For the week ending December 8, 2017
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A continuing resolution was passed to fund the government through December 22nd thereby extending the schedule to adjourn three days before Christmas rather than December 15th. The passage of the resolution sets the stage for end of the year horse trading since Republicans need Democrat votes to pass a budget. If Democrats get their way the bill will include the codifying of DACA, the Obama program that aimed to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children.
Those negotiations are currently ongoing but Republicans could pass another continuing resolution kicking the debate into 2018.
The repeal of the individual mandate, that provision that required everyone to buy health insurance or pay a fine appears to still be in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act now headed for a Senate / House conference. The thinking behind repealing the mandate is that some who bought insurance rather than pay a fine may need subsidies to meet the premiums and the US saves money by them giving up their policies. What will really happen is that those who paid the fine will be off the hook and those revenues, essential to paying Obamacare’s way will dry up. That is why the CBO calculated that 3 million will lose coverage if the bill passes.
The Tax Cuts –
The bill heads for a Senate / House conference that will produce the final bill after which it must be voted on again in the House and Senate.
Here are the differences to be worked out in conference;
The Senate keeps the Alternative Minimum Tax designed to make corporations and the very wealthy pay a minimum tax despite loopholes. The House repeals the AMT.
The Senate keeps the deductions teachers can take for out-of-pocket expenses. The House repeals it.
The Senate would tax pass through earnings at 23% the House at 25%.
The Senate keeps the 7 tax brackets but juggles the amount when each kicks in. The House has narrowed the brackets to four.
The Senate doubles the estate tax amount. The House repeals the estate tax.
The Johnson amendment that prohibits nonprofits from supporting political candidates is repealed by the Senate and untouched by the House.
Full details on the bill here.
Those investigations –
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after having gotten four indictments and who has now subpoenaed Financial records from Deutsche Bank regarding at least the bank’s relationship with Trump is getting close to Trumps inner circle and his financial dealings that may include Russia. Conservative media has woken up and has taken up the mantle to protect Trump by concluding that Mueller is biased towards Democrats. Such persons as FOX’s Shawn Hannity whose hyperbolic reaction and calls for the firing of Mueller have provided loosely correlated, what might be called, facts in his diatribe against Mueller and the FBI.
The conservative argument is strengthened by recent news that a former Mueller investigator, Peter Strzok sent a text to his girlfriend (also an FBI employee), allegedly spouting anti-Trump comments. Mueller became aware of that and immediately demoted the guy, took him off the case. What excites Hannity and others is that the texts represent political bias and that Strzok was also in the room when the matter of Clinton’s email server was discussed. Apparently two Clinton aids denied knowing about the server but later were found to have lied about that. To Hannity that was reason to charge those aids with the felony of lying to the FBI but they were never charged. To him that is political bias on the part of the FBI. What is not known is if their comments were made under oath or not.
As Mueller focuses in on doing the job he was hired to do, investigate the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, we have reached a point where the conservative media, the House Intelligence Committee and possibly the House Judiciary Committee are not taking up their responsibility to investigate Russian hacking during the 2016 campaign and election but seek evidence that the FBI is biased because Mueller hired some investigators who supported a Democrat. (Mueller, by the way, is a Republican). In the madness that swirls through the minds of Hannity, House Intel Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) and perhaps House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) it is not possible for an investigator who is a Democrat to be objective…especially when the investigative tide turns up evidence Republicans don’t like. Note to the bombastic Hannity; perhaps you are not capable of objectivity due to your political bias but others are, including Mueller and his current staff.
To the moment Donald Trump Junior refused to answer a House Intelligence Committee question about whether or not he spoke to his father about the September 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. Trump Jr’s defense was calling on attorney client privilege. There was a Russian lawyer in that meeting who Trump Jr seems to be referring to but that would not constitute attorney client privilege. That important question remains unanswered but his unwillingness to answer it is telling.
Nunes continues to go his own way despite having recused himself after a curious late-night White House meeting where he was supposedly given classified information that exonerated Trump from collusion accusations. Nunes then took that information to Trump and then held a press conference without informing or producing the documents to his fellow Committee members.
Since then Nunes continued to dig for something that would show bias towards Trump by the FBI. He is now writing his own rules as he said on CNN, “I can do whatever I want, I’m the chairman of the committee.”
He has asked Justice and the FBI for information relating to his imagined bias and they have ignored him. He now wants to hold them in contempt of Congress.
Then we had Trump’s tweet that the FBI is in tatters which he later modified to say the FBI under James Comey was in tatters. FBI Director Chris Wray testified to the opposite. He was then questioned by Rep Louie Gohmert if he had heard anything politically biased from FBI members who Gohmert identified and Wray responded in the negatives.
An effort in the House to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump failed when the motion to table the matter succeeded. The resolution was brought to the floor as a privileged matter by Rep, Al Green (D-TX) and accuses Trump of high misdemeanors primarily making divisive statements. The motion to table succeeded with a 364 – 58, vote with 4 voting ‘Present’.
Not this week. Editorial page will return next week.
The House and Senate are adjourning and will return to work on Monday December 11th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening December 14th.
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