DC NEWS JUNKIE | Tax Overhaul Heading to Conference; Trump Tweet Raises Obstruction Questions
WASHINGTON — Congress this week will start the process for negotiating a final bicameral tax overhaul bill that they hope to send to President Donald Trump before year’s end.
The House will get the ball rolling on Monday when they vote to send H.R. 1 — the vehicle for the tax overhaul — to conference. House Speaker Paul Ryan will name conferees who will work with their Senate colleagues to hammer out a final bill that can be brought to the House and Senate for an up-or-down vote.
The Senate early Saturday morning approved its version of the tax overhaul by a 51-49 vote. All but one Republican supported it. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee opposed the legislation along with every Democrat.
In a press conference Monday in Hartford, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said that under the new tax law as written, homeowners dealing with crumbling foundations will not be able to deduct the cost of repair work from their taxes. Blumenthal added that the removal of that conditional deduction — added only recently by the Trump administration — is forcing anyone who needs the work done to get it done quickly, “maybe as soon as the end of the year,” before the new tax plan takes effect.
Connecticut’s all-Democrat delegation plans to continue their vocal opposition to the Republican-crafted tax overhaul that would provide substantial tax cuts to corporations and wealthy individuals while adding $1 trillion to the federal debt over the decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Republicans argue that the bill will also reduce taxes for many others and expand the economy to the benefit of everyone.
“We have an opportunity now to make America more competitive, to keep jobs from being shipped offshore and to provide substantial relief to the middle class,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer complained that Republicans had made last-minute changes to the bill that made a “bad bill” worse. “Under the cover of darkness and with the aid of haste, a flurry of last-minute changes will stuff even more money into the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations,” said the New York senator.
Among the late changes, Senate Republicans agreed to revise a proposal to eliminate the state and local tax deduction and, instead, agree to the House Republicans’ proposal to allow the deduction up to $10,000. Nick Samuels, Vice President at Moody’s Investors Service, said in a statement reported by Reuters that the change would still be a burden on high-tax states.
“The change to the state and local tax (SALT) deduction would reduce disposable income for many taxpayers, likely outweighing the positive effect of lower federal rates on consumption in many communities and states,” Samuels said.
Trump Tweet Raises Obstruction of Justice Questions
A Saturday tweet from President Donald Trump’s personal twitter account is fueling speculation among some Democrats — including Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal — that the president may have obstructed justice when he fired former adviser Michael Flynn in February.
“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” Trump tweeted.
After reading the tweet, Blumenthal responded on Twitter: “Obstruction of justice in the Oval Office unfolding before our eyes in real time — as Trump seemingly admits to covering up Flynn’s lies to FBI about Russian contacts.”
Trump’s tweet was published a day after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his conversations during the presidential transition with Russia’s U.S. ambassador about sanctions related to the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s outside attorney, John Dowd, has since said that he drafted the tweet.
Blumenthal said that it doesn’t matter who originated the tweet because the message was clearly sent by Trump.
“Trump’s tweets are HIS words — no disavowal from him, no admission of “mistake.” He knew about Flynn’s FBI lies when he fired him, and when he asked Comey to stop investigating, and when he fired Comey too. Stunning evidence of obstruction of justice,” Blumenthal said on Twitter.
Dowd, in an interview with Axios, argued that Trump — as President — cannot obstruct justice.
“(The) President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under (the Constitution’s Article II) and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd told Axios.
Quinnipiac University Professor Scott McLean questioned Dowd’s assertion.
“For the President’s lawyer to say “The President cannot obstruct justice” is a rejection of the views of our constitutional framers, not to mention 2000 years of most prior republican theory. It is nothing short than saying our top elected Executive is above the law,” he said on Facebook.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz also said during an appearance on Fox News on Monday that you cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his Constitutional authority.
“You need clearly illegal acts,” he said — such as witness tampering, bribery, or destroying evidence.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she believes special counsel Robert Mueller is “putting together” a case of obstruction of justice in his ongoing probe into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
UPCOMING ON THE HILL
• The House plans this week to vote on a resolution to temporarily fund the federal government, which otherwise could lead to a partial shutdown of non-essential government services after Friday. The Senate must also act.
• The Senate is scheduled to vote on the confirmation of Kirstjen Nielsen of Virginia to be Secretary of Homeland Security.
• The House also plans this week to vote on H.R. 38, Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which would make it easier for gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
• The House is scheduled to vote on H.R. 3971, Community Institution Mortgage Relief Act of 2017, which would exempt smaller community financial institutions and mortgage servicers from expanded escrow and mortgage servicing requirements imposed after the 2007-2009 financial crisis.
Congratulations to David Lightman, former D.C. bureau chief for the Hartford Courant, who was elected president of the Gridiron Club and Foundation for 2018.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
President Trump: "I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life and I feel very badly…I will say this, Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life." pic.twitter.com/xg8j3hZmGJ— CSPAN (@cspan) December 4, 2017
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