Posts Tagged ‘Mitch McConnell’

As Bannon Readies for ‘War’ on GOP, Finding Donors May Be the First Battle

November 18, 2017

Two big GOP backers of past disruptive campaigns have distanced themselves from the former White House official

Steve Bannon has vowed to lead a “season of war” on Washington’s Republican establishment. But donors most likely to fund a disruptive campaign may be hard to win over.

Mr. Bannon, the ex-White House strategist and Breitbart News executive, is planning to support primary challengers to GOP senators with a goal of toppling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a lawmaker that in recent speeches he has called ineffective and insufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump. Mr. Bannon, who hasn’t ramped up any fundraising yet, has said he wants to defeat five GOP senators up for re-election next year.

Turning that into reality likely would require tens of millions of dollars to rally voters and build the name recognition of various candidates facing well-financed, sitting senators. Indeed, outside groups spent nearly $3 million in 2012 helping Richard Mourdock defeat Republican Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana. Mr. Mourdock went on to lose the general election.

In recent weeks, however, two of the biggest GOP donors who have funded disruptive campaigns in the past have distanced themselves from Mr. Bannon. And the turbulent Senate race in Alabama, where Mr. Bannon backs Republican candidate Roy Moore, who is facing sexual assault allegations, has energized Mr. McConnell’s defenders.

Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas gambling billionaire, and his wife indicated this week that they won’t be part of Mr. Bannon’s election efforts. “They are supporting Mitch McConnell 100%. For anyone to infer anything otherwise is wrong,” Mr. Adelson’s spokesman, Andy Abboud, said in a rare statement of the Adelsons’ views.

The statement came a day after Mr. Bannon praised Mr. Adelson during a Zionist Organization of America dinner in New York, saying Mr. Trump’s victory “wouldn’t have come” without the casino magnate’s help. Mr. Adelson, who is a major donor of the organization, didn’t attend the dinner.

President Donald Trump said he is close with former adviser Steve Bannon but said he disagrees with some of his plans to back challengers to sitting Republican senators in the 2018 primaries. Photo: Getty

In addition, it is unclear how committed billionaire Robert Mercer remains to Mr. Bannon, whom Mr. Mercer has long supported by helping to fund Breitbart News and other political and media projects. Mr. Mercer recently said he would step down as co-chief executive of hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, though he will remain a researcher at the firm.

Asked if Mr. Mercer would reduce or increase his support now that he has stepped back from his firm, Mr. Bannon said in a brief interview on Sunday that he would get more support from Mr. Mercer.

In his resignation letter from Renaissance Technologies, Mr. Mercer said he is selling his stake in Breitbart News to his daughters and emphasized his independence from Mr. Bannon.

“I have great respect for Mr. Bannon, and from time to time I do discuss politics with him. However, I make my own decisions with respect to whom I support politically,” he wrote.

Mr. Mercer’s spokesman declined to comment.

Mr. Adelson’s family has invested more than $200 million in Republican candidates and causes since 2012, and Mr. Mercer’s has given more than $37 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Mr. Bannon has met with donors across the country in recent months and they have responded enthusiastically, a person close to Mr. Bannon said. He is considering starting his own political or nonprofit group.

Dan Eberhart, a GOP donor and chief executive of Canary LLC, a Colorado drilling services company, said he is considering financially supporting Mr. Bannon’s efforts. He cited “a giant amount of frustration among conservatives” with the lack of progress in Congress. “Steve Bannon is a thought leader and speaks for very frustrated grass-roots conservatives,” he said.

Others who have spoken with Mr. Bannon about his 2018 plans, including retired Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, haven’t made commitments for 2018 activities, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Foster Friess, a Wyoming multimillionaire who is considering running for the Senate, said in an interview that the Bannon-led GOP insurgency doesn’t interest him. He said he had spoken with Mr. Bannon in October. “I will focus my funds on replacing Democrats, not Republicans,” Mr. Friess.

Mr. Bannon might turn to new supporters to raise money. Early last month, Mr. Bannon met with about 20 Silicon Valley executives and spoke for over an hour about U.S. economic policy, Iran and the need to support politicians willing to alter policy toward China and protect intellectual rights, according to someone familiar with the meeting. Some in the room expressed willingness to finance Mr. Bannon’s insurgency effort, the person said.

And Mr. Bannon also could try to finance his 2018 plans with the kind of fundraising that powered Mr. Trump’s general election campaign: small donors. He recently became involved with a political group that amassed a large email list of Trump supporters during the 2016 campaign.

Andrew Surabian, a former aide to Mr. Bannon at the White House, now serves as a strategist to a group called the Great America Alliance. During the 2016 election, the super PAC portion of the group raised more than $28 million that it used to back Mr. Trump, FEC records show.

Led by California GOP strategist Eric Beach and former Ronald Reagan campaign manager Ed Rollins, the group relied on a mix of larger donor checks and small contributions it generated through a telemarketing campaign.

Mr. Beach said that the “Great America Alliance and Steve Bannon are tracking in the same direction. We are the campaign vehicle that will help Trump-coalition candidates get elected.”

In the first half of 2017, the group’s super PAC raised about $1.8 million, according to FEC records. Its next report is due in January.

Part of the group is a nonprofit organization that doesn’t have to disclose donors, and Mr. Beach declined to identify those contributors or say whether any of them are new to the Bannon-led cause. He said no donors had stepped away from the group because of Mr. Bannon’s moves against GOP incumbents.

Still, the Alabama race for an open U.S. Senate seat has steered some Republican donors away from Mr. Bannon’s campaign, according to three people who advise GOP contributors.

Mr. Moore, a former judge, is accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls decades ago. He has denied the claims. The situation has turned what likely would have been an easy GOP campaign for a safe Republican seat into a close race, according to some polls. Some surveys show the Democratic candidate ahead.

Messrs. McConnell and Trump backed Sen. Luther Strange in the primary, and the Senate leader’s supporters have criticized Mr. Bannon for what they see as his political misfire in backing a weaker candidate.

Write to Julie Bykowicz at and Gregory Zuckerman at


Tax Proposals Most Likely to Pass in Washington

November 17, 2017

While the differences between the two versions stand out, the similarities are an indicator of items that could actually pass

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate have separate tax-overhaul bills with a multitude of differences, but the similarities between them are a good indicator of what could actually pass.

Right now, the differences stand out most. Republicans in the House, for example, have voted to shrink the mortgage-interest deduction and end the write-off for large medical expenses and teachers’ expenses. Senate Republicans want to keep the current deductions for mortgage interest and large medical expenses. And they would expand the write-off for teachers’ expenses.

Republicans in both chambers want to cut taxes for pass-through businesses such as partnerships and S corporations, but in very different ways.

There are provisions that appear in both bills, and these are likelier than others to make it to the finish line. There are also a few proposals that were in both bills but have been discarded, and are likely to stay out.


  • The New Tax on Stock Investors Hidden in the Senate Tax Plan November 14, 2017
  • Tax Overhaul Is Planned for 2018, Leaving Just a Few Weeks to Prepare November 10, 2017
  • Concerns Mount Over the Pass-through Tax Cut November 3, 2017
  • Winners and Losers of Republican Tax Plan November 2, 2017

Here are areas of overlap between the House and Senate tax bills for individual taxpayers.

STANDARD DEDUCTION AND PERSONAL EXEMPTION. Both bills would almost double the deduction taxpayers get if they don’t itemize writeoffs on Schedule A. For 2018, this break would rise to $24,400 in the House bill and $24,000 in the Senate bill for married couples, and half that for singles.

Currently about 30% of more than 150 million filers itemize, and the change could reduce the percentage of those who itemize to 10%. This would simplify filing for many people and make enforcement easier for the IRS, but fewer filers could deduct charitable donations.

Both bills would also repeal the personal exemption for each family member, which is $4,150 in 2018.

ESTATE TAX. Both bills would double the current estate-tax exemption of $5 million per person, adjusted for inflation. The change would take effect for 2018, and the exemption would be $11.2 million per individual and $22.4 million per married couple.

ALTERNATIVE MINIMUM TAX. Both bills repeal the AMT, a complex surtax that rescinds or postpones the value of many tax breaks.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES. Both bills repeal the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes, so expect that to happen.

It is worth noting that they differ on property taxes. The House would allow filers to deduct up to $10,000 of property taxes, while the Senate fully repeals this write-off.

HOME SALES. Both bills make an important change to the popular exemption of profit on the sale of a home, which is $500,000 for married couples and $250,000 for singles.

The new rule would require sellers to live in a house for five of the prior eight years, rather than two out of the prior five years, to get the exemption. The Senate bill also limits deduction for high earners.

RETIREMENT PLANS. Current law allows a saver with a traditional individual retirement account, or IRA, which typically has taxable payouts, to convert some or all assets to a Roth IRA, which typically has tax-free payouts. Taxes are usually due on such transfers.

Current law also allows savers who do this Roth conversion to undo it, as long as the reversal is complete by Oct. 15 in the following year. This option has allowed savers whose assets drop in value after a Roth conversion to get out of owing tax on phantom income.

Both bills would end the ability of savers who do these Roth conversions to reverse them.

Both bills also include a provision that would extend the time for employees who leave a company to repay 401(k) loans. Under current law, workers must repay such loans within 60 days of leaving a firm, or else owe income tax on the loan’s balance.

Under the proposal, borrowers would have until they file their federal return to repay the loan.

STOCK OPTIONS. Both bills originally had provisions that effectively killed the use of so-called nonqualified stock options, which many companies award to valued employees. These provisions have been withdrawn from both bills.

MOVING EXPENSES. Both bills also repeal a deduction by taxpayers for certain moving expenses and another break for moving expenses that are reimbursed by employers. There is an exception for Armed Forces members on active duty.

DONATIONS FOR ATHLETIC SEATING. Both bills prohibit charitable deductions for donations made to colleges and universities for the right to purchase tickets to sporting events beginning in 2018. Current law allows such deductions.

Write to Laura Saunders at

Is the Republican Tax Plan Sailing or Stalling?

November 15, 2017


By Jonathan Bernstein

Which way does it go?

 Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

How’s the tax bill doing?

The House version is heading to the House floor for a vote this week. In normal Congresses, party leaders don’t move a bill to that stage unless they have the votes. So that would suggest that it will pass. On the other hand, have you been watching this Congress?

The Senate version is ready for committee consideration on Wednesday. Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis has been reporting that the bill is “moving like a freight train” with no Republican Senators so far coming out against it. That’s where things stand, but that is no guarantee that they won’t fall apart. Republicans on Tuesday added repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate, among several changes to the bill. Here’s the thing: Why do you make major last-minute changes to a bill, adding something controversial?

Perhaps because it is certain to pass, and so the party adds something that needs a vehicle because it can’t pass by itself. That’s possible, I suppose, but it seems very unlikely to me.

Perhaps because it is in trouble, and needs help. Odds are that’s it. The mandate repeal will appeal to some Republicans on its own, but it also scores as a savings and therefore can lower the deficit increases in the bill or pay for some goodies for particular Senators or both. The downside is that destabilizing the individual health insurance market might not appeal to all Senate Republicans.

Or, perhaps they have no idea what they’re doing, and they’re just flailing around aimlessly. I don’t actually think that’s the case. On the other hand, have you been watching this Congress?

I’ll add that both Speaker Paul Ryan and especially Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have repeatedly used bandwagon tactics to try to get bills through that were a little short. That presumably involves convincing tentative “no” votes to keep quiet for the moment, with the hope that if everyone thinks something will pass, then it really will. It’s not necessarily a foolish thing to try, and it may be going on now. Or not! They may really have the votes for now. Don’t forget that because this is being done through the reconciliation process, there’s still a “Byrd bath” ahead on the Senate side which could knock out major provisions and, in doing so, potentially lose some votes. The bill authors know that and have written the bill with it in mind, but there’s always uncertainty about it.

The House and Senate bills are very different, which means that getting each one through its own chamber is only the first step. They could then move to a formal conference committee and work out a compromise. Or one chamber can take the product of the other and just pass it as-is. Or a chamber can take the other bill, pass it with changes to bring it closer to their own version, and then send it back across the Capitol. Even if both Houses of Congress manage to pass their original bills, there’s a ways to go.

So will it pass, or collapse? I’m sticking with what I’ve been saying: The key variable is simply how much Republicans in Congress collectively care about passing something. Yes, there are plenty of tricky provisions and difficult compromises to make, and it already polls badly and is likely if anything to look even more unpopular if it stays in the spotlight. But if it’s what members really want, then I don’t see any obstacles that just can’t be overcome. Or at least shouldn’t be impossible to overcome. On the other hand, have you been watching this Congress?


1. Babak Bahador at the Monkey Cage on why pro-Trump Facebook ads probably had little effect. Of course, in a very close election, tiny effects can be decisive, and as a foreign policy matter that’s not the question that matters anyway.

2. Also at the Monkey Cage: Kathy Goldschmidt and Lorelei Kelly on a Congress unable to do its job.

3. Dave Hopkins on the Roy Moore saga.

4. Michelle Goldberg has a reasonable assessment of the old charges against Bill Clinton and why Democrats weren’t unfairly dismissive in doubting them — which doesn’t mean none of it was true.

5. Catherine Rampell wants to know why Republicans can’t tell the truth about their own tax bills.

6. Ezra Klein looks at how the party decided for Hillary Clinton before 2016, and argues that they would have been better served had they waited. Perhaps. It’s easy to see the downside of things as they actually worked out, but that doesn’t mean other paths didn’t have significant downsides as well. It’s also hard to blame the Clinton campaign for trying their hardest to nail things down early after her experience in 2008. One nitpick. The “party decides” idea of presidential nominations, and the larger party network approach to U.S. political parties, was always quite contested within political science, but was overrepresented in political science blogs, especially during the 2012 election cycle.

7. Here at View, Komal Sri-Kumar on Trump trade policy.

8. And Fred Kaplan on the nuclear launch hearing.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Mike Nizza at

Obama health mandate now target of GOP in big tax bil

November 15, 2017

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama health care law’s requirement that Americans get insurance coverage is now pinned as a target of Republican lawmakers, as they look to end the individual mandate to help pay for deep cuts in their tax legislation.

Senate Republicans showed Tuesday they’re intent on scrapping the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate, and the idea was endorsed by scores of GOP lawmakers in the House.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Finance Committee, confirmed late Tuesday he was revising the bill to include repeal of the insurance mandate “to help provide additional relief to low- and middle-income families.”

The surprise renewal of the failed effort to eliminate the health care law’s mandate came a day after President Donald Trump renewed pressure on Republican lawmakers to include the repeal in their sweeping legislation to revamp the tax system. It carries high political stakes for Trump, who lacks a major legislative achievement after nearly 10 months in office.

The move by Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee upended the debate over the tax measure just as it was inching closer to passage following months of fine-tuning and compromise. It turned the debate into an angry partisan referendum on health care and President Barack Obama’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan joined a growing chorus of Washington Republicans calling upon Roy Moore to drop out of his embattled race for the U.S. Senate. Ryan also projected confidence about delivering on an overhaul of the nation’s tax code. (Nov. 14)

The Finance panel digs into a third day of work on the Senate tax bill on Wednesday. The completed House tax bill, pointed toward a vote in that chamber Thursday, does not currently include repeal of the health insurance mandate. Trump plans an in-person appeal to House Republicans before the vote.

Promoted as needed relief for the middle class, the House and Senate tax overhaul bills would deeply cut corporate rates, double the standard deduction used by most Americans and limit or repeal completely the federal deduction for state and local property, income and sales taxes. Republican leaders deem passage of the first major tax overhaul in 30 years as imperative for the GOP to preserve its majorities in next year’s elections.

Republican efforts to dismantle the health care law collapsed this past summer as moderate Republicans joined with Democrats in rejecting the repeal — a bitter disappointment for Trump, who lashed out at the Senate GOP for failing. Adding the repeal of the mandate to the tax measure would combine two of Trump’s legislative priorities.

Beyond Trump’s prodding, the repeal move was dictated by the Republicans’ need to find revenue sources for the massive tax-cut bill, which calls for steep reductions in the corporate tax rate and elimination of some popular tax breaks.

The “Obamacare” mandate requires most people to buy health insurance coverage or face a fine. Without being forced to get coverage, fewer people would sign up for Medicaid or buy federally subsidized private insurance. Eliminating the mandate in the tax legislation would save an estimated $338 billion over a decade, which could be used to help pay for the deep cuts.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that repealing the requirement that people buy health coverage would mean 4 million additional uninsured people by 2019 and 13 million more by 2027.

It “will cause millions to lose their health care,” Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee.

Feeling ambushed without advance notice, minority Democrats warned that with fewer healthy people in the insurance risk pool, the price of premiums would rise.

“Rather than learning the lessons from their failure to repeal health care, Republicans are doubling down on the same partisan strategy that would throw our health care system into chaos,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. “If the American people weren’t already outraged by this bill, injecting health care into it will certainly do the trick.”

To win over moderate Senate Republicans to the tax legislation, the Senate may take up at the same time a bipartisan compromise to shore up health care subsidies, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., indicated Tuesday. Thune is a member of the Finance panel.

Hatch’s revised version of the tax bill would double the child tax credit to $2,000 from the current $1,000 — a change that presidential daughter Ivanka Trump has pushed for. The credit would rise to $1,600 under the House bill.

Also, Hatch’s revision makes slight reductions in individual tax rates for three moderate income brackets, numbers three, four and five of a total seven. The rates are reduced from the original Senate bill and the current system. The new rates are 10, 12, 22.5, 25, 32.5, 35 and 38.5 percent. The House bill shrinks the current seven brackets to four: 12, 25, 35 and 39.6 percent.


Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington contributed to this report.


Senate GOP Adds Health-Care Twist to Tax Overhaul Plan

November 15, 2017

Republicans add provision repealing health-law insurance mandate

Image may contain: 3 people, suit

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., at a news conference on Tuesday where they announced that the individual mandate to have health insurance would be repealed in the Senate GOP tax bill.   J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Republicans attached a provision to their tax overhaul that would repeal the requirement that all Americans have health insurance, a new twist in the GOP lawmakers’ efforts to rewrite much of the U.S. tax code.

The insurance mandate is a centerpiece of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Repealing it is a long-sought goal of Republicans, who see it as onerous. Moreover, eliminating the mandate could free up federal tax revenue because it would mean fewer households buying insurance and thus fewer applying for federal health-care subsidies or for Medicaid.

Republicans plan to use the money freed up by repealing the mandate to direct tax cuts to middle-income households. They want to increase their proposed $1,650 child tax credit to $2,000 per child and lower the tax rates in three brackets, dropping the proposed 22.5%, 25% and 32.5% rates to 22%, 24% and 32%, respectively, according to the proposal, released Tuesday night by the Senate Finance Committee.

Those alterations, which the committee will debate Wednesday, will help Republicans show more tangible benefits to families, and the bigger child credit was a priority for some GOP senators.

Under the changes announced late Tuesday, almost all of the individual tax cuts and the tax cuts for pass-through businesses would expire at the end of 2025.

That would help Republicans follow the fast-track process they are using, which lets them pass a bill without needing Democratic votes but prevents them from adding to projected budget deficits after 2027. However it opens them to Democratic arguments that they are prioritizing corporations’ permanent cuts over individuals. And Democrats will likely be able to point to significant tax increases for individuals in 2027

The updated version of the tax bill also would make more businesses eligible for a new special deduction, double a deduction for teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses and create a tax credit for businesses that offer paid family leave.

Including the health-policy change adds a new layer of complexity to an already labyrinthine tax debate. Republicans have been speeding ahead, powered by a political imperative to reach a big economic-policy goal. So far, in their effort to overhaul the tax code, they have made progress in overcoming internal frictions over deficits, taxes on the wealthy, state and local deductions, child tax credits and business taxation. But they haven’t solved all those challenges yet, and Tuesday’s move adds health care to that list.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he was confident in the tax bill’s chances. He contrasted it with the effort to repeal the ACA outright earlier this year. “Every meeting I had on health care was like a trip to get a root canal,” he said at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council. “Nobody wanted to be there.”

A federal analysis showed repealing the mandate would increase by 13 million the number of people without health insurance by 2027 and increase premiums. It also complicates the economics of health coverage by shrinking the pool of healthy and younger people who are insured, making it harder to pay for those who end up with big health expenses. All that could spook moderate Republicans who balked at earlier attempts to repeal the ACA because it would raise the number of uninsured.

The repeal, though, would lower the federal deficit an estimated $318 billion over a decade. Moreover, Republican lawmakers have been pressed by President Donald Trump to knock down the mandate, a requirement that conservatives see as onerous and which the president could weaken through executive action even if GOP lawmakers don’t act.

Republican aides cautioned Tuesday that they couldn’t guarantee there were enough votes to pass a tax bill with the health-care provision attached. The Finance Committee aims to finish the bill this week, setting up a vote by the full Senate after Thanksgiving.

Democrats panned the move and pointed to Republicans’ insistence on cutting the corporate tax rate to 20%. “The tax bill is going to hit the American people with a health-care double whammy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), warning that millions of people would lose their health insurance or pay higher premiums.

House Republicans, who aim to pass their own version of a tax plan Thursday, began the day wary of moving too fast on taxes on their own. Among their worries was that Mr. Trump might criticize their effort, as he did during the health-care fight earlier this year. They also worried about whether Senate Republicans would be able to follow through and pass tax legislation, avoiding a repeat of the tensions that doomed their health-care bill earlier this year.

“We just want to know if we’re headed for the same rocks for being the first kid to go to the blackboard to try to spell the word,” said Rep. Mark Amodei (R., Nev.), who has told House Republican leaders that he is still undecided. “After the experience with health care, when we were first to go, it’s not that our product was perfect but it was like, you get absolutely shredded by the folks on the other side of the building, and even some of the president’s comments.”

Still, House leaders said they were confident they would limit defections and pass their own tax bill, which doesn’t address the individual mandate.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) indicated Tuesday evening that the House would wait to see if the Senate can pass a tax bill that repeals the individual mandate.

“We didn’t want to complicate tax reform and make it harder than it otherwise would be,” Mr. Ryan said at a Fox News town-hall meeting on taxes Tuesday evening.

Differences between the House and Senate plan will need to be reconciled in a conference committee if both bills pass.

“I want to support a good tax reform bill in one form or the other here. So I think it’s important we keep the House bill moving,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R., Calif.), who said the tougher vote will be on the final product of a House-Senate agreement. “That’s where the rubber meets the road.”

Other differences between the House and Senate linger. For example, the House bill preserves a $10,000 deduction for property taxes; the Senate bill would repeal that, along with deductions for state and local income and sales taxes. Republican lawmakers had been debating for weeks whether to attach the individual mandate repeal to the tax bill, which lowers corporate tax rates, removes deductions and repeals the alternative minimum tax.

GOP lawmakers said repealing the mandate would mean fast relief to people who don’t get subsidies on the individual market, who otherwise might have to pay the significant premium increases next year.

But the aftereffects could haunt Republicans, and they involve the same concerns that prevented the Senate from passing a health bill. Health analysts warn that knocking down the insurance requirement would roil the individual markets. Average premiums for people who buy private insurance would rise by about 10% in most years of the coming decade, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Republicans pitch it as a tax cut, saying the savings generated by the mandate’s repeal will go to lower taxes for middle-income households. “If we’re talking about doing the right thing for the middle class, we’re talking about doing the right thing for hardworking Americans, here’s a good place to start cutting their taxes,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.).

Focus in the Senate will now turn to Republicans who may be hesitant to vote for a package that raises the number of people without health coverage.

GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona haven’t indicated they would oppose the tax bill over the individual mandate. Both voted against the final Senate effort to dismantle the ACA in late July, along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska). “My concern is that if we combine the health-care issues with tax reform, we make it far more controversial,” Ms. Collins told reporters Tuesday.

Mr. McCain said he needed to evaluate repealing the individual mandate as part of the broader tax bill.

Write to Stephanie Armour at and Richard Rubin at

GOP is shackled to Trump

November 13, 2017

By Juan Williams
The Hill
November 13, 2017

Well, there goes the fake news.

It is real news that Republicans got shellacked last Tuesday in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey.

And it is real news that President Trump’s grip as the party’s leader loosened for the first time since he claimed the White House.

Republican running in 2018 saw the reality of an anti-Trump wave among white suburban voters. House Republicans rely on votes from suburban areas to keep their majorities in states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida.


Republicans currently hold 23 seats in congressional districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 11 in districts she lost by fewer than five percentage points.

The anger at Trump was evident in exit polls conducted by Edison Media Research.

In Virginia, Republican Ed Gillespie won 91 percent of voters who “approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president.” Democrat Ralph Northam won 87 percent of those who disapprove.

In essence, Gillespie had all the Trump voters. But there just weren’t enough of them and Northam won easily, by nine points.

People upset with Trump turned out in big numbers. In fact, exit polls showed one-third of the electorate wanted to send a message of opposition to Trump with their vote for governor.

Now the urgent fear among Republicans on Capitol Hill is a 2018 landslide for Democrats as voters turn on Trump.

The vote in Virginia comes on the heels of Trump’s disapproval hitting 57 percent in the latest Fox News poll.

The president’s support among white men without a college degree is down to 56 percent from the 71 percent who voted for him a year ago. He has lost support among white evangelicals, with 66 percent supporting him now instead of the 80 percent that voted for him. He has also seen his support among independents slide from 46 percent in 2016 to 30 percent today.

Trump’s support among self-identified Republicans remains high at 83 percent in the Fox poll, but fewer people overall are identifying themselves as Republicans.

That sets the stage for the battle to claim the future of the party going into the 2018 races.

On one side, you have Trump and Steve Bannon, his former top political aide. On the other side are the Presidents Bush, both 41 and 43, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) trapped in the ring and ducking punches from both sides.

The fight comes down to a contest between Trump’s anti-immigrant, isolationist, white grievance politics and the Bush policies favoring immigration, free trade and growing the party through outreach to racial minorities.

After last week’s defeat in Virginia, Trump and Bannon quickly threw dirt on Gillespie. Trump said Gillespie did “not embrace me or what I stand for.” Bannon piled on by saying the “lesson” of the loss was that future Republican candidates must avoid campaigning with President George W. Bush and “embrace the entire Trump agenda,” to the point of taking Trump on the campaign trail.

But Gillespie, the former party chairman, did use Trump-like advertising that focused on stirring fear of immigrants by tying them to MS-13 gangs; he did defend Confederate statues; and he did attack athletes kneeling to protest police brutality.

Gillespie lost because Virginia voters rejected Trump’s politics.

The Bush team also punched back.

“This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president,” the younger President Bush said of Trump in an interview for a new book.

“I don’t like him,” the elder President Bush told author Mark Updegrove. “I don’t know much about [Trump] but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being our leader.”

The Bush’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Trump’s White House

“If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had,” an unnamed White House official told CNN. “And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history.”

The split between Bush-style establishment conservatism and Trump populism has already hurt the party with about two dozen House Republicans announcing this is a good time for them to leave.

That rush for the door comes as polls show “voters say they prefer Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives over Republicans by the widest margin in over a decade,” the Washington Post reported before Tuesday’s GOP collapse.

Ryan said last week that despite the intraparty fight, it is too late for his House caucus to do anything but side with Trump on the future of the party.

“We already made that choice,” Ryan said on Fox News Radio. “We’re with Trump. We already made that choice… That’s a choice we made during the campaign, which is we merged our agendas.”

What must Republican congressional candidates be thinking today when their Speaker tells them they are handcuffed to a president who has the lowest approval rating in 70 years? At what point do they ignore the Speaker’s directive, cut ties with the president and strike out on their own?

A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that just 37 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job, while 59 percent disapprove. In the history of the poll, no American president has had a net negative rating so high in his ninth month in office since Harry Truman in 1945.

But Ryan has the real news: Every Republican on the ballot in 2018 will have Donald Trump as a running mate.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.


Unruly GOP Tax Factions Put Senate’s Tax Plan in Jeopardy

November 13, 2017


By Sahil Kapur

  • Groups include fiscal skeptics, tax-cut fans and wildcards
  • Senate leaders will have to corral 50 votes quickly to succeed
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellPhotographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is about to face a legacy-defining test of whether he can keep his unruly caucus in line to deliver President Donald Trump’s coveted goal of “massive tax cuts” in 2017.

He needs 50 of 52 members, and they have a variety of competing demands. Some want to limit new deficits, while others want to deepest tax cut possible; some prioritize family tax breaks while others want to give businesses a boost; some have parochial concerns while others tend to be notoriously difficult to win on major pieces of legislation.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn says he wants a floor vote the week of Nov. 27. That’s two weeks away. Here are the factions McConnell and his team have to navigate:

The Fiscal Skeptics

The tax plan going before the Senate Finance Committee Monday would increase the federal deficit by about $1.5 trillion over the next decade — before accounting for any economic growth that it might spur. That complicates the plan’s prospects among some Republicans.

Tennessee’s Bob Corker, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Oklahoma’s James Lankford have all warned against fiscal recklessness in the bill.

Corker says he doesn’t want a “penny” in new deficits or he’ll vote against the bill. Lankford says it should be revenue-neutral in the first decade and beyond. Both say they’re willing to assume “reasonable” economic growth that would cushion the deficit impact.

After the Senate plan’s rollout Thursday, Flake fired a warning shot: “I remain concerned over how the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt,” he said.

Corker and Flake plan to retire next year, freeing them from political pressure to support their party or please GOP donors.

The Senate plan will change, but for now, one analysis says it would increase the deficit. On Friday, a conservative-leaning policy group, the Washington-based Tax Foundation, projected that plan would boost the deficit $516 billion over a decade, even after assuming economic growth.

The Businessmen

Georgia’s David Perdue is the former CEO of both Reebok and Dollar General. South Dakota’s Mike Rounds is a former partner for an insurance and real estate firm. For both, the business side of the tax plan is paramount.

If any new revenue measures went after businesses to boost offsets, that could be a problem for them.

So far, Congress’s proposal to cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent has gotten the most attention among business provisions. The House bill would deliver that cut next year, but the Senate plan would delay it until 2019. That won’t sit well with Perdue, who has said that “delays on tax would damage our economy.”

“We need to have a sense of urgency like never before in order get this done this year,” he has said of tax cuts.

Rounds said last month that he wants an “equitable” 25 percent tax rate for partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called pass-through businesses — a provision that doesn’t include income limits on which firms get the low rate.

But the Senate plan would go a different route, providing a 17.4 percent deduction for such businesses’ non-wage income. That break would not be available to many types of service businesses — except for those whose taxable income falls below $150,000 for joint filers or $75,000 for all others.

The Cut, Cut, Cut Corps

President Donald Trump is reported to have suggested that the name of the tax legislation should be the “Cut, Cut, Cut” Bill. He might find common cause with Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Texas’s Ted Cruz and Kentucky’s Rand Paul.

All three senators have emphasized that they want the steepest and longest-lasting tax cut possible. Deficits are of less concern to them; they believe Congress should focus on boosting the economy and deal with deficits by cutting spending.
Toomey downplayed the tax plan’s estimated $1.5 trillion cost, saying Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the legislation would lead to “greater economic growth, a larger economy, and therefore, more revenue to the federal government.”

Paul, a libertarian purist who’s not fond of compromise, has called for a tax bill in which “everyone gets a tax cut” — ideally “at least 15% for every taxpayer.” McConnell and other GOP leaders have already said they can’t meet that standard, acknowledging that under a broad overhaul there will be outliers who see a tax hike.

Cruz last month urged his party to be “unapologetic” for tax cuts, arguing on CNBC that “we should be going much bigger and bolder” than the $1.5 trillion limit.

The Family Guys

Utah’s Mike Lee and Florida’s Marco Rubio insist their main tax priority is to double the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000. The Senate plan would raise it to $1,650. Both senators say that’s not enough.

“While we are glad to see an increase to the child tax credit, like the House bill, it is simply not enough for working families,” they said in a joint statement. The two senators also want to apply the credit against payroll taxes as well as income taxes.

Simply raising it to $1,650 costs $582 billion over 10 years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Going higher would only worsen the red ink, unless tax writers find other offsetting revenue.

Would Lee and Rubio scuttle a tax bill if they don’t get their way? That’s unclear, but they have staked out a position, and any retreat would come with some political cost.

“The Senate is not going to pass a bill that isn’t clearly pro-family,” the pair said in their statement.

The Moderates

Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski showed they’re not afraid to deal Trump or Republican leaders a devastating defeat this year when they cast pivotal votes to block an Obamacare repeal bill.

Collins has made a few tax-related demands that have already been met — including no repeal of the estate tax and no increase in the lowest individual income tax rate of 10 percent. But she also said people making over $1 million shouldn’t get a tax cut, and the Senate proposal would cut the top rate modestly to 38.5 percent from 39.6 percent.

Murkowski has said little about the tax effort so far, and she tends to be cryptic about her intentions on major legislation before casting her vote. Republican leaders gave her an enticement in the budget vehicle for the tax debate: a fast-track vote to permit oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Wildcards

Senator John McCain of Arizona showed his vote can’t be taken for granted with a momentous thumbs-down on the Senate floor that killed Obamacare repeal in July. He has a mixed record on taxes, having voted against Republican tax-cut efforts in 2001 and 2003, citing deficit concerns. McCain, 81 and battling brain cancer, has demanded a bipartisan process through regular order on a tax overhaul.

He tweeted Thursday that he’s “pleased” with the tax effort so far. “I’ve long believed we need to fix our burdensome tax system & am reviewing the Senate bill to ensure it benefits the people of #Arizona,” he wrote.

A different kind of maverick is giving Republican leaders heartburn lately, and he’s not even a senator — at least not yet.

Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for a Dec. 12 special election Alabama, is fending off allegations that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl almost four decades ago. The former judge has denied those allegations, and others that he pursued dates with three other teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Recent polls show Moore slipping in the race against Democrat Doug Jones. A loss would cut the GOP’s margin for error in half — to just one senator.

One way to avoid that problem: Get both the House and Senate to hammer out compromise legislation before Moore — or his Democratic opponent — is sworn in.

McConnell Joins Ryan in Walking Back False Promise on Tax Bill

November 11, 2017


By Steven T. Dennis

Mitch McConnellPhotographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The top Republicans in the House and Senate have now walked back false promises about their tax bills’ impact on the middle class.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged to The New York Times Friday he erred when he said in an MSNBC appearance last week that “nobody in the middle class is going to get a tax increase.”

Now the Kentucky Republican says every income group would see a tax cut — on average.

“You can’t guarantee that absolutely no one sees a tax increase,” he told the newspaper.

McConnell joins House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin in walking back their statements on taxes. Ryan had said in a radio interview Wednesday, “So actually, even though there’s a lot of false information out there, everybody gets a tax cut.”

That statement was false, as there are millions of people who would face higher tax bills from the loss of deductions like the one for state and local taxes, which is rolled back in the House bill and eliminated entirely in the Senate bill.

A day later, Ryan’s language changed.

“At every income level, there is a tax cut for the average family,” Ryan said in a statement Thursday, citing a study by the Joint Committee on Taxation.

AshLee Strong, a Ryan spokeswoman, told The Washington Post that he misspoke.


WASHINGTON — Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, acknowledged on Friday that the Republican tax plan might result in a tax hike for some working Americans, saying he “misspoke” days earlier when he said that “nobody in the middle class is going to get a tax increase” under the Senate bill.

“I misspoke on that,” Mr. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in an interview on Friday with The New York Times. “You can’t guarantee that absolutely no one sees a tax increase, but what we are doing is targeting levels of income and looking at the average in those levels and the average will be tax relief for the average taxpayer in each of those segments.”

The Senate bill unveiled on Thursday would raise taxes on millions of middle-class families, according to a preliminary New York Times analysis. The plan would also disproportionately benefit high earners and corporations. Still, middle-class earners would fare better under the Senate proposal than its counterpart in the House, the analysis found.

The Senate Finance Committee bill would, on average, cut taxes for people at every income level. But, as Mr. McConnell alluded to in his revised remarks, those benefits would vary widely within income brackets, depending on the specific circumstances of individuals and households, and many would pay more than under existing rules.

Republican lawmakers have been in a dash to devise — and pass — a tax overhaul that would mark their most significant achievement since taking control of Congress. President Trump and Republican leaders have outlined two main objectives for the rewrite: cutting taxes for American businesses and for the middle class. The legislation reduces tax rates on individuals and businesses, while eliminating some tax breaks to make up for lost revenues. It is meant to accelerate economic growth and increase wages for workers.

Read the rest:

McConnell: Roy Moore should step down if allegations true

November 9, 2017


The Hill

Image result for Roy Moore, photos

Senate Republican leadership is calling for Alabama GOP candidate Roy Moore to step down as the party’s nominee if new allegations of his inappropriate sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl in 1979 are true.
Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released brief statements on Thursday, shortly after The Washington Post published the allegations.
“If these allegations are true, he must step aside,” McConnell said.
Gardner’s statement echoed that from McConnell.
“The allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are deeply troubling,” he said. “If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election.”
Moore has been the favorite to win against Democratic candidate Doug Jones, but the shocking revelations could roil the race.
It’s unclear whether the Alabama state party will stand by the nominee, but Alabama law bars any candidate from withdrawing their name within 76 days of an election. That could present a situation where Moore’s name is on the ballot but he cannot be certified the winner if he wins, according to Alabama state law.
Earlier Thursday, The Washington Post reported that four women have accused Moore of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s.
The 14-year-old, Leigh Corfman said she met GOP candidate Roy Moore when he offered to watch her during her mother’s child custody hearing. Moore, at the time, served as an assistant district attorney.
Corfman, now 53, said Moore asked for her phone number, and that the two met on two more occasions. On the first, the two kissed. During the second, she said Moore removed his clothes, took off her shirt and pants, and touched her over her bra and underpants, according to the account in the newspaper.
This breaking news story is being updated

Senate GOP plan would delay corporate tax cut, protect mortgage interest deduction

November 9, 2017
The Washington Post
November 9 at 1:43 PM
Senate Republicans are forging their own path on the effort to overhaul the U.S. tax code, preparing a plan that would delay President Trump’s top business priority and blow up House Republicans’ carefully crafted compromise on state and local tax deductions.GOP Senate leaders on Thursday plan to unveil legislation that would delay cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent until 2019, four people briefed on the planning said. That’s a major departure from Trump’s insistence on immediate tax cuts that he says are necessary to spur the economy.

The one-year delay would lower the cost of the tax bill by more than $100 billion, and negotiators are trying to preserve as much revenue as they can for other changes. But it could also delay decisions by companies to move back to the United States from overseas or prompt them to hold off on other decisions as they wait for the corporate rate to fall

To try to prevent companies from waiting until 2019 to invest, Senate Republicans plan to allow companies to immediately deduct all capital investments in 2018, the people said.

Some Senate Republicans objected internally to the one year delay, but they were overruled.

From left: Republicans House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Melina Mara/The Washington Post) (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

The Senate approach is much different than that of House Republicans, who are advancing a bill that would lower the corporate tax rate in 2018. But the House leaders are also having problems with the total cost of their bill, which has ballooned beyond the $1.5 trillion price ceiling needed to get the bill through the Senate.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a Bloomberg interview Wednesday that the White House’s “strong preference” would be for the tax cut to go into effect next year, but the White House is not expected to threaten to block the bill over this change, those briefed on the planning said.

There are other notable differences between the Senate and House bills.

The Senate plan would keep the mortgage interest deduction largely intact, capped at the current level of $1 million, according to a Republican official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly. In the House bill, people would only be allowed to deduct interest payments on their first $500,000 worth of home loans, a proposal that generated fierce opposition from the housing industry.

The Senate plan would also eliminate a provision that allows people to deduct state and local taxes on their federal tax returns. This change would raise around $1 trillion in revenue over 10 years and help Republicans offset other components of their tax bill, such as the lower tax rates they plan to pursue for businesses and individuals.

But it would also disproportionately affect residents of high-tax states like New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois — complicating House Republicans’ efforts to unite members behind their plan.

House tax legislation authors initially planned to entirely eliminate the state and local deduction in their tax bill, but after GOP lawmakers from such states revolted, a compromise was reached. The current House bill would now allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes but no longer allow state income tax deductions — a deal that was able to win over lawmakers from high-tax districts.

The Senate has very few GOP members from states with high state and local taxes, as such states tend to go Democratic in statewide elections.

The proposal to eliminate that deduction in the Senate bill would only apply to individuals and families, whereas businesses would still be allowed to deduct state and local taxes, as these would be protected as a business expense. Such a difference could further inflame Democrats, who have criticized the GOP tax cut effort as offering too many benefits for companies and stripping benefits away from individuals and families.

Among other differences, the Senate bill will retain seven income brackets for families, while the House bill proposes collapsing the existing seven brackets down to four.

The Senate bill would also continue allowing people to claim a tax credit for adopting children, to deduct payments on student loan interest and to deduct some medical expenses — a provision dropped from the House plan that could lead to significantly higher taxes for many households, particularly for the elderly.

The new Senate measure brings the broad GOP tax cut effort into sharper focus. Republicans are trying to rush a tax bill into law with little debate because they want to prove to voters they can deliver on major campaign promises before the end of the year.

They have also said a giant tax cut bill will spur more economic growth, add jobs and boost wages.

But the proposed tax plans would also slash a number of tax breaks used by families and businesses and — according to numerous estimates — add at least $1.5 trillion to the federal debt, which could create a drag on economic growth.

The House bill would immediately cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, offer families a five-year “flexibility credit” of $300 per parent, and expand the child tax credit. It would also collapse the seven income tax brackets paid by families and individuals down to four brackets, only taxing income above $1 million at the highest rate of 39.6 percent.

The House and Senate must pass matching bills before they can send the measure to President Trump to sign into law.

Republicans control 52 votes in the 100-seat Senate, meaning they can only lose two members if they want to pass a bill without Democratic support. A 50-50 tie would go to Republicans, as Vice President Pence would cast the tiebreaking vote.

It’s because of that delicate majority that many White House officials expect a tax bill — if it eventually becomes law — to more closely resemble the Senate bill. Senate Republicans will work to resolve differences among themselves in the next few weeks, but major changes made in the House could upend any agreement.

Senate lawmakers also must grapple with strict rules that regulate how a tax-cut bill is designed. To avoid a filibuster from Democrats, Republicans must write a bill that does not add more than $1.5 trillion to the debt over 10 years.

Republicans, such as Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and James Lankford (Okla.), have said they would not support a tax plan that adds too much to the debt, creating a bloc of votes that would be able to kill the bill if they aren’t appeased.