One more House vote will send tax bill to Trump

Paul Ryan is pictured. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

GOP congressional leaders and President Donald Trump were already doing victory laps in the morning, just hours after the Senate cleared the package of steep corporate and individual tax cuts and other far-reaching revisions to U.S. tax law. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

Republicans were already celebrating Wednesday over long-sought legislative win.

The House is set to cast the final vote on a massive, $1.5 trillion tax overhaul Wednesday afternoon, allowing Republicans to say they kept one of their top campaign promises.

GOP congressional leaders and President Donald Trump were already doing victory laps in the morning, just hours after the Senate cleared the package of steep corporate and individual tax cuts and other far-reaching revisions to U.S. tax law.

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“I just feel so passionately that this is gonna get people from welfare to work, it’s gonna get people higher wages, better jobs, it’s gonna help put the American economy in the lead again in the global economy,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on “Fox & Friends.”

Trump tweeted that the legislation would lead to “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” while slamming critics of the bill.

“This is truly a case where the results will speak for themselves, starting very soon,” he wrote.

But Democrat predict most of the benefits will flow to the wealthy, and that Republicans will carry the overhaul into the 2018 election as a liability.

The Senate cleared the legislation on a 51-48 vote in the early morning hours Wednesday. The House had approved the bill on Tuesday, but it has to vote again after the Senate was forced to remove education-related provisions that were ruled out of order under strict budget rules Republicans are using to short-circuit a Democratic filibuster.

“From a Republican point of view, this is as good as it gets and we’re more than happy to take our argument [for the tax bill] to the American people in an election contest,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview with POLITICO before the chamber’s vote.

Exactly when Trump will sign the bill was an open question Wednesday. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn suggested that Trump could hold off until Republicans waive a mandatory budget rule to cut Medicare and other government programs that would otherwise go into effect due to the deficit increase caused by tax cuts.

If Republicans are able to waive the rule in year-end funding legislation lawmakers are expected to turn to next this week, “we will sign the tax bill this year,” Cohn said at an event hosted by Axios.

White House Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there would be a “bill passage event” at the White House at 3 p.m. with members of the House and Senate.

“This is not a signing event as the bill would still need to be enrolled and that will happen at a later date. We will keep you posted on details as they are confirmed,” she said.

The swift pace of final action underscores Republicans’ determination to wrap up the tax bill by their self-imposed year-end deadline and before Democrat Doug Jones is seated as Alabama’s new senator. Republicans also need to turn to other matters this week, notably keeping the government running beyond a Friday deadline.

Getting the bill into law will give Republicans the kind of major legislative victory that has eluded them all year, despite the fact that they control both Congress and the White House. Their effort to repeal Obamacare, for instance, collapsed amid intra-party acrimony.

But Democrats vowed to continue hammering away at the Republican plan as a handout to the rich.

“The bill provides crumbs and tax hikes for middle-class families in this country, and a Christmas gift to major corporations and billionaire investors,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “How can Republicans defend this? The only people who want it are their very wealthy paymasters.”

House Republicans were largely united on the bill in Tuesday’s vote, a departure from the usual drama in the chamber over major legislation, which often gets tripped up by hardline conservatives.

Still, 12 House GOP lawmakers voted against the bill, all but one from high-tax New York, New Jersey and California. They objected to how the legislation scaled back a state and local tax writeoff, which they complained would mean tax hikes for many of their constituents.

The legislation would be the biggest tax rewrite in decades, and would slash the corporate tax rate for the first time in 30 years, overhaul the taxation of both small and large businesses and reduce rates on individuals.

With an eye toward next year’s midterm elections, Republicans are emphasizing the millions – 80 percent of taxpayers, according to the independent Tax Policy Center – who would see a tax cut next year. The average break would total $2,100, the group said Monday, though the benefits would vary widely by income.

Democrats are emphasizing how much of the cuts would accrue to the highest earners along with the minority of taxpayers – about 5 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center – who would pay more next year under the plan.

Americans are broadly skeptical of the tax plan.

One new poll shows low overall public support for the bill, but strong backing among Republicans. Only 33 percent of all respondents to a CNN poll released Tuesday supported the plan, but among just Republican respondents support stood at 76 percent. Democratic opposition was overwhelming: 89 percent.

Republicans got slightly better news from a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. The survey shows 42 percent of voters support the legislation and 39 percent oppose it, with another 18 percent undecided.

McConnell dismissed the polling.

“If we can’t sell this to the American people we ought to go into another line of work,” he said after the Senate vote. “I think it’s a little easier to sell that you have more money in your pocket than the government running the health care system.”

Lawmakers are sure to continue battling over the legislation long after Trump inks it into law.

The plan would make the government’s budget outlook substantially worse, adding $1.456 trillion to a debt that’s already nearly doubled over the past decade. Federal red ink is now at the highest levels it’s been since the government was paying down its World War II debts, and that’s sure to stoke calls to rein in the deficit.

Democrats are already accusing Republicans of using the worsening debt as a pretext for controversial cuts in government entitlement programs.

What’s more, much of the Republican plan is only temporary, with many provisions beginning to expire after next year. Most of the individual breaks would be gone by 2026, ensuring ongoing battles over their fate, much like lawmakers wrestled for years over what to do with George W. Bush’s tax cuts or their annual practice of extending dozens of expiring tax breaks.

The plan may also alter Republicans’ relationship with the IRS. For years they’ve beaten up on the tax agency, yet they are now relying on it to implement their proposal. In section after section, their plan delegates authority to the IRS to figure out the details of how the provisions would work, an increased workload that will make it harder for lawmakers to continue pounding on the agency politically and slashing its budget.

For taxpayers, the bill will mean major – and sudden – changes in policy, most of which will take effect on New Year’s Day. The bill would hit urban areas particularly hard through cuts to the mortgage interest deduction, a long-standing break for state and local taxes, subsidies for public transportation, and a key funding method for roads and other public projects.

But because the bill was largely written in secret – a final draft was only released last Friday – tax experts are still poring through the legislation trying to understand the changes.

Cristiano Lima, Colin Wilhelm, Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade and Michael Stratford contributed to this report.

E! News host leaves network after learning she was paid half of male co-host’s salary

A host on E! television has left the network over a pay disparity between herself and her male co-host.

Catt Sadler, who has been with the network for more than a decade, wrote in a post on her personal blog that she left after recently learning that her co-host’s salary was nearly double her own.

Sadler, who was a host for E! News, was tapped by the network to also co-host their two-hour daytime show “Daily Pop.” She wrote in her post that around the same time, an E! executive alerted her to the pay disparity and that she learned the details after the network offered to renew and extend her contract.

“I learned that he wasn’t just making a little more than I was,” Sadler wrote. “In fact, he was making close to double my salary for the past several years.”

Sadler wrote that she requested pay that matched “what I know I deserve,” and was denied.

She added that she started at the network at the same time as her co-host, whom she said she refers to as her “T.V. husband.” She co-hosted the show with Jason Kennedy, but did not name him in the post.


“I have two decades experience in broadcasting and started at the network the very same year as my close friend and colleague that I adore,” she wrote. “But how can I operate with integrity and stay on at E if they’re not willing to pay me the same as him? Or at least come close?

In her post, Sadler commended other women who have come forward in 2017 to “speak their truth,” and that she feels she has a duty to “be an agent for change.”

“Females refuse to remain silent on issues that matter most because without our voices, how will we invoke lasting change?” she wrote. “How can we make it better for the next generation of girls if we do not stand for what is fair and just today?”

E! released a statement on Tuesday saying that they compensate employees fairly.

“E! compensates employees fairly and appropriately based on their roles, regardless of gender,” a company spokesperson said, according to ABC News. “We appreciate Catt Sadler’s many contributions at E! News and wish her all the best following her decision to leave the network.”

Mar-a-Lago hikes New Year’s Eve party ticket prices

President Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump are pictured. | AP

Then president-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania Trump arrive for a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. on Dec. 31, 2016. | Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump usually attends the event at his private Florida club.

Partying with President Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve is getting more expensive.

Ticket prices for the annual Dec. 31 bash at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in South Florida are going up to $600 for dues-paying members and $750 for their guests, according to members of the private Palm Beach club. Last year’s tickets went for $525 for members and $575 for guests.

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The lavish party in the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom and the surrounding grounds has plenty of perks, including a red-carpet entrance, a multi-course meal, a popular cover band and the chance to meet celebrities—Sylvester Stallone and Fabio were there to welcome in 2017—as well as the president himself.

“I’ve been to a lot of black tie events. This was a different feeling,” said Lynn Aronberg, the owner of a Palm Beach public relations who attended last year’s event as a guest and got pictures with both the then-president-elect and incoming first lady. “It was the best event I’ve ever been to.”

Last December, Trump staffers defended Mar-a-Lago selling tickets for the event at a time when Trump was still working on a plan to address ethics concerns associated with becoming president while owning a vast real estate, hotel, golf and branding enterprise. The 2017 event was a sell-out, and one Mar-a-Lago member said this year’s party is nearly booked up too.

Officials at the White House and Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment about the 2018 New Year’s Eve party.

Bobby Burchfield, the Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser, said in an interview Tuesday that while he had not been consulted about the Dec. 31 event, he wasn’t bothered by the arrangement.

“I personally don’t see any issues that are raised,” he told POLITICO. “It’s not a campaign event. It’s a normal business New Year’s Eve party.”

And, he said, an increase in ticket prices also shouldn’t be a surprise. “In this economy, we’re seeing prices for a lot of things go up,” he said.

Trump is expected to depart at the end of the week for his Christmas break in South Florida – and the Palm Beach Post reported Tuesday that First Lady Melania Trump and 11-year old son Barron are already at Mar-a-Lago.

Details on the president’s New Year’s Eve plans remain under wraps, though members and frequent club guests say they don’t expect Trump and his family would break with their long-standing tradition of attending the Mar-a-Lago party.

“Usually, this time of the year, he’s there all the time,” said Debbie Berman, a Mar-a-Lago member.

Last year, more than 800 New Year’s Eve partygoers dined on “Mr. Trump’s Wedge Salad” and then had courses of wild mushroom & Swiss chard ravioli, sliced tenderloin and pan-seared sea bass, followed by baked Alaska and crème anglaise for dessert. A breakfast buffet followed after midnight, according to the Trump transition media pool report.

Social media postings from the 2017 party – compiled by the Palm Beach Post – showed a tuxedo-clad Trump dancing with his wife. The president-elect also addressed the paying attendees. “All I can tell you is, we are going to do a good job,” Trump said, according to the New York Post.

Steve Levine, the co-owner of Jose Graterol Designs of Miami, said he’s working on decorations for the 2018 Mar-a-Lago party, his third consecutive year. There won’t be any presidential or patriotic themes; instead, the floral arrangements and other decorations will feature shades of gold, silver and white, he said.

Entertainment for this year’s event is again expected from Party on the Moon, a cover band whose biography page says it has performed at several previous Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve parties, as well as President Barack Obama’s inaugural ball and at NFL quarterback Eli Manning’s wedding.

At Mar-a-Lago, members have seen several changes since the club’s owner won the presidency. New initiation fees doubled to $200,000 after Trump’s election. This season, annual dues also increased $1,000, to $15,000. Members are also being told they can only bring two guests to the club at any one time, while dinner reservations can’t be made more than two weeks in advance.

Trump’s politics have also sparked a political divide at the club. The Palm Beach Post has counted 20 charity functions that have left Mar-a-Lago since last season following the president’s controversial comments earlier this summer about a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Now it’s just kind of strange,” said Aronberg, who will be attending a different Palm Beach party for New Year’s Eve but does have plans to attend two other charity events at Mar-a-Lago in January.

“People who go there if you’re a Democrat you don’t talk about it. If you’re a Republican, it’s a given you’re going.”

Crunch time arrives for Congress to avert shutdown

With just 72 hours to avert a government shutdown, House Republican leaders must convince their fractured caucus to swallow another spending bill that shelves the problem for a few more weeks.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to keep the government funded past Friday now involves a simple funding extension through Jan. 19 — a last-minute course reversal that is certain to roil the caucus’ most conservative flank as well as defense hawks.

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House Democrats say they will refuse to back to the bill, giving Ryan and his deputies an extremely tight margin to clear the bill on the floor Thursday.

GOP leaders will have to sell the strategy to their skeptical conference — and fast — to avoid a fiscal showdown, two days after the party’s historic vote to overhaul the tax code.

As recently as Tuesday morning, the House GOP planned to pass a spending bill that would deliver a huge boost to the Pentagon while holding all other domestic budgets in flux, in a defiant attempt to jam the Senate.

Even as top Senate Republicans called that bill dead on arrival, House leaders endorsed the gambit as a way to rally Republican votes for an otherwise unpopular stopgap funding bill. At the same time, Ryan and his deputies could keep conservatives in line on the tax bill by sticking to their preferred strategy in the spending fight.

But House GOP leaders abruptly pulled that plan late Wednesday after warning signs about its level of support.

One major trouble spot was a massive $81 billion disaster aid package that was slated to be attached to the funding bill.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday that the disaster package would be merged to this week’s spending bill, though the 184-page bill had been unveiled only hours before.

The last-minute addition was needed to win over dozens of Republicans from Texas, Florida and Louisiana who had demanded funding before leaving for Christmas. Without the aid, they threatened to tank any spending bill.

Some House conservatives, however, balked at the price tag and dug in with their demands for at least some spending cuts to help offset the costs. Congress is on track to spend $132 billion in emergency funding this year alone on disaster recovery.

House GOP leaders are now planning to hold a separate vote on the hurricane and wildfire measure, which would be the largest single disaster outlay in U.S. history.

As a standalone, the disaster package is almost certain to pass with bipartisan support. Most House Democrats are likely to back the bill, even as some complain that storm-stricken Puerto Rico deserves more relief. Other Democrats argue they were left out of the bill-writing process.

That vote is also expected on Thursday, along with another separate vote to reauthorize so-called Section 702 spying powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. At least some Democrats are likely to back that bill, which has been opposed by many of the House’s libertarian members.

The trickiest vote on Thursday, by far, will be the House’s stopgap spending bill, which must be sent to the Senate and signed by the president by Friday at midnight.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee are certain to oppose the bill, after warning for weeks that they’d oppose another stopgap spending bill.

Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, have personally made their case against the short-term bill in multiple meetings on Capitol Hill this fall.

The new plan will also be a tough sell for many House conservatives, who have declared themselves ready for a funding brawl with their Senate counterparts even as the days tick down to Christmas.

“If they’re willing to fight for me, the men and women in uniform, then I should be willing to fight for them,” Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) told reporters on Tuesday.

Even if House GOP leaders can sell the package to their members, rank-and-file Republicans are increasingly uneasy about what bill they may get back from the Senate.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Tuesday that the upper chamber is planning to load up this week’s must-pass spending bill with a spate of “must-do” policy items.

That includes contentious provisions like Obamacare subsidies and those Section 702 surveillance powers — both sure to lose votes from House Republicans.

The Senate would also add broadly bipartisan initiatives like funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, disaster recovery dollars and veterans’ health care.

The Senate GOP’s funding strategy, which has been buried amid the furious scramble for a tax bill, threatens an eleventh-hour showdown with the House.

Obamacare is likely the biggest sticking point.

The House and Senate have been on a collision course for weeks, after Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) promised moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that he would prop up the health care law in exchange for her vote on tax reform.

House conservatives have rejected the idea outright.

“There are certain things, in my view, that are unacceptable. It would be very hard for me to vote for something that has the Senate position on the [health] insurance fund issue,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Tuesday.

The playbook from now until Friday is murky even to the chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

When asked what the Senate might send over this week to avert a shutdown, Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) said: “Literally, we don’t know. I can’t make up anything new.”

Nadler wins top Democratic post on Judiciary Committee

Rep. Jerry Nadler is pictured. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Jerry Nadler won a decisive victory over Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) in a caucus-wide election Wednesday morning. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Democrats have tapped New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler as their next leader on the Judiciary Committee, the panel that would potentially initiate impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump if Democrats win back the House.

Nadler won a decisive victory over Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) in a caucus-wide election Wednesday morning. Lofgren, a former immigration lawyer, is the second-most senior member on the panel behind Nadler.

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“This is a pivotal time, with our country possibly on the verge of a constitutional crisis,” Nadler said in a speech before the vote, according to a Democratic source in the room. “We cannot afford to make this choice based on anything but who is the best person to sit in that chair.”

The caucus voted 118-72 in Nadler’s favor Wednesday. Nadler, who has served on the panel since first coming to Congress a quarter-century ago, was thought to have a slight edge over Lofgren going into this week.

His advantage was further underscored when Democrats on the steering committee voted 41-18 to back Nadler on Tuesday afternoon. There were rumors Lofgren might drop out of the race after that vote, but she proceeded with the secret ballot election Wednesday.

Nadler and Lofgren have been quietly campaigning for the position for months but didn’t expect the election to occur until after the November 2018 midterms. Everything was pushed forward when Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the panel, resigned earlier this month amid sexual harassment allegations.

Reps. Ted Deutch of Florida and Hakeem Jeffries of New York were among the members who officially nominated Nadler on Wednesday. A handful of Democrats, eager to challenge the caucus’ seniority system, tried to recruit both Deutch and Jeffries to run for the position earlier in the process, but the two lawmakers declined.

Deutch, Jeffries and several other Democrats spoke favorably of Nadler, citing his knowledge of constitutional law and leadership on criminal justice reform.

“They gave me a script. I don’t need a script, because I know the man. We are in a fight for the soul of our democracy,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said in a speech before the vote. “I can think of no one better to lead the House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee than Jerry Nadler.”

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a close ally of Lofgren, was among the Democrats who backed her nomination, calling her a lawmaker of “the highest caliber” and touting her decades of work on immigration issues.

“I haven’t had to travel alone … Zoe Lofgren was standing there,” Gutiérrez said. “Just as important as the work you do on your committee is the work you do for your country.”

Lofgren, too, touted her immigration bona fides when making her pitch to the caucus. Lofgren also noted that she would be the first woman to occupy a leadership post on the committee in its 200-plus year history.

“My presence would make a major difference in achieving immigration reform,” she said. “I think it’s very important that Democrats…stand up for people who have been treated unfairly.”

Nadler had the advantage going into the election, partly because he has served on the committee for two years longer than Lofgren. While both members are widely liked within the caucus, Democrats, particularly from minority groups, tend to favor seniority.

Neither Nadler nor Lofgren committed to pursuing impeachment in the runup to the election. But the two did talk openly about what it would take for them to support the process if Democrats win back the House next year.

For Democrats to pursue impeachment, there would have to be some support both from Republicans — particularly in the Senate — and Trump voters, according to Nadler.

“There’s not much point in impeaching a president and having him acquitted in the Senate as happened with [Bill] Clinton,” Nadler said in an interview in his office late last week.

Aside from impeachment, the committee deals with a raft of controversial issues and is home to some on the House’s most partisan members. Other issues within the panel’s jurisdiction include immigration, abortion, guns and criminal justice.