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Wake Up To Politics - September 28, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Thursday, September 28, 2017. 404 days until Election Day 2018. 1,132 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!

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GOP Unveils Tax Reform Plan

  • After months of internal negotiations, the Trump Administration and congressional Republicans unveiled their framework for tax reform on Wednesday. President Donald Trump spoke in Indianapolis, praising the plan as he pivoted to a new legislative priority.
  • "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, and I guess it's probably something I could say that I'm very good at," Trump said. "I've been waiting for this for a long time. We're going to cut taxes for the middle class, make the tax code simpler and more fair for everyday Americans. And we are going to bring back the jobs and wealth that have left our country and most people thought left our country for good."
  • Here are the main GOP proposals to cut taxes and simplify the tax code:
  • Slashing the corporate tax rate, from 35% to 20%, and cutting the top rate for individuals from 39.6% to 35%
  • Streamlining the seven income tax brackets for individuals into three: 12%, 25%, and 35%
  • Eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which limits the tax benefits extended to higher-income individuals and corporations, and the estate tax, which taxes estate property of a certain value
  • Increasing the standard deduction for single individuals, from $6,350 to $12,000, and for married couples, from $12,700 to $24,000.
  • Although many of the changes being proposed would benefit wealthy Americans, including the decrease in the corporate tax rate and end of the AMT and estate tax, Trump labeled his plan "a miracle for the middle class, for the working person."
  • "It's not good for me, believe me," the President insisted, although the AMT cost him $31 million in 2005, according to his federal tax returns from that year, obtained in March by MSNBC. Trump's refusal to release his full tax returns prevents calculations on how the GOP tax plan will impact the President.
  • Trump also pitched the plan as helping American businesses, pointing to benefits that aim to persuade companies to stay in the United States. "Our framework will stop punishing companies for keeping their headquarters in the United States. We're punishing companies under our codes for being in the United States," he said. "When our companies move to other countries it's our loyal American workers who get hurt."
  • The tax negotiations are still in its beginning stages: many questions remain unanswered, including the cost of the plan and how to pay for it. The non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that the framework would cost about $2.2 trillion over the next decade.
  • The GOP framework has been long-awaited, as "The Big Six" — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady — has met for months hashing out an agreement.
  • Now that the exclusively Republican group has settled on a framework, Trump is looking to moderate Democrats to provide the plan bipartisan backing. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) joined the President on the Air Force One trip to his Indianapolis speech; at the address, Trump called him out directly. "If Sen. Donnelly doesn't approve it...we will come here, we will campaign against him like you wouldn't believe." But, President Trump said, he didn't think that would be necessary. "I think they're gonna approve it," he declared. "Actually, I think we'll have numerous Democrats come across because it's the right thing to do.
  • Trump's courtship has centered around Sens. Donnelly, Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), the only three Senate Democrats who refused to sign a letter to the President laying out the party's conditions for tax reform. According to reports, Trump hopes to pass tax reform with votes from both parties, in light of the GOP's failed attempts to pass a health care bill with solely partisan support. White House officials have repeatedly said that their goal is to pass a tax reform bill by the year's end.
  • In his speech on Wednesday, Trump urged lawmakers of both parties to "come together, finally, to deliver this giant win for the American people."

Breaking: Trump Waives Jones Act for Puerto Rico

  • Breaking: Trump Waives Jones Act for Puerto Rico The White House announced this morning that President Donald Trump had authorized a waiver for the Jones Act in Puerto Rico. The 1920 law regulates maritime commerce, requiring "shipments of goods between two U.S. ports to be made with American-flagged vessels," according to Bloomberg.
  • During natural disasters, the law is often lifted to ensure it doesn't interfere with the cost and speed of resources going to the affected area. States hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma earlier this season received an extension, as did areas hurt by major storms in the past, including Katrina and Sandy.
  • President Trump told reporters Wednesday that he was "thinking about" granting a suspension to Puerto Rico, noting that "a lot of people who work in the shipping industry" were opposed. However, he waived the law today after a request by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello; other politicians had called on Trump to authorize a waiver for the island, including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Buzz Quote: Trump on Price

"I’m going to look at it.  I am not happy about it, and I let him know it." — President Donald Trump on Wednesday, responding to questions on recent reports that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price used taxpayer-funded private jets for business travel. Asked if he would fire Price, the President responded: "We'll see." The travel is under investigation by the HHS Inspector General and the House Oversight Committee.

The President's Schedule

  • At 10am, President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.
  • At 11am, he meets with Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
  • At 12:10pm, Trump participates in a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the National Security Council.
  • At 1:45pm, the President greets Vice Premier Liu Yandong of China.
  • Also today, according to the Associated Press: First Lady Melania Trump will host a discussion on the opioid epidemic, with experts and victims on hand.

Today in Congress

  • Today in the Senate The Senate convenes today at 9:30am. Following Leader remarks, the lower chamber will debate the nomination of Ralph Erickson to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit, holding a cloture vote at 10:30am. A confirmation vote is possible today.
  • Erickson has served since 2003 as a U.S. District Judge based in North Dakota; he was appointed by President George W. Bush. President Donald Trump nominated Erickson to the appeals court judgeship in June; he was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.
  • Today in the House The House convenes today at 9am. The lower chamber is set to consider three bills: the Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria Education Relief Act, which provides relief to schools affected by recent natural disasters; the Control Unlawful Fugitive Felons Act, which expands the number of people who are considered "fugitive felons," and the Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act, which offers tax relief for victims of Harvey, Irma, and Maria while also reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which runs out of funding on Saturday, for six months.
  • The tax relief/FAA bill was considered under suspension of the rules on Monday, meaning two-thirds support was required; the legislation failed due to opposition from Democrats who didn't believe the bill went far enough in extending relief. The bill is now being voted on again, without the two-thirds requirement.
  • Investigators to Question Twitter in Russia Probe The staffs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee will question Twitter in separate meetings today, following Facebook's participation in congressional probes of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election. Both social media networks are being reviewed for how Russian-linked accounts and advertising attempted to influence the campaign.
  • Executives from Twitter, Google, and Twitter have been asked to testify at a public Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in November.