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Wake Up To Politics - November 9, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, November 9, 2017. 362 days until Election Day 2018. 1,091 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!

Senate to Unveil Tax Reform Bill, Further Complicating GOP Efforts

As the House Ways and Means Committee continues to consider the House GOP tax reform legislation, Senate Republicans will introduce their own plan today. According to the New York Times, the Senate bill is expected to "eliminate the ability of people to deduct state and local taxes but would stop short of fully repealing the estate tax." The Senate legislation, which will be presented to GOP members this afternoon, "is expected to upend some of the House's careful negotiating" and further scramble the process, per Politico.

While the GOP whip team is having trouble uniting Republicans behind a bill, President Trump has still underlined his hope for bipartisan support. Calling into a meeting of centrist Democratic senators on Tuesday, Trump promised they would prefer the forthcoming Senate bill. "You're going to like it a whole lot more," Trump told them, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Senate bill's release complicates the path forward for House Republicans, many of whom may reject their chamber's bill next week if a more moderated version has been offered by the Senate, in an embarrassing spectacle for leaders on the tax-writing Ways and Means panel who have spent all week debating the House proposal.

The key differences emerge from a difference in the two chambers' memberships: House Republicans have had to scale back repeal of the state and local tax deductions due to defections from members from high-tax states, including California, New York, or New Jersey. As Politico Playbook points out, there aren't any Senate Republicans from those states, "so the GOP doesn't have the same incentive to fix that problem." Politico also notes that the incomplete repeal of the estate tax stems from concerns states by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a key swing vote. The House plan does away with the tax entirely.

Tuesday's election losses for Republicans could also complicate the party's push for tax reform, Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told the Washington Post on Wednesday. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said at a Washington Examiner event that the election results put "more pressure" on the party to succeed. "I think it simply means we've got to deliver." Republicans have pinned their hopes on having sweeping tax reform legislation on Trump's desk by Christmas; if they fail to agree on a bill, after also coming up short on Obamacare repeal earlier this year, GOP lawmakers fear a backlash at the polls in 2018.

"If we face-plant on health care and taxes,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) told Politico, “I don’t want to see it.”

The Russia Investigation

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn "has expressed concern about the potential legal exposure of his son, Michael Flynn Jr." in the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller and his "concern could factor into decisions about how to respond to Mueller's ongoing investigation," CNN reported on Wednesday.

Both Flynn and his son are reportedly being investigated by Mueller's team for their business dealings, especially any overseas work that might have involved money laundering or that may not have been reported under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the same law cited in Mueller's indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates last week. Flynn's lobbying work in Turkey is also under investigation, including his work for the Turkish government during the Trump presidential campaign, which he advised and acted as a surrogate on.

NBC reported on Sunday that Mueller's investigators "have gathered enough evidence to bring charges" against Flynn and his son, adding that "if the elder Flynn is willing to cooperate with investigators in order to help his son...it could also change his own fate, potentially limiting any legal consequences."

Report: DOJ Interfering in AT&T-Time Warner Merger

The Justice Department has issued an ultimatum to AT&T as a condition to receiving approval for its proposed $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner: selling Turner Broadcasting, the Time Warner company that includes CNN, according to the Financial Times. Other outlets later confirmed the report. While the Justice Department refused to publicly comment, multiple officials later told various outlets that AT&T had been the first to offer to dump CNN. "I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so," the AT&T CEO responded in a statement on Wednesday.

A source told Politico:"The only reason you would divest CNN would be to kowtow to the president because he doesn't like the coverage. It would send a chilling message to every news organization in the country."

Trump Expected to Nominate Former Drug Exec to Lead HHS

President Donald Trump is expected to nominate Alex Azar to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. Azar served in HHS as Deputy Secretary under President George W. Bush; until January, he served as President of Lily USA, the largest affiliate of global pharmaceutical company Eli Lily and Company. The top position at HHS has been vacant since Tom Price's resignation in September.

The President's Day

President Donald Trump continues his visit to China today, as part of his 12-day, five-nation Asia tour. Trump has been focused on expanding his relationship with Chinese president Xi Jinping, lavishing praise on Xi at a joint press conference Wednesday. Despite bashing Chinese trade practices in the past, Trump changed his tune while in China, placing the blame on past U.S. administrations instead. "Who can blame a country for taking advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens?" Trump said, adding: "I give China great credit."

The Chinese leader is key to many of Trump's priorities for the Asia trip, including solidifying opposition to North Korea and making changes to trade policies Trump have called "unfair" in the past.

Today in the Senate

The upper chamber will vote to confirm William Wehrum to be Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and to advance the nomination of Derek Kan to be Under Secretary of Transportation.

Today in the House

The lower chamber is scheduled to consider the Micro Offering Safe Harbor Act, "which would clarify federal regulations to help small businesses raise capital," according to the Washington Examiner.

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes yesterday! Your kind words and continued readership mean so, so much to me. And keep on sharing Wake Up To Politics with your friends and family -- it's been quite a year, and I'm sure the next one will be equally fascinating to cover...