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    On every Thanksgiving, it’s always nice to take some time and think about what you and your family are thankful for in 2017 – but at the same time, we may as well try to figure how Turkey Day is playing in political circles as well. In terms of political news, reporters on Capitol Hill and Washington, D.C. are currently going through an almost never-ending avalanche of stories, erupting daily (or even hourly) in what seems to be a high rate of speed in this new social media atmosphere. Let’s take a look at a few things on this Thanksgiving 2017: 1. Roy Moore – Roy Moore might be thankful for a lot right now, mainly a number of men in high profile positions in the Congress and the news media who have been ensnared in the recent swarm of news about sex. The latest person to hit the news – and take the focus off of Moore – is Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who had a nude photo of himself leaked on to social media by a woman he was once in a relationship with, which some say might be ‘revenge porn.’ No matter what the details might be of how this occurred, the Barton story is a reminder of the perfect piece of advice that my father gave as he dropped me off at the U.S. Capitol on my first day of work in 1980, when he told me that ‘They call it the House of Representatives for a reason” – members of Congress are no different from our neighbors and friends. Some are good. Some are bad. Some make bad choices along the way. Roy Moore is thankful for Al Franken, John Conyers, Joe Barton, Charlie Rose, and many others. Their stories keep Moore out of the headlines. So the count for today if I'm not mistaken is two more accusers against Al Franken, one more against John Conyers and a picture of Joe Barton's genitalia splashed across the Internet — Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) November 23, 2017 2. President Donald Trump. – Mr. Trump may be most thankful for political opponents like Hillary Clinton, who continues to be a Trump punching bag on Twitter. While many Inside the Beltway cringe at “Crooked Hillary” tweets, those missives continue to delight the President’s legions of fans, as it helps to keep the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee in the news. (While Mr. Trump is probably also thankful for sports figures like Lavar Ball, Steph Curry, Richard Sherman, and others, I’ll stick to the political arena.) Over the last year, this President has proven himself to be very adept at verbally smacking people on Twitter – whether you think it’s right or wrong for Mr. Trump to be doing that isn’t the point. The longer that President Trump can keep Hillary Clinton in the news, the better for him, and maybe the better for the Republican Party. Donald Trump is thankful that Hillary Clinton is still around. Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in three years! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2017 3. Tax lawyers and accountants. – Yes, Republicans say their tax reform plan will make the tax code simpler to deal with, and for some individuals, it would be easier to file your taxes under the plans envisioned in the House and Senate. But before you think that it’s going to change everything, a simple review of Congressional tax plans shows there will be plenty of work for people who need to explain the intricacies of the tax code, like tax lawyers and accountants. You don’t have to go very far into the GOP bills to feel confused about what’s being changed. Tax lawyers and accountants are thankful for the GOP tax reform bill. There will still be plenty of business for them, even if that bill becomes law. 4. Federal workers. All the talk for years from Republicans has been about making deep cuts in the budget of various federal agencies. On the campaign trail, President Trump promised much the same. But this first year of a combination of a GOP House & Senate, and the Trump Administration, produced almost nothing in terms of spending cuts and budget savings. Last week, the White House proposed $44 billion in (generic) budget savings to offset disaster aid for recent hurricanes – except it would come between 2025 and 2027, when Mr. Trump would be long gone from the White House. So, as they enjoy a big turkey dinner, federal workers can say ‘thanks’ that the Republican Congress and the President, as they really haven’t been able to wield a budget axe on the Executive Branch. Mr. Trump said before Thanksgiving that he would push for budget cuts in the next year. On Thanksgiving, President Trump visited a Coast Guard facility in Florida. Back in April, Mr. Trump wanted to cut over a billion from the Coast Guard budget. That didn’t make it through the Congress. Pres Trump to reporters 'Admin. Dept. heads will work next on spending cuts, welfare reform ('very shortly aftr taxes') & infrastructure' — AWPS NEWS llc (@AWPSNews) November 20, 2017 5. Politics at Thanksgiving. A year ago, the recent election of Donald Trump was a prime topic for many families, as a lot of Democratic voters were struggling to come to terms with President Trump’s election. Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2017, and it’s possible that a lot of those same people are still somewhat aggravated about the way things have gone in political circles after Mr. Trump’s first 10 months in office. And that leads me to believe that some of you will have a few things to say at the dinner table about President Trump, good and bad. Some will be saying “thanks” for the President – others, not so much. But it isn’t hard to argue over whether you should talk about politics at the table, eh? If you’re a republican having thanksgiving dinner with your democrat family, as you go around the table saying what you’re thankful for, I highly encourage you to say “the electoral college.” — Lord Single Malt (@Singlemaltfiend) November 22, 2017 My advice: Don't print anything out. Don't bring a chart to dinner. At Thanksgiving tell weird stories about when you were a kid to the kids and funny stories about loved ones no longer with us. Politics aren't that important. — Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) November 23, 2017
  • Congressional Republicans left Capitol Hill late last week excited about the prospects for sweeping legislation which would deliver tax cuts and tax reform, as with approval of a House tax bill, the focus has shifted to the Senate, and whether GOP leaders can muster the needed votes to approve a slightly different GOP tax measure after Thanksgiving. “This bill gives Americans more take home pay by cutting taxes and preserving deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable contributions,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – while he’s on board, only a handful of GOP Senators are expected to determine the fate of this legislation. Here’s where things stand on Capitol Hill: 1. Remember, there is more to do than tax reform. Yes, Republicans want to get tax reform done by the end of the year. But there are other measures which will need attention as well after the Thanksgiving break. For example, the Children’s Health Insurance program needs to be reauthorized, and has been in limbo since October 1. A temporary federal budget runs out on December 8, and there still hasn’t been a deal announced on how much Congress will decide to spend on the discretionary budget, which is what funds pretty much everything outside of mandatory spending items like Social Security and Medicare. There had been talk earlier this year of a possible government shutdown showdown, but that seems unlikely right now, because it would really get in the way of GOP efforts on tax reform. House Speaker Paul Ryan still wants all that spending work – a giant omnibus funding bill – done by the end of the year. House Speaker Ryan: Don't intend on stopgap government funding into next year. — DailyFX Team Live (@DailyFXTeam) November 14, 2017 2. A rush of spending seems likely. In order to get a deal on the discretionary budget for 2018, it’s expected there will be a sizeable increase in defense spending in any final spending deal for next year – President Trump had asked for $54 billion in extra military funding, but there’s no sign of any budget cuts to immediately offset the cost of that. Not only is that extra money likely to be approved, but a third hurricane disaster relief bill seems likely to be voted on by Congress in December as well. The latest White House request was for $44 billion, much less than what Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico have asked for in terms of hurricane aid. That would make total aid close to $100 billion just this year. In the latest disaster aid plan, the White House for the first time is seeking offsetting budget cuts to pay for some of that extra spending. The plan unveiled last Friday has $14 billion in cuts now, and another $44 billion in cuts later – later, as in between 2025 and 2027, after President Trump is gone from the Oval Office. White House wants $44 billion in hurricane relief, offers some cuts now, more in 2025-2027 https://t.co/wg7ggSUI0C — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) November 17, 2017 3. Some Senators to watch on tax reform. When lawmakers return to legislative sessions the week of November 27, the main political game on Capitol Hill will be figuring out where everyone stands on the GOP tax reform bill in the Senate. This is a similar scenario to what went on with Republicans on health care reform, and many of the same players are involved. On the bubble right now would be Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Also, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has said he wants major changes on how small businesses and pass through businesses are dealt with. Don’t count the bill out yet, but there is a lot of work to do. And one thing is for sure – someone will be watching them very closely. Republican Senators are working very hard to get Tax Cuts and Tax Reform approved. Hopefully it will not be long and they do not want to disappoint the American public! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2017 4. Some items you probably won’t see in 2017. One item that won’t be acted on this year is an infrastructure bill. President Donald Trump has talked about his grand $1 trillion infrastructure program since the 2016 campaign, but at this point, there is still no detailed plan, and there is no bill in the Congress. On immigration, there’s still lots of talk about wheeling and dealing on DACA and border security, but I’m not sure there’s the political will to do that. Don’t look for funding for the border wall, but instead for something that sounds like border security, but isn’t the wall. With tax reform dominating the agenda, don’t look for anything on DACA until 2018. DACA: 3 whole months left to come up w/something. Of course there is also Thanksgiving; Christmas: New Years; etc…..no pressure. — David Gee (@CurtG345) November 18, 2017 5. One issue that has disappeared – the deficit. It used to be that Republicans were all about reigning in spending, and cutting the size of government. Now that they have had control of the House, Senate and White House, they are poised to, to, to, do nothing in 2017 on that front. The budget doesn’t balance for at least ten years (if not more), there were no major spending cuts enacted by the Congress, there was no appetite for savings in mandatory spending programs, either. The cuts included in the President’s budget have pretty much been ignored by lawmakers, and it took the White House three disaster aid bills before any offsetting budget cuts were proposed. Meanwhile, the yearly federal deficit is trending back up, and with the disaster relief bills, and an increase in the federal budget caps, there will be more red ink in 2018. Only a few Republicans have stuck with their familiar call for budget discipline. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) on adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit: “If this was a Democratic bill we wouldn’t even be voting for it. That’s how hypocritical this place has become.” https://t.co/H5FduNppVH — MainStream Coalition (@ksmainstream) November 17, 2017
  • As the House voted along party lines on Thursday to approve a sweeping package of GOP tax reforms, one peculiar part of the floor debate came when a number of Republicans – who voted for the bill – took to the floor to request changes in the their party’s plan, as some highlighted unintended consequences, while others objected to the basics of the measure. Known in parliamentary parlance as a “colloquy,” the scripted exchanges between lawmakers are often done to clarify the legislative intent of a bill, or in this case, to urge action in a specific way in House-Senate negotiations. And for some Republicans in this week’s tax reform debate, it was clear they wanted some provisions altered. Some requests were specific, like Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), who made the case for historic preservation tax credits, which were eradicated by the House GOP tax reform bill. “Without the credit, projects that transform communities in all 50 states, from West Virginia to Texas, to Wisconsin, simply will not happen,” McKinley said on the House floor, as he asked for Brady’s word that he would help reverse the decision. That didn’t happen. “I commit to working with him and continuing to work with him on this issue because I know the importance of it,” Brady responded, making sure not to guarantee anything in some of these floor exchanges. For Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a staunch advocate of the GOP bill, he asked the Chairman of the House Ways and Means to do more in terms of tax help for the people of Puerto Rico, whose island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. “I look forward to working with you on ideas to best serve the people of this island,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who thanked fellow GOP lawmakers for their concerns, but made no promises. For Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), the issue was with a new excise tax from Republicans that would be levied on the endowments of private colleges and universities. Barr said that would harm Berea College in his district, a ‘work college’ that uses its endowment money to pay the tuition of all students. It was noted in press stories back home. Barr Fights for Berea College in Tax Reform Bill – https://t.co/YoBgs5CWvp – — BereaOnline.com (@bereaonline) November 16, 2017 “I was pleased to learn that the Senate version of the bill exempts schools with fewer than 500 tuition-paying students from the excise tax,” Barr said, urging Brady to accept that position in any House-Senate negotiation. Brady said he would try. “Mr. Speaker, we will work together for a mutually accepted solution to make sure we exempt work colleges to use their endowments to provide tuition-free education,” the panel chairman responded. For Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the problem he brought to the House floor was under the heading of unintended consequences, as the GOP tax bill would subject native settlement trusts in Alaska to a higher rate of taxation. “This would make it more difficult for Alaska Native Settlement Trusts to provide long-term benefits to Alaska Natives,” Young said on the House floor, asking Brady to include provisions of a bill to remedy that and more. Unlike some of the other requests, Brady acknowledged that the GOP tax bill would “unintentionally” change the tax rate for the Alaskan settlements, agreeing to focus on this in conference as we finalize individual rate structures between the House and the Senate.” Others weren’t so lucky to get a guarantee of action, as they pressed for changes in maybe the most controversial part of the GOP plan, which limits a deduction for state and local taxes. “I am concerned about its impact on some of my constituents in Maryland who pay high state and local income taxes,” said Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), the only Republican member of the House from that state, which would be one of the biggest losers on the SALT issue. That subject also drew two California Republicans to make the same appeal to Brady later in the debate; Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) echoed the concerns of Harris – all of them got a murky assurance of help. “I am happy to commit to working with both of them to ensure we reach a positive outcome for their constituents and families as we reconcile our differences with the Senate,” Brady said, making no promises. Other Republicans brought up education, and a provision in the GOP tax reform bill that would hinder colleges and universities from providing tax free tuition waivers and reimbursements, a matter that has drawn more and more attention in recent days. Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) – whose district includes Dayton University – and Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) – whose district includes the University of Illinois – both appealed to Brady to make a change. “I believe that an unintended consequence of this bill would hinder middle class Americans pursuing a higher education degree in an attempt to better their lives,” Turner said. “I am worried it is going to have an impact on the custodians and the assistants in the Registrar’s Office who are just working at these institutions to be able to send their son or daughter to college,” said Davis. There was no guarantee that the provision would be changed. “I have a keen interest in this issue,” Brady told Turner and Davis. “I will work with you toward a positive solution on tuition assistance in conference with the Senate.” Democrats noted the exchanges on both days of the House tax reform debate, arguing that it showed off the haphazard nature of how the bill was put together. “I also was intrigued by the colloquy where Members came to ask the leadership if they will work with them to take out egregious elements of this tax proposal,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI). “We get this sort of, “Yes, I will work with the gentleman,” answer,” Kildee added, raising his voice on the floor. “Why did you put it in in the first place?” Kildee yelled. “Why are you cutting historic tax credits in the first place? Why did you put it in in the first place? You just wrote the bill. You just wrote it,” he said. GOP lawmakers said this past week that anyone can find a reason to vote against a big bill like this tax reform plan – we’ll see in coming weeks whether these publicly voiced concerns become an issue for the final version of tax reform in the Congress.
  • The Trump Administration on Friday asked Congress to approve a third major disaster aid relief package for areas hit hard by hurricanes in 2017, which would bring total federal aid to nearly $100 billion, as for the first time, the White House proposed budget savings to offset some of that cost. “This year’s Atlantic hurricane season has resulted in historic, widespread destruction that continues to affect the lives of millions of Americans,” said White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney in a letter to the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. In the same letter, Mulvaney that Congress has already approved over $53 billion in disaster relief this year, and that it’s time to find a way to pay for some of that. “The administration believes it is prudent to offset new spending,” Mulvaney added, sending a list of plans that would save $14.8 billion by using budget funds from past years which were never spent, and by canceling other programs. BREAKING: White House requests $44B hurricane aid package for Texas, Puerto Rico, smaller than requested. — AP Politics (@AP_Politics) November 17, 2017 The extra $44 billion is far less than what has been requested by officials in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico; just this week, Puerto Rico’s Governor traveled to Washington, D.C. to personally request $94 billion in aid. “We would just like to stress that this is a conservative estimate,” said Gov. Ricardo Rossello of the disaster aid request, as his island continues to struggle in the aftermath of devastation from Hurricane Maria. Even before the latest White House disaster request was official, it was getting less than rave reviews in the Congress. “We’ve been continually told to wait, wait, wait,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) about new disaster relief, as Lone Star State officials asked in October for $19 billion just for the state, and say infrastructure repairs could total $61 billion. Meanwhile, officials from Florida last month asked Congress for $27 billion in relief aid. Cornyn said Thursday night that his staff had reported this latest request from the White House was “wholly inadequate.” As for the budget cuts proposed by the White House – $14.8 billion would happen now, with an additional savings of $44 billion projected between 2025 and 2027 by extending the budget caps associated with the budget sequester. But holding down on spending between 2025 and 2027 certainly would not pay for hurricane aid being spent in 2017. As for money that would be saved right now, here is the list of budget cancellations and changes that the Trump Administration would make to save $14.8 billion: + Emergency farm conservation activities from Hurricane Sandy – $204 million + Advanced Tech Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program – $4.33 billion + Obama stimulus loan program for innovative tech – $479.4 million + Obama stimulus program for National Emergency health Grants – $23 million + Excess money at the Army Corps of Engineers – $210 million + Army Corps, flood control after Hurricane Sandy – $519 million + Agricultural Research Service – $212 million + Rural Economic Development Grants – $196 million + Rural Business Program – $25 million + Rural Energy Savings program – $8 million + Unspent money at Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – $72 million + Watershed & Flood Prevention – $90 million + Farm conservation programs – $1.42 billion + Supplemental WIC funding – $800 million + Unspent education money in Student Financial Assistance $3.9 billion + Unspent funds at HHS – $560 million + Justice Department working capital fund – $410 million + State Department, Democracy Fund – $99 million + Federal transportation highway aid – $1 billion + EPA state and tribal assistance grants – $150 million + EPA Environmental Programs and Management – $100 million Here is the full budget request for offsets on this latest hurricane aid plan. Those offsets amount to $14.8 billion, far short of the $53 billion that’s already been approved, without even including this latest request for another $44 billion.
  • After winning full House approval of a GOP tax reform measure, Republicans on Thursday night took another step forward in their quest for sweeping changes to the federal tax code, as the Senate Finance Committee approved a slightly different tax reform bill, setting up a debate on the Senate floor following a Thanksgiving break in Congress. “This is a good bill that delivers on our promise to provide middle class tax relief and grow our economy,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), after his panel finished up an at times chippy four days of work. The 14-12 vote in Hatch’s Senate Finance Committee came nine hours after the House had voted along party lines to approve a Republican tax reform package, as GOP lawmakers cheered when they reached a majority. “We voted to cut your taxes, because it’s time that the hardworking people of this country get a break,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. Big win today in the House for GOP Tax Cuts and Reform, 227-205. Zero Dems, they want to raise taxes much higher, but not for our military! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2017 Ryan and his top lieutenants were able to keep the tax bill moving by convincing some GOP lawmakers to vote for the bill, even though they had concerns about the details of the measure. In fact, during two days of debate on the House floor, a number of Republicans publicly expressed their hope that a variety of provisions would be changed in the measure. The biggest flashpoint in the House remains the changes that block most state and local tax deductions, which drew sharp opposition from GOP lawmakers in New York, New Jersey and California. “Adding back in the property tax deduction up to $10,000 was progress, but not enough progress,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who voted against the bill. “This fight is not over,” Zeldin added. I voted NO on the tax bill today to protect Long Island and NY. While the bill passed, I will continue the fight. — Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) November 16, 2017 Next stop for tax reform will be the Senate floor, where the magic legislative formula may prove a bit trickier for GOP leaders, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his party’s plan “will bring lasting relief to middle-class families, small businesses and American workers.” “When the Senate returns after Thanksgiving, I will bring this must-pass legislation to the floor for further debate and open consideration,” McConnell added. But like an earlier debate over health care, McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes, and already there are rumblings from more than that, like from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who is demanding changes on how small business and pass through businesses are impacted by tax reform. “People realize we have a problem here,” Johnson told reporters, saying he’s been getting a lot of people telling him, “stand firm, you are absolutely right” on helping small business. “Not necessarily what I was expecting,” Johnson admitted with a smile. Other Republicans on the bubble on tax reform include Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who blocked health care reform earlier this year, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who voted against that health care plan as well. Also, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who publicly rebuked President Trump in recent weeks. If the GOP tax reform bill is going to be changed at all, it will have to come from within Republican ranks in the Senate, leaving Democrats stewing on the sidelines. “The public always knows that when the Republicans are in power, the first thing they want to do is give tax cuts to the rich,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who got into a late night spat with the Senate Finance Committee chairman. Tense moment between Sen. Brown and Sen. Hatch after Brown says GOP tax cut is 'for the rich.' Hatch responds: 'Don’t spew that stuff on me' pic.twitter.com/57zEA03a6b — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 17, 2017 “This is such a scam,” said Sen. Clare McCaskill (D-MO), as Democrats could only express their frustrations, unable to stop the GOP tax effort. Adding to the aggravation of Democrats is the inclusion of a provision in the Senate bill that would repeal the tax penalty from the individual mandate under the Obama health law. In a speech on Thursday night to tax group, Vice President Mike Pence made clear the White House wants that provision in a final bill. “Repealing the individual mandate tax at the heart of Obamacare is a tax cut for millions of hard working Americans,” the Vice President said.
  • In a major legislative victory for Republicans and President Trump, the House on Thursday approved a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code, sending the plan to an uncertain future in the Senate, which will try to vote on its own version of tax changes after Thanksgiving. “A historic day,” said Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA), as cheering broke out on the House floor as the vote count went over a majority for the bill, which has been a top agenda item for Republicans and the White House. “This is a promise made, and a promise delivered,” added Handel, who stood by the GOP drive for tax reform in a heated special election earlier this year. “We’re going to see the economy take off,” said a smiling Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) just after the vote, as he praised the help of President Trump in convincing GOP lawmakers to stick with the tax reform plan, despite a lot of provisions that could have proved nettlesome for the GOP effort. There were 13 Republicans who voted against the bill, most of them from states which would be hit hard by changes in the state and local tax deduction – New Jersey, New York and California.
  • The recent rash of accusations of sexual misconduct by high profile men hit Capitol Hill on Thursday, as a radio news anchor from California published a first person account accusing Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) of groping her and kissing her without her consent, while the two were part of a USO military entertainment tour in Iraq in late 2006. While rehearsing a skit backstage, Leanne Tweeden said Franken forcibly kissed her. “We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth,” Tweeden wrote on the website of KABC Radio in Los Angeles . “All I could think about was getting to a bathroom as fast as possible to rinse the taste of him out of my mouth,” saying she “felt disgusted and violated” by what had happened backstage. I’ve decided it’s time to tell my story. #MeToo https://t.co/TqTgfvzkZg — Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017 The incident occurred in December 2006 at a USO event in Mosul, Iraq, two years before Franken ran for the U.S. Senate, and won in a closely contested election. Franken, who routinely avoids reporters in the hallways of Congress, quickly issued a written statement, apologizing to Tweeden. “I certainly don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann,” Franken stated. “As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn’t. I shouldn’t have done it,” the Minnesota Democrat added. Tweeden said she especially felt humiliated by a photograph that was included in a review of the USO trip, which showed Tweeden asleep on a plane, and Franken seemingly grabbing, or pretending to grab her breasts.
  • With the outcome seemingly in hand, President Donald Trump will go to Capitol Hill on Thursday morning to meet with House GOP lawmakers, as Republicans get ready to vote for a sweeping tax reform package which would deliver close to $1.5 trillion in tax relief over the next ten years to individuals and businesses. “Tax cuts are getting close!” the President tweeted on Monday night. Mr. Trump will trek to Capitol Hill hours before the tax reform vote in the House, where he will give a pre-vote pep talk to GOP lawmakers who have made clear they are eager to get on with the business of tax cuts and tax reform. “It’s about time we get something real done for the American people,” said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), as the GOP Congress has struggled to deliver on the Trump agenda in 2017. The House has begun floor debate on the House GOP tax bill H.R. 1 — voted expected Thursday early afternoon on passage — Alex Moe (@AlexNBCNews) November 15, 2017 While GOP leaders are confident that they have the votes to win, there will certainly be Republicans who won’t be on board with the tax plan, many of them unhappy with the end of deductions for state and local taxes, except for a $10,000 write-off allowed on property taxes. “I want nothing more than to vote for a tax plan that unleashes our country’s full economic potential, but not if it’s paid for by my constituents,” said Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), one of a group of Republicans from New York and New Jersey who are ready to vote against the tax reform bill. “Unfortunately, I do not believe the current tax bill being considered by the House ensures that New York families will be better off,” said Rep. John Faso (R-NY). Four New York GOP congressmen — DONOVAN, KING, ZELDIN & FASO — will speak about their opposition to the GOP tax reform bill, at 9:45 tomorrow — Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) November 16, 2017 While Republicans should be able to overcome those objections in the House, the picture quickly became muddy in the Senate, even as a key committee there was working its way through a newly revised tax reform measure. The first sign of dissent came from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who said he opposes the details on how pass-through businesses are treated in both the House and Senate versions of the tax reform bill. Johnson wasn’t ruling out that he would back the bill, but made clear he wants changes. “These businesses truly are the engines of innovation and job creation throughout our economy, and they should not be left behind,” Johnson said. Bob Corker at #TimesTalks says of tax bill, 'it's not a good process.' If I feel the growth assumptions are out of line … I'm not going to vote for it.' — Jonathan Weisman (@jonathanweisman) November 16, 2017 Other GOP Senators who might not be in support of the current version of tax reform include Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). A vote in the full Senate would not happen until after Thanksgiving; the Senate Finance Committee is expected to approve a plan this week – then it will be time to count votes. As for Collins, she has made clear that the addition of the repeal of the individual mandate under the Obama health law does not help the bill’s prospects in her mind, saying on Wednesday that it “does not make sense.” So, while Thursday may bring a big victory in the House – and for the President – Republicans hope it’s not a repeat of health care, where the House passed a bill, and the Senate was unable to do the same.
  • In search of their first major legislative victory of 2017, Republicans took an initial step forward on a sweeping package of tax cuts and tax reforms, as the House on Wednesday afternoon easily moved past the first parliamentary hurdle to a GOP tax reform package, setting up a final vote on the GOP tax plan for Thursday. “The American people want and need something done right now,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), as debate began in the full House. “What we cannot afford is to do nothing,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), as Republican backers argued the bill will spur new economic growth and needed job creation. Unlike the House debates earlier this year on health care, where GOP leaders struggled repeatedly to wrangle the votes for a plan to overhaul the Obama health law, the tax debate got underway on the House floor with no suspense, as Republicans were feeling good about a Thursday victory. House passes tax rule 235-191. Four hours of debate to come. Final vote tomorrow. — Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) November 15, 2017 The House GOP bill would streamline the tax code, taking it from seven to four income tax brackets, do away with most personal deductions to simplify tax filing for individuals, and give businesses a dramatic tax cut in hopes of spurring new job creation and economic growth. “I’m cautiously – not even cautiously – I’m quite confident we pass it tomorrow,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), a top ally of President Donald Trump. Still, there will be Republicans who vote against the plan, not pleased with the changes in deductions for state and local taxes, though the GOP plan would allow up to $10,000 in property taxes as a deduction. But that wasn’t enough for some GOP lawmakers in high tax states like New York, New Jersey and California. Issa’s a no and expects 2-3 more California GOP noes. Won’t name names. — Jim Newell (@jim_newell) November 15, 2017 But there was no groundswell against the plan, as Republicans have made clear in recent days that they – and President Trump – need a win, and the combination of tax cuts and tax reform seems to be a perfect place to start. “The vote will be strong,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). “Our whip count came back really good.”
  • Republicans in the U.S. Senate unveiled a series of last minute changes to their tax reform plan late on Tuesday night, ending all plans for individual tax cuts after eight years, while making almost all of the proposed business tax changes permanent, as GOP leaders expressed confidence that they can push a bill through the House by Thursday, and win Senate approval of a slightly different plan soon after Thanksgiving. As for the newly revised Senate tax reform bill, here is the link to the summary of the revised Senate tax reform bill. And for true tax policy wonks, here is the link to the detailed budgetary score of the revised Senate plan. Now let’s go through some of the changes in the bill: 1. The individual tax cuts are not permanent. In an effort to squeeze more tax relief into the 10 year GOP plan, Republicans decided to ‘sunset’ most of the individual tax cuts after the end of 2025 – in other words, in 2026, these tax cuts would snap back to current tax law right now – if nothing is done by the Congress. Remember the Fiscal Cliff with the end of the Bush tax cuts in 2013? This is the same thing. 26 different individual provisions would have an eight year time limit, while only four business tax provisions would end early. The business tax cuts are permanent. The individual tax cuts are not. Here’s just a few examples of what would end for individuals on December 31, 2025. (I might get to spend another New Year’s Eve at the U.S. Capitol.) 2. The Senate plan knocks out the individual mandate – in 2019. One of the late changes from Senate Republicans deals with the Obama health law, as the new Senate language would zero out the tax penalty that is levied against people who do not buy health insurance, as required by the individual mandate under Obamacare. But the fine print of the new Senate plan shows that the end of that tax penalty would not take place immediately, as the effective date is after the end of 2018. This provision gives Republicans an extra $318 billion in budget savings, which helps to bring the Senate plan under the $1.5 trillion that can be added to the deficit by the tax reform bill. 3. Tax breaks for individuals get off to a slow start. Of the $886 billion in individual tax relief in this bill, just $49.4 billion comes in 2018, the first year of the revised Senate tax proposal. That’s just 5.5 percent of the overall tax cuts in year number one of this tax cut plan. That is much like the House tax reform bill, where just $52.5 billion of the plan’s $964 billion in individual tax relief comes in 2018. 4. The Senate plan allows college funds for unborn children. Mirroring a provision in the House tax reform bill, the Senate plan would now allow the establishment of a 529 college savings plan for a child in utero. 5. Beer and alcohol interests win new provisions. One of the few special provisions aimed at one specific group to pop up in the GOP tax reform effort surfaced on Tuesday night in the Senate bill, with a series of provisions under the nondescript heading of “CRAFT Beverage Modernization.” Beer would see a reduced excise tax, as would certain wines and distilled spirits. But it’s just a temporary booze tax provision that expires after the end of 2019, costing $4.2 billion. It appears that the details come from a bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). We will hear more about these revisions on Wednesday morning, when the Senate Finance Committee reconvenes.

News

  • Atlanta police have been handing out the flyers across the city telling people that a permit is needed to give food to the homeless. The fliers are being used as a warning to those trying to help the homeless. Channel 2’s Justin Wilfon found one group who received more than a warning. Instead of getting praise for helping Atlanta’s homeless, Adele Maclean and Marlon Kautz say they’re getting punished for it. “We’re looking at a citation,” Maclean said. Channel 2 Action News’ cameras were there when police wrote the pair a ticket for handing out food to the homeless without a permit. “I mean outrageous, right? Of all the things to be punished for, giving free food to people who are hungry?” Maclean told Wilfon. TRENDING STORIES: Worker killed after woman drives onto sidewalk on busy road, police say There's a Christmas tree shortage in metro Atlanta Arrests made in violent robberies of Asian-owned businesses The pair said they give food to the homeless every Sunday in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park, and have never heard of needing a permit. “It seems ridiculous to me that they would be spending their time and resources on stopping people from feeding the homeless,” said Maclean said. Wilfon contacted the city to find out what was going on. A city representative said the Fulton and DeKalb County boards of health both require permits to give food to the homeless and the city of Atlanta enforces those requirements. While the requirements aren’t new, Atlanta police told Wilfon they recently started more strictly enforcing them for several reasons. The city believes there are better ways to help the homeless, like getting them into programs and shelters. They are also taking issue with the litter the food distributions leave behind. Ben Parks, who runs a nonprofit for the homeless, told Wilfon he can see the argument from both sides. “I understand where the city’s coming from. I understand when they see groups come in and leave a bunch of trash behind,' Parks said. While this ordinance is also on the books in DeKalb County, DeKalb police told Wilfon Wednesday that they are not using police to enforce it. They’re leaving that up to the health department.
  • A candidate for mayor says she has always wondered if the current mayor of Atlanta won his seat fair and square. Mary Norwood lost to current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in 2009. Make sure to tune in to WSB-TV as Keisha Lance Bottoms and Mary Norwood go head-to-head in a live runoff debate moderated by Channel 2’s Justin Farmer, LIVE on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 5 p.m.  Norwood told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston that she never spoke publicly about the accusation because what she said she knew what happened wasn't significant enough to upset the entire system.  [WATCH: Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks on Channel 2 Action News This Morning] But our partners at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got a copy of a transcript of a private June meeting where she brought up the 2009 election.  'I just want you to be who you say you are, live where you say you live and vote once,' Norwood told Huddleston.  [WATCH: Mary Norwood speaks on Channel 2 Action News This Morning] Norwood raised concerns about the 2009 election, which she lost to Reed by a couple of hundred votes.  TRENDING STORIES: Worker killed after woman drives onto sidewalk on busy road, police say There's a Christmas tree shortage in metro Atlanta Arrests made in violent robberies of Asian-owned businesses She told Huddleston that she always suspected there was voter fraud.  'I know there are instances where individuals were asked to vote in the election,' Norwood said.  She said individuals who didn’t live in Atlanta still voted in the mayor's race.   [SPECIAL SECTION: The Atlanta Mayor’s Race] Norwood said she's never talked publicly about the accusation, but privately has mentioned it to several groups, including last June, at a meeting that was recorded and leaked to the AJC. 'I have spoken privately to many groups, including last night to the NAACP, about the fact that I did not go public with some things I was concerned about with that election,' Norwood said.  ATLANTA MAYOR QUICK FACTS The city’s last five mayors have been African-American The last 27 have been Democrats There have only ever been two Republican mayors of Atlanta Shirley Franklin was the first female mayor of Atlanta. The next mayor will be the second Only four former Atlanta mayors were born in Atlanta Click here for more facts about Atlanta mayors Huddleston contacted Reed for a comment on this story Wednesday. His spokesperson responded and said in part: “If Mary Norwood had proof that the election results were invalid in 2009, she should have stepped forward and challenged the results then. She did not because she could not. She has no evidence to back up her claims. She has been a public official for the past four years and never raised any concerns about the integrity of our voting system.' Norwood said after the 2009 race, she joined the Fulton County Elections Board to get a new director on staff.  She told Huddleston that she's confident the Dec. 5 mayor's race will be fair, accurate and impartial.
  • Beyond the slick, Hollywood-style cinematics, the Islamic State is targeting Western recruits with videos suggesting they, too, can be heroes like Bruce Willis' character in 'Die Hard.'That's the conclusion of The Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed some 1,400 videos released by IS between 2013 and 2016. Researchers who watched and catalogued them all said there is more to the recruitment effort than just sophisticated videography, and it's not necessarily all about Islam.Instead, Robert Pape, who directs the security center, said the extremist group is targeting Westerners — especially recent Muslim converts — with videos that follow, nearly step-by-step, a screenwriter's standard blueprint for heroic storytelling.'It's the heroic screenplay journey, the same thing that's in Wonder Woman, where you have someone who is learning his or her own powers through the course of their reluctant journey to be hero,' Pape said.The project at the University of Chicago separately has assembled a database of people who have been indicted in the United States for activities related to IS. Thirty-six percent were recent converts to Islam and did not come from established Muslim communities, according to the project. Eighty-three percent watched IS videos, the project said.The group's success in using heroic storytelling is prompting copycats, Pape said. The research shows al-Qaida's Syria affiliate has been mimicking IS' heroic narrative approach in its own recruitment films. 'We have a pattern that's emerging,' Pape said.Intelligence and law enforcement officials aren't sure the approach is all that new. They say IS has been using any method that works to recruit Westerners. Other terrorism researchers think IS' message is still firmly rooted in religious extremism.Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks messaging by militant groups, agrees that IS makes strong, visual appeals resembling Hollywood movies and video games, making its media operation more successful than al-Qaida's. And IS videos can attract hero wannabes, she said.'However, these features of IS media are only assets to a core message it uses to recruit,' Katz said. 'At the foundation of IS recruitment propaganda is not so much the promise to be a Hollywood-esque hero, but a religious hero. There is a big difference between the two.'When a fighter sits in front of a camera and calls for attacks, Katz said, he will likely frame it as revenge for Muslims killed or oppressed somewhere in the world. The message is designed to depict any terror attack in that nation as justified and allow the attacker to die as a martyr, she said.The promise of religious martyrdom is powerful to anybody regardless of whether they are rich or poor, happy or unhappy, steeped in religion or not at all, she said.Pape said he knows he's challenging conventional wisdom when he says Westerners are being coaxed to join IS ranks not because of religious beliefs, but because of the group's message of personal empowerment and Western concepts of individualism.How else can one explain Western attackers' loose connections to Islam, or their scarce knowledge of IS's strict, conservative Sharia law, he asked. IS is embracing, not rejecting, Western culture and ideals, to mobilize Americans, he said.'This is a journey like Clint Eastwood,' Pape said, recalling Eastwood's 1970s performance in 'High Plains Drifter' about a stranger who doles out justice in a corrupt mining town. 'When Clint Eastwood goes in to save the town, he's not doing it because he loves them. He even has contempt for the people he's saving. He's saving it because he's superior,' Pape said.'That's Bruce Willis in 'Die Hard.' That's Wonder Woman. ... Hollywood has figured out that's what puts hundreds of millions in theater seats,' Pape said. 'IS has figured out that's how to get Westerners.'Pape said the narrative in the recruitment videos targeting westerners closely tracks Chris Vogler's 12-step guide titled 'The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.' The book is based on a narrative identified by scholar Joseph Campbell that appears in drama and other storytelling.Step No. 1 in Vogler's guide is portraying a character in his 'ordinary world.'An example is a March 25, 2016, video released by al-Qaida's Syria branch about a young British man with roots in the Indian community. It starts: 'Let us tell you the story of a real man... Abu Basir, as we knew him, came from central London. He was a graduate of law and a teacher by profession.'Vogler's ninth step is about how the hero survives death, emerging from battle to begin a transformation, sometimes with a prize.In the al-Qaida video, the Brit runs through sniper fire in battle. He then lays down his weapon and picks up a pen to start his new vocation blogging and posting Twitter messages for the cause.Matthew Levitt, a terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says it doesn't surprise him that IS would capitalize on what he dubs the 'zero to hero' strategy because the organization is very pragmatic and accepts recruits regardless of their commitment to Islamic extremism.Heroic aspirations are only one reason for joining the ranks of IS, he said. Criminals also seek the cover of IS to commit crimes. Others sign up because they want to belong to something.'I've never seen a case of radicalization that was 100 percent one way or the other,' Levitt said.
  • A Georgia mother whose toddler has been waiting for a kidney transplant his whole life was gifted a car on Tuesday -- hours before a kidney donor was found. >> Read more trending news  Carmellia Burgess brought her son home from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Nov. 8, where he’d been since Oct. 29.  Burgess’s son, AJ, battled a potentially deadly infection, contracted pneumonia, had surgery to implant a new port for his dialysis treatments and received blood transfusions before he was released from the hospital, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. MORE: Toddler heads home from hospital to wait for kidney transplant But his mother didn’t have a car to get AJ to his hemodialysis appointments three times a week, she wrote on Facebook. That trouble ended Tuesday, when actor Tyler Perry gifted Burgess with a new car. The family later learned a deceased donor kidney would be given to AJ this week, attorney Mawuli Davis said.
  • A federal lawsuit set to go to trial next month marks the latest legal action brought against former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio over allegations that he pursued a trumped-up criminal case to get publicity and embarrass an adversary.The political opponent in this case: U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.One of Flake's sons filed a malicious-prosecution lawsuit, saying Arpaio pursued felony animal cruelty charges against him and his then-wife in a bid to do political damage to the senator and gain publicity.Austin Flake and his wife were charged in the heat-exhaustion deaths of 21 dogs in June 2014 at a kennel operated by his in-laws. The Flakes were watching the dogs when the in-laws were out of town.The dogs died when an air conditioning unit failed in a small room where the animals spent the night.The case against the Flakes was dismissed at the request of prosecutors, and the owners of the kennel pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after an expert determined the air conditioner failed because the operators didn't properly maintain it.The lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial on Dec. 5, alleges that Arpaio was intent on linking the Flakes to the deaths, going so far as to conduct surveillance on the senator's home. The suit also says Arpaio's investigators examined phone records to see if the younger Flake called his father during the time he was watching the dogs.Lawyers for Austin Flake and his then-wife have said the senator disagreed with Arpaio over immigration and was critical of the movement questioning the authenticity of then-President Barack Obama's birth certificate.In a deposition, Arpaio didn't accept responsibility for bringing the charges against the couple and was unable to cite any evidence to support the allegations. But he still expressed confidence in his investigators.'I am going by what my detectives accomplished during their investigation,' Arpaio said during the July 2016 deposition. 'They had the nuts and bolts already. I defend my people. I have confidence in them. I don't have to know everything that's going on.'Arpaio and Jeffrey Leonard, an attorney representing Maricopa County and the former sheriff, declined to comment on the case.Stephen Montoya, an attorney for Austin Flake and his former wife, Logan Brown, said the sheriff's office didn't have evidence showing his clients intended to hurt the dogs, yet still charged them with crimes that devastated them and contributed to the demise of their marriage.'It splashed their names across the internet as the murderers of 21 dogs. It really ravaged them emotionally,' Montoya said, noting that Austin Flake was 21 and his wife was 20 at the time.A ruling in August by U.S. District Judge Neil Wake dismissed a defamation allegation from the lawsuit but determined investigators didn't have probable cause to charge the couple.'A factfinder could thus reasonably find that the prosecutors initially charged the Flakes based on pressure from Arpaio,' Wake wrote.The prosecutor who brought the allegations said in a court filing that she wasn't pressured by Arpaio's office to prosecute the couple and that the decision to present the case to a grand jury was made by her and her supervisors. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office isn't named as a party in the lawsuit.The lawsuit doesn't specify how much money the younger Flake and his ex-wife are seeking. But they previously sought $4 million in a notice of claim — a precursor to a lawsuit.It isn't the first time Arpaio has been accused of trumping up charges in an animal cruelty case.He launched an investigation against a police officer from the Phoenix suburb of Chandler over a 2007 death of a police dog that was left in a hot vehicle for 12 hours in blistering summer heat.The officer was charged with animal abuse but eventually acquitted. He filed a lawsuit alleging Arpaio brought the criminal case so the sheriff could exploit the publicity.Taxpayers paid $775,000 to the officer to settle the case.___Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/jacques%20billeaud .
  • Two-game winning streaks have given much-needed midseason boosts to Tampa Bay and Atlanta.Now it's time to see which team is ready for the tough NFC South.The Falcons (6-4) have moved into playoff position with back-to-back wins over Dallas and Seattle. Atlanta plays five of its last six regular-season games against NFC South rivals, including Sunday's visit from the Buccaneers.The Buccaneers (4-6) have won two straight over the Jets and Dolphins. Four of their last six games will be against NFC South opponents, including two against Atlanta.Tampa Bay faces a tough climb up the NFL's only division with three teams with winning records. The two straight wins have come with Ryan Fitzpatrick subbing for injured quarterback Jameis Winston . Fitzpatrick, who will make his third straight start against Atlanta, says the wins have helped boost morale.'It's definitely changed a little bit, a little more upbeat, but it's still businesslike attitude,' Fitzpatrick said. 'We know we've dug ourselves a big hole and we still have a long way to go.'Asked what Fitzpatrick has brought to the offense, Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said 'Toughness. Smarts. Competitiveness. Desire to win. Calming influence. How's that off the top of my head?'The Falcons have the same record through 10 games as they did in 2016, when they won the NFC championship before losing to New England in the Super Bowl. Last week's 34-31 win at Seattle left Atlanta in position for a wild card, even though they still trail New Orleans (8-2) and Carolina (7-3) in the division.'I knew it was going to be a battle,' said Falcons coach Dan Quinn of the division. 'That would be certainly the case this weekend. ... We had real regard for the division before the season started. As you go through and look at the different matchups and how some of the teams play, that's certainly the case.'While the Buccaneers' surge has come without Winston, the Falcons have had starting running back Devonta Freeman for only two snaps of their two straight wins. Freeman left the 27-7 win over Dallas with a concussion after only two plays and was held out last week.Freeman was still in the concussion protocol for the start of practice this week and is expected to miss his second straight game, leaving Tevin Coleman as the starter.Here are some things to watch as the Buccaneers and Falcons renew their NFC South rivalry:RYANS EXPECTING TWINS: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and his wife, Sarah, are expecting twins. For Ryan, the news brings more significance to his jersey number 2.'There is something about 2,' Ryan said, smiling. 'Before, I just liked it. Now I have something for it. It's cool.'Ryan said the twins are due 'in a couple months. We're just very happy, very excited.'REAL MCCOY: Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is tied with Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones for the NFL lead with 20 quarterback hits. McCoy is tied with Atlanta's Grady Jarrett with 10 tackles for loss, tied for the most among defensive tackles. He leads the Bucs with 5.0 sacks.GOODBYE GEORGIA DOME: This will be the Falcons' first home game since their old home, the Georgia Dome, was imploded on Monday . Koetter, the former Falcons offensive coordinator, is eager to see the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was built beside the old facility.'I've heard it's awesome,' Koetter said. 'I am anxious to see it. I always thought the Georgia Dome was dark and had bad acoustics. I couldn't hear a word anybody said in there.'90-GAME MILESTONES WITHIN REACH: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is on the brink of setting new NFL standards for catches and yards receiving in the first 90 games of a career. Jones has 551 catches. He needs eight receptions to pass Anquan Boldin's record of 558. Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown is second with 554.Jones has 8,396 yards receiving. He needs 107 yards to pass Lance Allworth's 90-game record of 8,502.WARD VS. WARD: Terron Ward moved up the depth chart with Freeman's concussion. As Coleman's top backup, there is a greater chance he'll go against older brother T.J. Ward, Tampa Bay's backup safety. The head-to-head competition is rare for the brothers.'We never played against each other,' said Terron Ward of the brothers' childhood, noting he is 5 years younger than his 30-year-old brother and the two would play together against cousins.'We used to get out there at Thanksgiving and Christmas, two on two,' he said. '... It would go back and forth so it's always been fun.'___For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL