Family Caregivers Month, National Adoption Month, National Entrepreneurship Month, and National Veterans and Military Familes Month.

New York City attack

A truck mowed down eight people and injured at least a dozen more on a Manhattan bike path on Tuesday, the deadliest terrorist attack in New York City since September 11, 2001. The driver has been identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, a Florida resident who was born in Uzbekistan.

Law enforcement officials said that they found a note left on the scene by Saipov, claiming that he carried out the attack in the name of ISIS. As he left his truck, witnesses said they heard Saipov shouting "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great." An officer later shot the suspect; he is now in custody at a nearby hospital.

"This was an act of terror," New York City mayor BIill de Blasio declared at a news conference, "and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians."

According to the White House, President Donald Trump was briefed soon after initial reports of the incident by Chief of Staff John Kelly. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of today’s terrorist attack in New York City and their families," Trump said in a statement, promising his "full support" to the investigations being conducted by the New YorkCity police and the FBI. "We offer our thanks to the first responders who stopped the suspect and rendered immediate aid to the victims of this cowardly attack. These brave men and women embody the true American spirit of resilience and courage. I will continue to follow developments closely," he continued.

Trump also tweeted about the attack four times on Tuesday, announcing that he ordered the Department of Homeland Security to "step up" vetting programs:

  • "In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!"
  • "We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!"
  • "My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack. God and your country are with you!"
  • "I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!"

This morning, Trump continued to focus on the attack, seemingly live-tweeting "Fox and Friends" as the show discussed the Diversity Visa Lottery Program; according to a report from ABC New York, Saipov entered the United States through the program. The President pinned the blame on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who played a key role in drafting the program in 1990.

  • "The terrorist came into our country through what is called the 'Diversity Visa Lottery Program,' a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based."
  • "We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). @foxandfriends"
  • "'Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems' said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness! @foxandfriends"

Hensarling announces retirement

Another senior House Republican announced plans to retire on Tuesday: Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
Hensarling is the 11th GOP member of the House to announce that they will not run for re-election next year.

Hensarling, 60, has served in Congress since 2003; he has led the powerful Financial Services panel since 2013, becoming known for fighting to roll back many regulations and government programs, some of which survive despite his efforts. The Texan also chaired the House Republican Conference from 2011 to 2013, succeeding then-Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), a close friend and ally of Hensarling's.

"Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned," Hensarling said in a statement.

Hensarling represents Texas' 5th congressional district, which includes part of Dallas County. The district is rated Republican +16 on the Cook Policy Report's Partisan Voting Index: both Mitt Romney in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016 won the district with over 60%. Hensarling ran unopposed in the past two elections.

Republican tax plan delayed

House Republicans were scheduled to unveil their long-awaited tax bill today, set to launch their path to a promised overhaul of the U.S. tax code. Instead, mired in closed negotiations, the legislation's release has been postponed.

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady announced in a statement that the bill will be released a day later. "In consultation with President Trump and our leadership team, we have decided to release the bill text on Thursday," he said. "We are pleased with the progress we are making and we remain on schedule to take action and approve a bill at our Committee beginning next week."

Republicans are seeking to follow a tight schedule as they aim to pass tax reform by Thanksgiving, hoping to go into the midterm election cycle able to cite the legislation as a legislative achievement to boast for after a year of unified Republican control in Washington. Previous GOP legislative priorities, most notably Obamacare repeal, have failed to advance through Congress amid intraparty disputes.

According to Politico, the party still faces questions "about how to pay for the proposed $5.5 trillion in tax cuts, since any major revenue-generator is certain to antagonize some powerful lobby or group of lawmakers who could defeat it." The Washington Post reported that a number of last-minute changes have been made to the bill, including plans to preserve the top income-tax bracket after previously aiming to redraw the seven current brackets into three.

"The Republican House members are working hard (and late) toward the Massive Tax Cuts that they know you deserve," President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday. "These will be biggest ever!"

Kelly causes controversy

White House chief of staff John Kelly has found himself embroiled in controversy in recent weeks, first for his involvement in the back-and-forth between President Donald Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) over Trump's call to a military family, and now for joining the debate over Confederate memorials.

In a Monday interview on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle," Kelly argued to keep the statues up, calling it "inconceivable" and "dangerous" to "take what we think now and apply it to back then." He seemed to echo President Trump's controversial comments that "both sides" were to blame for violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying that the Civil War was fought by "men and women of good faith on both sides" and labeling Confederate general Robert E. Lee as "an honorable man."

"The lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War," he added, a comment that has sparked backlash on the left and among historians.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders faced questions on the interview in her Tuesday briefing. "I'm not going to get up here and re-litigate the Civil War," she said, although she did point to continued debate among historians as to the causes of the war. Sanders also expanded on Kelly's comments on Lee, saying: "All of our leaders have flaws... That doesn't diminish their contributions to our country, and it certainly can't erase them from our history.  And General Kelly was simply making the point that just because history isn't perfect, it doesn't mean that it's not our history."

--- Washington Post, Tuesday: "Kelly was brought to the White House to impose order. Now he’s stirring controversy."
--- Associated Press, Tuesday: "The real John Kelly slowly revealing himself at White House"
--- New York Times, last week: "Pitched as Calming Force, John Kelly Instead Mirrors Boss's Priorities"

The President's Day

President Donald Trump participates in three meetings today: a meeting of his Cabinet, a meeting with Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, and a lunch with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Hewas also participate in two signing ceremonies today: for the National Veterans and Military Families Month Proclamation and for H.J. Res. 111, which repeals an Obama-era Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule banning forced arbitration clauses in contracts with banks and credit card companies. These clauses prohibit customers from suing the companies in class-action lawsuits. The measure passed the House in July, and passed the Senate last week in a 51-50 vote (with Vice President Pence breaking a tie after two Republicans voted "nay"). CFPB director Richard Cordray said Monday that he wrote Trump a "simple, personal appeal" asking that he save the rule.

Today in Congress

The Senate continues its recent blitz of judicial confirmations, voting to confirm Joan Larsen to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit and advancing the nomination of Allison Eid to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit.

The House is scheduled to consider nine bills today:

  • H.R. 3903, Encouraging Public Offerings Act of 2017
  • H.R. 1585, Fair Investment Opportunities for Professional Experts Act
  • H.R. 425, FTO Passport Revocation Act of 2017
  • H.Res. 422, Urging adherence to the "one country, two systems" policy as prescribed in the Joint Declaration between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Question of the Hong Kong
  • H.R. 3279, Helium Extraction Act of 2017
  • H.R. 1074, To repeal the Act entitled "An Act to confer jurisdiction on the State of Iowa over offenses committed by or against Indians on the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation"
  • H.R. 2600, To provide for the conveyance to the State of Iowa of the reversionary interest held by the United States in certain land in Pottawattamie County, Iowa
  • H.R. 1488, The Indiana Dunes National Park Act
  • H.R. 2936, Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017

Also today: both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees will hear testimony from Facebook, Twitter, and Google on Russian use of their platforms to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. All three companies also sent representatives to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the same topic on Tuesday.