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Wake Up To Politics - November 16, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, November 17, 2017. 355 days until Election Day 2018. 1,084 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!

House to vote on tax reform legislation

The House is expected to approve the sweeping Republican tax reform legislation today along party lines today, a key step in advancing the most significant overhaul of the tax code since the 1980's.

According to the New York Times, the House bill "cut[s] taxes more than $1.4 trillion over 10 years...cuts the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, collapses the the tax brackets to four from seven, switches the United States to an international tax system that is more in line with the rest of the world and scales back many popular deductions, including one for state and local taxes paid." The House Ways and Means Committee approved the bill last week in a party-line vote.

The state and local tax (SALT) deduction rollback is the main source of GOP opposition to the bill. A CBS News whip count finds that ten Republican lawmakers have announced plans to vote against the legislation today: eight are from the high-tax states of New York and New Jersey, protesting the SALT deduction changes. A ninth is from California, another high-tax state, although much of the state's congressional Republicans have been kept in line by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

The tenth is Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), the only conservative member who is a definite "no"; according to the Washington Examiner, he also "disagrees with the elimination of popular tax deductions, such as the one for medical expenses, and said he feared big tax cuts will increase the deficit."

Rep. Pete King (R-NY), who is planning to oppose the bill, expressed concern on Tuesday about the bill's effects on Republicans from New York and New Jersey who are planning to vote "yea." If the bill passes, Republicans "could lose all the seats in the Northeast," King said, calling the bill "an unforced error." He added: "We're doing this to ourselves...We know this is going to be an issue and we're creating it ourselves." Many members (moderate and conservative) are voting for the bill today in the hopes that it will be radically changed in conference committee, a group Roll Call has labeled the "Vote and Hope" Caucus.

If all House members vote, and no Democrats vote "yea," GOP leaders can afford to lose 22 Republican votes. President Donald Trump tweeted about the vote on Tuesday ("Tax cuts are getting close!"), while attacking the Democratic opposition: "Why are Democrats fighting massive tax cuts for the middle class and business (jobs)? The reason: Obstruction and Delay!"

As the House votes on their tax reform bill today, the Senate Finance Committee continues its fourth day of considering the upper chamber's competing legislation. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) became the first Senate Republican to officially oppose the bill on Tuesday, saying in a statement that neither the House nor Senate versions "provide fair treatment" to small businesses, favoring large corporations. Johnson added that he hoped to work to "address the disparity," telling CNN later that he "hopes to get to a 'yes.'"

In the Senate, if no Democrats vote for the bill, the legislation can only suffer two GOP defections. After the bill expanded to repeal Obamacare's individual mandate, the trio of Republicans who sunk "skinny repeal" of Obamacare over the summer — Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — are being closely watched, although none have announced opposition to the tax plan. Collins told NBC's Chuck Todd on Tuesday that combining health care and tax reform is not "a good idea from either a political or policy perspective," adding that "health care is such a complex issue and to pull one section out of [Obamacare] without any kind of replacement...does not make sense." Collins also said that she hopes a bipartisan bill on taxes emerges, noting that the individual mandate repeal likely hinders that goal.

Collins told the Portland Press Herald that she also had concerns about provisions added to the bill on Tuesday "sunsetting" certain middle-class tax cuts, while the corporate tax cut would be permanent, as well as about Medicare cuts that could be triggered by the legislation. Murkowski and McCain have worries about the Senate tax bill as well; Axios details other senators who could oppose the bill due to its effect on the deficit and other issues.

Alabama Senate race: the latest

Two more women described "unwanted overtures" from Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore when they were teenagers in a Washington Post report published Tuesday.

Gena Richardson recounted meeting Roy Moore at the Gadsen Mall when she was 18, and receiving a call from Moore while in trigonometry class. Later, he asked her out and drove her to a "dark parking lot behind Sears and giving her what she called an unwanted, 'forceful' kiss that left her scared." Becky Moore also described being asked out by Moore when she was 22 and working at the same mall. The Post describes Moore's behavior at the mall; AL.com previously reported that security guards were told to look out for him, due to his behavior around young women.

Another woman, Tina Johnson, told AL.com in a report published Tuesday that Moore groped her in 1991, bringing the total of women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct or inappropriate contact to eight.

The Moore campaign responded to The Post's report in a statement saying: "If you are a liberal and hate Judge Moore, apparently he groped you. If you are a conservative and love Judge Moore, you know these allegations are a political farce.” Moore's attorney held a press conference on Tuesday to cast doubt on the accusation of Beverly Young Nelson, who claimed to be sexually assaulted by the future Senate candidate when she was 16 years old, showing that Moore signed her yearbook as proof that they knew each other.

Moore's attorney questioned whether the signature was truly Moore's, calling for an independent handwriting expert to examine it. "I believe tampering has occurred," Moore said of the yearbook on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Washington continue to weigh their options ahead of the December 12 special election. According to Politico, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his aides "are discussing the legal feasibility of asking appointed Sen. Luther Strange to resign from his seat in order to trigger a new special election." A write-in candidacy by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is also a possibility. Politico released a National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) poll showing Democrat Doug Jones leading Moore by 12 points, despite public polling showing a much closer race.

Moore, who denies the allegations, retains his support from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, as well as from the Alabama Republican Party, even as national Republicans have pulled out of the race.

Cordray to resign as CFPB chief

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director Richard Cordray announced Tuesday that he plans to resign at the end of the month, handing over control of the banking regulator to the Trump Administration.

"It has been a joy of my life to have the opportunity to serve our country as the first director of the Consumer Bureau by working alongside all of you here," Cordray wrote to employees. "Together we have made a real and lasting difference that has improved people's lives."

According to Politico, the agency is likely to be placed under the control of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin until Trump can find a replacement. Potentially directors include House Financial Services chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a top Cordray critic, as well as a number of Republican attorneys general and other officials.

In Politico's words, "As the CFPB's inaugural leader, Cordray fashioned the agency into a razor-toothed watchdog with as much bite as bark, racking up a legacy of sweeping regulations that redefined how mortgages are sold, debts are collected and credit card fees are tallied." But he also earned many enemies among businesses and Republicans, while being championed by Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Cordray is the last Obama-appointed bank regulator to step down; the other Trump appointees have already begun moving to remake their agencies and roll back regulations, likely to be joined by Cordray's successor.

Cordray's resignation caps a long-running saga, as Trump has spent months considering what to do about Cordray, who could only be fired for cause ahead of his term's expiration next summer. According to the Washington Post, the President "has on at least two occasions griped about Cordray in private and wondered what to do about his tenure."

Cordray is expected by Ohio Democrats to launch a campaign for the state's governorship, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cordray would join a crowded field in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) in 2018. Before being appointed to lead the CFPB after the agency's founding in 2011, he served in many Ohio statewide posts, including Solicitor General, Treasurer, and Attorney General.

Today in Washington

The House is set to hold two hours of debate on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax reform legislation, today, starting at 9am. The House Republican Conference will then meet to hear remarks from President Trump at 11:30am, before the full chamber votes on the bill in the early afternoon. "Big day in the House today," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) tweeted this morning.

The trip to the U.S. Capitol and speech to House Republicans, meant to "rally the troops" ahead of the vote, are the only events on Trump's public schedule.

Meanwhile, the Senate votes at 12pm today on confirmation of Joseph Otting to be Comptroller of the Currency, a Treasury Department post that oversees federally-chartered banks. Otting has spent his entire career in banking, from Bank of America to U.S. Bank to OneWest Bank. Otting was President and CEO of OneWest from 2010 to 2015, working closely with founder Steven Mnuchin, who now serves as Secretary of the Treasury. Otting's confirmation comes as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has become "a vital player in the Trump Administration's campaign to roll back regulations," according to the New York Times, a transformation from its role as a tough regulator itself under the Obama presidency.

Otting was approved by the Senate Banking Committee in September by a 13-10 vote, with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) joining the panel's Republicans in support. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-WMA) has emerged as a top critic of Otting's nomination, pointing to his controversial tenure at OneWest.

The Senate will also vote to advance the nominations of Donald C. Coggins and Dabney Langhorne Freidrich to be U.S. District Judges.

All times Eastern