GOP Plan to Overhaul Tax Code Gets Held Up at the Border – By  Richard Rubin Updated Feb. 7, 2017 11:42 a.m. ET


Linchpin of potential legislation is a concept known as ‘border adjustment,’ which is splitting the business world into competing camps

Foreign-auto dealers worry a border-adjusted tax would force them to raise prices and hurt sales. Above, a salesman at Jack Taylor's Alexandria Toyota in Virginia.

Foreign-auto dealers worry a border-adjusted tax would force them to raise prices and hurt sales. Above, a salesman at Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota in Virginia.Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick for The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON—Republicans see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul the U.S. tax code. Just weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, they are getting a taste of why such attempts are always confounding—every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.

A linchpin of the House Republicans’ tax plan, an approach called “border adjustment,” has split Republicans and fractured the business world into competing coalitions before a bill has even been drafted.

A border-adjusted tax would impose a levy on imports, including components used in manufacturing, and exempt exports altogether. Opposing it are retailers, car dealers, toy manufacturers, Koch Industries Inc., oil refiners and others that say it would drive up import costs and force them to raise prices.

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Cancer Survivor and Former Republican Tells Paul Ryan Obamacare Saved His Life


“I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart.”

A former Republican who once worked for the Reagan and Bush campaigns confronted House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday, asking why the GOP is seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a serious replacement plan. The moment came during a CNN town hall event, where Jeff Jeans revealed that like Ryan, he too once opposed the health care law.

“When it was passed, I told my wife we would close our business before I complied with this law,” Jeans said. “Then at 49, I was given six weeks to live with a very curable type of cancer. We offered three times the cost of my treatment, which was rejected. They required an insurance card.”

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m standing here today.”

As Ryan attempted to respond, insisting Republicans are working to replace Obamacare with “something better,” Jeans interjected to publicly express his gratitude to the president.

“I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.”

Hours before the televised event, Republicans took a major step at dismantling Obamacare. On Friday morning, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted in support of repeal efforts:

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Inside the House GOP ethics debacle – By Rachael Bade, John Bresnahan and Kyle Cheney


A surprise move by a group of House Republicans to gut an independent ethics office caught leaders flatfooted — and sparked a national backlash.

Just hours after Republicans voted to gut the House’s independent ethics office, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s phone started lighting up with calls and texts.

The California Republican had tried to warn his colleagues about the political risks of defanging the Office of Congressional Ethics during a closed-door, secret ballot roll call Monday night. And after that vote, a number of lawmakers who agreed with McCarthy raised serious concerns about approving the controversial pitch in a public vote the next day.

By early Tuesday morning, McCarthy, Speaker Paul Ryan and the rest of GOP leadership realized the proposal was about to tank the entire House rules package — and implode the first day of the GOP-led Congress. They convened an emergency closed-door conference meeting around noon to discuss removing the ethics provision — but it was too late. Donald Trump had tweeted his disapproval, and the public outcry had risen to such a crescendo that all anyone wanted to talk about was an obscure House office few people had ever heard of just 24 hours before.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who added that the ethics snafu was an unforced error. “Sometimes people have to learn the hard way.”

House Republican’s push to neuter the OCE on the first day of a new Congress turned into a major public relations fiasco after the press, the public and president-elect himself came out against the move Tuesday. Trump, after all, ran on a platform of “draining the swamp” of an all-too-cozy Washington — a pitch that didn’t mesh well with the proposal to rein in oversight of lawmakers’ ethical issues.

So the opening of the 115th Congress, which was supposed to center on Obamacare repeal and GOP unity, ended up being being overwhelmed by another issue. That Ryan was re-elected speaker on the same day with only one Republican defection — a positive sign for a GOP leader who’s faced restive conservatives in the past — became a mere afterthought, for example.

Republican leaders vowed to revisit the issue over the summer, although Tuesday’s problems could provide a lesson. Given that they control all of the levers of power in D.C., Democratic resistance won’t provide the political cover it used to over the last eight years. Washington belongs to Republicans — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“I think a move in that direction would be bad policy and bad politics,” said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who blasted the refoms. “It’s probably not the way you want to start out [the new Congress].”

A number of Hill Republicans have been seeking to curb the powers of the ethics watchdog for years. Privately, they say the office is too aggressive, pursues baseless anonymous tips and has become an unfair burden, both financially and politically, on lawmakers. Each time members approached ex-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about the matter, he deferred, saying this is something that should be done a bipartisan basis. But bipartisan reforms never materialized.

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Don’t ignore the lame duck. Policy fights are raging in Congress that will affect millions. – Updated by Jeff Stein Dec 2, 2016, 2:30pm EST


Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)


Mitch McConnell has led the opposition to a bill that would rescue the pension funds of tens of thousands of coal miners. If Congress fails to act, the pensions are set to expire at the beginning of 2017. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

There’s less than two months left until the Republican Party takes complete control of the government on January 20, 2017.

But Washington won’t simply be at a standstill until then. What happens in Congress in the time President Obama has left — during what’s known as the “lame-duck session” — will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of Americans.

At stake is the safety of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the pensions of thousands of laid-off coal miners throughout Appalachia, the biggest health reform package since Obamacare, and the paychecks of all US troops — and that’s during what’s considered a relatively uneventful lull in the legislative chambers.

Perhaps just as importantly, the next seven weeks are when Democrats will lay the groundwork for the much bigger and more critical struggle against the soon-to-be empowered GOP. Where congressional Democrats decide to fight now — and who emerges as leading advocates of the opposition — will shape how they’ll try to stop the Republican Party in the next session.

Here is a look at five of the most important fights in the lame-duck Congress — and how they’ll influence the much bigger battles looming around the corner.

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Another GOP rep refuses to say whether he’ll back Ryan as Speaker – By Scott Wong – 11/04/16 10:28 PM EDT


Rep. Mike Pompeo, the Kansas Republican who flirted with a bid for Speaker last year, repeatedly declined to say Friday night whether he would vote to give Paul Ryan another two years as House Speaker.

In a phone interview with The Hill, Pompeo also wouldn’t say whether he believed Ryan would be reelected Speaker in January, or if he would consider jumping in the race for Speaker if Ryan backed out.

Instead, Pompeo said he’ll be entirely focused these next “96 hours” on electing GOP nominee Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans.

Pompeo’s remarks come amid speculation from Republican lawmakers that Ryan (R-Wis.) might soon step down from his leadership post over worries he doesn’t have sufficient support in his GOP conference.

In a radio interview Friday, Ryan rejected that report and insisted that he’s running for Speaker. And top members of his leadership team, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), issued statements Friday saying they supported Ryan staying put.

But the fact that a reliable Republican like Pompeo is withholding his endorsement has to give the Speaker and his team heartburn.

Ryan has frequently clashed with the far-right Freedom Caucus, but Pompeo isn’t part of that band of conservative rebels. Then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed Pompeo to both the special Benghazi Committee and the Intelligence Committee, and Ryan kept him there when he took the reins of power.

What’s more, Pompeo voted for Boehner in past Speaker elections, and he cast a ballot for Ryan in last October’s Speaker vote. If Pompeo ditches Ryan, it could be a signal that more mainstream Republicans are preparing to revolt against the Speaker.

Asked if he believed Ryan was poised to win reelection as Speaker in a Jan. 3 floor vote, Pompeo demurred.

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Cruz’s conundrum: Help GOP save the Senate? – By BURGESS EVERETT 09/13/16 07:19 PM EDT


The Texan, facing his own tough race in 2018, has to decide how hard to campaign for fellow senators he’s antagonized for years.

As Republican insiders began grumbling about his lack of campaign activity, Ted Cruz forked over $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. | Getty

As Republican insiders began grumbling about his lack of campaign activity, Ted Cruz forked over $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. | Getty

The Texan, facing his own tough race in 2018, has to decide how hard to campaign for fellow senators he’s antagonized for years.

With the Republican Senate majority on the line, Ted Cruz has been politically dormant. Few contributions to colleagues, no campaign appearances with endangered incumbents and little talk of how important a GOP Senate is next year.

On Tuesday, that finally changed.

As Republican insiders began grumbling to POLITICO about Cruz’s lack of activity, Cruz forked over $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He did so at the behest of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who Cruz has described as both a liar and a Democrat. But Cruz’s contributions — representing about a quarter of his Senate funds — produced a rare warm moment between the sometime adversaries.

“Thank you, Ted,” McConnell told Cruz after his donation, according to a source familiar with the exchange.

Building some bridges with a Senate Republican Conference that shunned his presidential run could be mutually beneficial for both Cruz and GOP incumbents. He has national name ID and a massive fundraising network that could aid Republicans up for reelection. And it would be helpful for the Texan to have some establishment love when he’s up for reelection in 2018 and, potentially, if he runs for president in 2020.

In 2014, Cruz barnstormed Georgia on behalf of David Perdue, helping him clear the 50 percent threshold and “avoid a very, very costly runoff,” recounted NRSC Chairman Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Wicker said Cruz seems ready to play that role again.

“He understands, like the rest of us, what’s at stake in terms of the [Supreme] Court, in terms of health care policy, in terms of spending levels,” Wicker said. As to where Cruz might campaign this fall, Wicker said: “He and I have not had that conversation, but I wouldn’t read anything into that … I’m sure he’ll be out there.”

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GOP drops hints in budget showdown – By Sarah Ferris – 09/06/16 08:09 PM EDT


Greg Nash

Republican leaders have three weeks to settle a dispute over Planned Parenthood if they want to pass legislation to fight the Zika virus while avoiding a government shutdown at the end of this month.

A shutdown is unlikely but possible given promises from GOP leaders to Florida Republicans that money for the Zika fight would be included in a package to keep the government operating after Sept. 30.

The Zika funds have been held up for months because of a dispute over the funding bill’s language, which would make Planned Parenthood’s chapter in Puerto Rico ineligible for the Zika grants.

Some Republicans are already signaling that they may have to drop their fight over the family planning grants, though that concession could stir another fight with House conservatives just weeks ahead of Election Day.

Neither Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) nor Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has said how he would end the standoff.

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