Senate Passes Sweeping Revision of U.S. Tax Code – Siobhan Hughes Updated Dec. 2, 2017 8:52 a.m. ET

Republican-backed plan lowers corporate rate to 20% and reduces individual rates

Senate staff talk on the first floor of the Capitol in Washington on Friday.

Senate staff talk on the first floor of the Capitol in Washington on Friday. Photo: Alex Edelman/Zuma Press

WASHINGTON—The Senate passed sweeping revisions to the U.S. tax code past midnight Saturday after Republicans navigated a thicket of internal divisions over deficits and other issues to place their imprint on the economy.

The bill, which included about $1.4 trillion in tax cuts, would lower the corporate rate to 20% from 35%, reshape international business tax rules and temporarily lower individual taxes. It also touched other Republican goals, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and repealing the mandate that individuals purchase health insurance, which would punch a sizable hole in the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But some objectives, such as repealing the alternative minimum tax, fell by the wayside in last-minute wrangling.

“In the end it all came together and we’re pretty excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said in an interview Friday. “We’ve got a corporate rate at 20% that we think makes us competitive in the world again and provided substantial middle-income tax relief.”

The bill passed 51-49, with all but one Republican voting for it and all Democrats voting against. The sole Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, stated his opposition before the vote, citing worries it would expand budget deficits.

The bill’s ultimate passage would mark a legislative victory for President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans. Mr. Trump has made the tax overhaul a centerpiece of his economic policy goals, focusing on a rewrite of business taxes, which he has argued make the U.S. uncompetitive internationally. The bill could also give lawmakers something to campaign on in the 2018 midterm elections.

Democrats blasted the bill, calling it an unacceptable giveaway to corporations and the wealthy. They also criticized last-minute Republican adjustments and waved handwritten amendments around the Senate floor to show how hastily the changes were being made.

“A flurry of last-minute changes will stuff even more money into the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations while raising taxes on millions in the middle class,” Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the chamber’s Democratic leader, said.

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McConnell says GOP must shore up ACA insurance markets if Senate bill dies- By Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein July 6 at 8:44 PM

The Republicans’ time-crunched effort to pass a health-care bill is hitting a lot of resistance in the Senate. The Post’s Paige Cunningham explains five key reasons the party is struggling to move their plan forward. (Video: Jenny Starrs/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that if his party fails to muster 50 votes for its plan to rewrite the Affordable Care Act, it will have no choice but to draft a more modest bill with Democrats to support the law’s existing insurance markets.

The remarks, made at a Rotary Club lunch in Glasgow, Ky., represent a significant shift for the veteran legislator. While he had raised the idea last week that Republicans may have to turn to Democrats if they cannot pass their own bill, his words mark the first time he has explicitly raised the prospect of shoring up the ACA.

“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” McConnell said. “No action is not an alternative. We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.”

McConnell, who pledged in 2014 to eradicate the law also known as Obamacare “root and branch,” initially raised the prospect of having to work with Democrats last week after he pulled a measure he had crafted behind closed doors. That bill would jettison the ACA’s requirement that most individuals prove they have health coverage, would repeal or delay billions in taxes imposed under the current law and would make deep, long-term cuts to the nation’s Medicaid program.

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Senate Trump-Russia Probe Has No Full-Time Staff, No Key Witnesses Tim Mak – 04.23.17 9:00 PM ET

Senate Trump-Russia Probe Has No Full-Time Staff, No Key Witnesses

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

There are just seven part-time staffers working on the Senate inquiry. Not one of them is a trained investigator. And they haven’t interviewed a single player in Trump’s orbit.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russia’s election interference is supposedly the best hope for getting the public credible answers about whether there was any coordination between the Kremlin and Trump Tower.But there are serious reasons to doubt that it can accomplish this task, as currently configured.More than three months after the committee announced that it had agreed on the scope of the investigation, the panel has not begun substantially investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, three individuals with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast.

The investigation does not have a single staffer dedicated to it full-time, and those staff members working on it part-time do not have significant investigative experience. The probe currently appears to be moving at a pace slower than prior Senate Intelligence Committee investigations, such as the CIA torture inquiry, which took years to accomplish.

No interviews have been conducted with key individuals suspected of being in the Trump-Russia orbit: not Michael Flynn, not Roger Stone, not Carter Page, not Paul Manafort, and not Jared Kushner, according to two sources familiar with the committee’s procedures.

The House just passed two bills that would stifle science at the EPA – Updated by Brian Resnick Mar 30, 2017, 5:10pm EDT

Republicans are using the language of science reformers to obstruct the EPA.

House Republicans just passed two bills that will make it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency to use scientific research to protect health and the environment. And they’ve done so under the deceptive guise of “transparency.”

Over the past two days, the House has passed the “HONEST Act” and the “EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act.” On the surface, they seem noble. They use the same language scientists use when advocating for stronger research practices.

But they’re “wolf in sheep’s clothing types of statutes,” says Sarah Lamdan, a law professor who studies environmental information access at CUNY. “What’s really happening is that they’re preventing the EPA from doing its job.”

First, the “HONEST Act”

The HONEST Act is this year’s version of a piece of legislation formerly called the “Secret Science Reform Act.” Its sponsor is Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology — the same Congress member who, by the way, said that President Donald Trump “might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

The HONEST Act stipulates that the EPA can’t make any assessment or analysis based on science that not openly accessible to the public. Specifically, the text states the EPA can’t cite research that isn’t:

publicly available online in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results, except that any personally identifiable information, trade secrets, or commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential, shall be redacted prior to public availability.

Sounds reasonable, right? If passed by the Senate, it would mean the EPA would have to make all the data it uses in its decision-making freely available online so that public and independent researchers could more easily scrutinize its decisions. For sensitive health data, the bill has provision that would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to redact.

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Senate steps up as House Russia probe flails – By Austin Wright and Martin Matishak 03/29/17 06:45 PM EDT

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered a bipartisan show of force.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Ranking Member Mark Warner update the press on the state of the committee’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election on March 29. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

The House investigation into Russia’s election meddling is in shambles. The Senate is more than happy to fill the void.

As the House probe continued its collapse into a partisan shouting match Wednesday, Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr and his Democratic counterpart, Mark Warner, stepped into the spotlight to present a stark contrast. Their message? We are the adults in the room.

The two senators delivered a bravura bipartisan performance at their first joint press conference, complimenting each other and vowing to bridge their political differences to get to the bottom of what Burr called one of the most important investigations in his 22-year tenure in Congress.

Burr acknowledged voting for President Donald Trump but said his job as Intelligence chairman “overrides any personal beliefs that I have or loyalties that I might have.”

And while Burr said at the beginning of the briefing that he would not answer any questions about the chaos in the House, the North Carolina Republican did not pass up the opportunity for a subtle and indirect jab at House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

Asked whether there’s any circumstance under which he would refuse to share the identity of a source with Warner — as Nunes is doing with his committee — Burr quipped that Warner “usually knows my sources before I do.”

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The Senate Prepares to Send Internet Privacy Down a Black Hole – KLINT FINLEY 03.22.17 5:32 PM

Today, while you’re not watching, the Senate could gut rules protecting your internet privacy.

Last year the Federal Communications Commission passed a set of strict privacy regulations that ban broadband internet providers from selling your browsing data without your consent. Now, while most Americans are watching Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination hearing and Obamacare repeal intrigue, senators could vote as early as today on a resolution to not only reverse the FCC’s action but block the agency from passing similar rules in the future. (The resolution would still need to pass the House and get President Trump’s signature to take effect.)

Even if Republicans spike the Obama-era FCC’s protections, most of which have not taken effect yet, the agency will still have some authority to protect your privacy. But little would stop internet providers from selling your personal data to ad buyers and anyone else hoping to turn a profit by targeting your browsing habits.

Republican lawmakers argue that the FCC’s rules confuse customers because they only cover internet providers and not websites like Google and Facebook. But repealing the them without a new privacy framework in place could create a enforcement vacuum that isn’t good for anyone.

For most of the internet’s existence, protecting users’ privacy has fallen to the Federal Trade Commission. But in 2015, the FCC reclassified internet providers as utility-style “common carriers,” which an appeals court decided the FCC has the sole authority to regulate. With that newfound power, the agency passed stronger rules than the ones enforced by the FTC. If they take effect, broadband providers could not sell your browsing data unless you explicitly opt in. The telco industry hated the order, claiming that it gave the likes of Google and Facebook an unfair advantage. After all, those web giants make billions selling your browsing data by default.

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‘The Senate is coming apart’ – By John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett 02/05/17 07:14 AM EST

Things have gotten so bad in the chamber lately that Chuck Schumer even voted against Mitch McConnell’s wife.

The seats for Democratic senators remain empty as a vote is held for Scott Pruitt's nomination to be administrator of the EPA during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing Feb. 2. | Getty

The seats for Democratic senators remain empty as a vote is held for Scott Pruitt’s nomination to be administrator of the EPA during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing Feb. 2. | Getty

Showdowns, government shutdown threats and “nuclear options” will loom over the chamber in the coming months. In fact, the tumultuous first month of President Donald Trump’s administration may turn out to be the most pleasant period of the 115th Congress.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Total GOP control of Washington should mean that Trump gets everything he wants out of Capitol Hill.

But Senate Democrats — the last line of Democratic defense — are slow-walking the installation of Trump’s Cabinet to a historic degree, so much so that Republicans haven’t even started yet on Trump’s legislative agenda. Republicans will eventually win all these confirmation battles, but it will be time-consuming and ugly.

How ugly has it gotten? Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer voted against the nomination of Elaine Chao for secretary of Transportation. Chao happens to be the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

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The sunset of the Benghazi “scandal”: Endless GOP investigations and no smoking gun – GARY LEGUM

Republicans have come up empty after spending almost 4 years probing Benghazi to incriminate Hillary or Obama

The sunset of the Benghazi "scandal": Endless GOP investigations and no smoking gun

After two years of investigations, hearings, and allegedly spending time on the all-important task of buying monogrammed handguns, the House Select Committee on Benghazi released its final report on Tuesday. Here are some interesting numbers associated with the end of this exercise:

Number of pages of the final report: 800

Number of pages of the final report issued by Congress after investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001: 585

Number of hours the Select Committee grilled former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton live, on national television, about her role in the attacks: 11

Number of times Clinton broke into a sweat as she batted away the Republicans’ inane questions during said grilling: ~0, but thanks for the free campaign ads, folks.

Number of congressional inquiries, including this one, conducted by Republicans into the Bengh#azi attack in the last four years: 8

Number of congressional inquiries conducted into half a dozen terrorist attacksagainst Americans over the last 20 years, including 9/11: 7

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Supreme Court limps to finish – By Lydia Wheeler – 06/26/16 03:00 PM EDT

A short-handed Supreme Court is limping to the finish line.

Getty Images

The court will close out its term on Monday, when it is expected to release its final three decisions, including a challenge to a Texas law limiting access to abortion.

The court has had just eight justices since the February death of Antonin Scalia, a pillar of the court’s conservative wing.

Senate Republicans have refused to allow a vote or a hearing for Merrick Garland, the judge President Obama appointed to replace Scalia. They argue it is appropriate for the next president to name a successor to the court, particularly one who is likely to swing many decisions.

The court has been unable to move forward on a series of cases. The biggest political disruption came Thursday, when a 4-4 tie left an injunction halting key executive actions by Obama on immigration in place.

Democrats have ripped the GOP for the blockade, and hope the issue will help them win a Senate majority for their party this fall.

“This 4-4 decision is clear evidence we need nine justices on the court,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday from the Supreme Court’s steps.

Conservatives said the 4-4 tie on the immigration case should bolster GOP arguments, since Obama’s orders might have been ruled legal by a more liberal court with Garland on it.

The court did not actually offer a ruling on the merits of Obama’s orders, and the 4-4 tie simply left a lower court’s injunction in place.

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What to Watch for in Janet Yellen’s Congressional Testimony – WSJ

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen will testify Tuesday and Wednesday before Senate and House committees, where she is likely to be asked about Brexit and bank regulation, as well as monetary policy.

Source: What to Watch for in Janet Yellen’s Congressional Testimony – WSJ

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