Hours After Vote, McConnell Defends Senate Tax Bill In Louisville Saturday, Dec 2 2017 

Less than 12 hours after the Republican-led Senate passed its version of tax overhaul legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was back in his hometown addressing the press.

McConnell held a brief press conference at the Galt House in Louisville Saturday afternoon, during which he rebuffed criticism that the bill favors the wealthy.

“It’s almost impossible to do any kind of tax reform in which the people who pay almost all of the taxes don’t get some benefit out of it,” McConnell said. “But in the Senate bill most of the rather wealthy people I’ve run into don’t think they’re getting anything. We did not get rid of the estate tax, we took the top rate down I think less than 1 percent.

“I haven’t run into anybody during this whole tax discussion who’s very successful who thinks they’re benefiting from it.”

The Senate bill is projected to add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. An estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that about $400 billion of that will be offset by economic growth.

The bill passed narrowly — 51 to 49 — in the early hours of Saturday morning. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker was the only Republican to oppose it, joining all 48 Senate Democrats.

Reactions from Kentucky Democrats were scathing on Saturday morning. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth — the sole Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation — called the bill a “scam.”

“Early this morning, Senate Republicans abdicated any claim they had to being the party of fiscal responsibility,” Yarmuth wrote in a statement. “There is nothing remotely responsible about forcing through a closed-door, hastily conceived bill to give tax cuts to the already wealthy and multi-national corporations. There is nothing American or responsible about increasing our deficit by a trillion dollars, jeopardizing the future of Medicare and Medicaid, or forcing working families to pay more for healthcare, homeownership, and higher education.”

Kentucky Democratic Party chair Ben Self used the bill to call for voters to abandon Republicans in 2018.

“This tax bill is a clear indicator of Republican priorities: big, multinational corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent,” Self wrote. “This bill adds over $1 trillion to the national debt, paid for off the backs of Kentucky’s working families who are already struggling for relief. In 2018, we will use our voice in the voting booth to tell Congressional representatives that enough is enough.”

On Saturday morning, McConnell rejected criticism from Democrats that the bill was rushed through and contained significant last-minute changes that Democrats were not aware of. Some Senators, like Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, tweeted pictures of the bill marked up with illegible handwriting.

“Sure there were changes as we moved along. But the core of the bill, everybody was familiar with,” McConnell said. “All the Democrats were familiar with it, all the Republicans were familiar with it. And so the swan song last night, in the middle of the night that somehow they hadn’t had a chance to read it was ridiculous, because there were relatively minor changes to a core bill that everyone had had out for two weeks, and that they had participated in hearings and markups on.”

McConnell said he believes reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill will be relatively quick, and there’s a good chance it will be on President Trump’s desk before Christmas.

Senate Republicans Pass Massive Tax Overhaul Saturday, Dec 2 2017 

Updated at 1:49 a.m. ET

The Senate narrowly approved a $1.4 trillion tax overhaul early Saturday morning following a day of procedural delays and frustration.

The legislation, which would cut the top corporate tax rate to 20 percent and lower taxes for most individuals, narrowly passed in a vote of 51-49. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote against the legislation, joining all 48 Democrats in opposing the sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax laws.

Passage of the tax bill is a significant victory for Republicans who have struggled to fulfill many key legislative promises.

The success followed a dramatic day as lawmakers anxiously awaited a final version of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters early in the day Friday that he believed that there were enough votes to pass the tax bill, but it took Republicans until late in the evening to make sure the bill conformed to strict Senate budget rules.

McConnell’s sudden certainty marked a dramatic shift after a number of Republicans on Thursday threatened to oppose the bill over fears that the steep tax cuts could add trillions to the deficit over time.

McConnell worked around the clock to satisfy their demands, and a number of high-profile holdouts on the legislation said they expected a new version of the bill would satisfy a wide range of GOP demands.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, once one of the firm holdouts because of concerns over the deficit, tweeted he would support the bill after getting assurances from the White House and Senate GOP leaders that they would work on legislation related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which President Trump ordered to be rescinded earlier this year.

 

Maine Republican Susan Collins also announced that she would vote yes after extracting several concessions. The new bill will include her request to allow taxpayers to write off up to $10,000 in property taxes paid to state and local governments.

Collins also says McConnell pledged to support legislation to fund subsidies to insurance companies to help defray costs for low-income consumers. The Trump administration stopped paying those cost-sharing reductions this year.

Leaders also expanded deductions for some small businesses that file their taxes on the individual side of the tax code to appease Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Montana Sen. Steve Daines, both former small business owners.

Johnson said those changes, in addition to a promise that he will have a say in the process of combining the House and Senate tax bills, won his support.

“What I expect is I will have a seat at the table,” Johnson said. “I’m not anticipating offering any amendments.”

To help pay for the pass-through cut, senators plan to increase the proposed tax rate on corporate profits that are earned overseas and brought back into the U.S. The new level in the Senate bill will match the level in the House bill passed before Thanksgiving.

Democrats spent hours objecting to the opaque process Friday as they waited for Republicans to finalize the bill. As the night dragged on, very few lawmakers had seen the legislative text, aside from sections that were being leaked or otherwise shared.

Early in the evening, Hawaii Democrat Brian Schatz posted on Twitter to ask, “Does anyone know a Republican lobbyist so I can get my hands on a copy of this bill?”

Other Democrats complained that the hastily complied bill included amendments that were hand written into the margin of earlier versions of the tax overhaul.

The bill is projected to add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. The Joint Committee on Taxation reported on Thursday that the economic stimulus from the bill would only make up $400 billion of that.

That figure raised concerns with some Republicans, including Flake and Corker, who wanted the legislation to include a trigger mechanism that would force tax increases or spending cuts if the overhaul failed to grow the economy.

That idea was rejected Thursday after the Senate parliamentarian told lawmakers that doing so would likely violate complex Senate budget rules. A number of other GOP lawmakers say they believe the JCT figure underestimates the positive impact of the tax bill.

“This bill will end up reducing the deficit, because there will be economic growth,” Ohio Sen. Rob Portman contended. “I feel very good about the fiscal situation.”

Senators must now go into conference with House members next week to work out differences in the two bills. If they can come to an agreement, both chambers would have to pass the version worked out in conference before it could go to Trump to be signed into law.

McConnell On Tax Bill: ‘We Have The Votes’ Friday, Dec 1 2017 

Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Friday that he believes Republicans now have enough votes to pass their tax bill, and they plan to do so later in the day. This comes after a closed-door meeting at which Senate Republicans discussed final changes to their bill.

“We have the votes,” McConnell declared to reporters, as he exited the meeting, which lasted roughly an hour and a half. 90 minutes and told reporters as he strode down the hallway between his office and the Senate chamber.

The sudden certainty marks a dramatic shift after it appeared the fate of the bill was in doubt over concerns that steep tax cuts could add trillions to the deficit over time.

Following the meeting, a number of high-profile holdouts on the legislation said they expected a new version of the bill would satisfy a wide range of GOP demands.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, once one of the firm holdout on concerns over the deficit, tweeted he would support the bill after getting assurances from the White House and Senate GOP leaders that they would work on legislation related to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which President Trump ordered to be rescinded earlier this year.

Main Republican Susan Collins also announced that the new bill will include her request to allow tax payers to write off up to $10,000 in property taxes paid to state and local governments.

Senate Republicans plan to leave the cut in the corporate tax rate as it stands at 20 percent. They will drop the pass-through rate, used by businesses that pay taxes on the individual side of the tax code, to 23 percent, versus the 25 percent originally planned, according to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. A new version of the bill will also include more generous rules for businesses that decide to begin filing as corporations as a result of tax overhaul.

Johnson was one of two holdouts who demanded increased benefits for small businesses in exchange for their support. Johnson and Montana Sen. Steve Daines, both former small business owners themselves, said they now plan to vote for the tax legislation.

Johnson said those changes, in addition to a promise that he will have a say in the process of combining the House and Senate tax bills, won his support.

“What I expect is I will have a seat at the table,” Johnson said. “I’m not anticipating offering any amendments.”

To help pay for the pass-through cut, they plan to increase the proposed tax rate on corporate profits that are earned overseas and brought back into the U.S.. The new level in the Senate bill will match the level in the House bill passed before Thanksgiving.

The bill is projected to add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. The Joint Committee on Taxation reported on Thursday that the economic stimulus from the bill would only make up $400 billion of that.

That figure has raised concerns with some Republicans, including Flake and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who wanted the legislation to include a trigger mechanism that would force tax increases or spending cuts if the overhaul failed to grow the economy.

That idea was rejected Thursday after the Senate Parliamentarian told lawmakers it would likely violate complex Senate budget rules. Corker has not yet said if he will support the bill but a number of other GOP lawmakers say they believe the JCT figure underestimates the positive impact of the tax bill.

“This bill will end up reducing the deficit because there will be economic growth,” said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman. “I feel very good about the fiscal situation.”

If the Senate passes its bill, senators will go into conference with House members next week to work out differences in the two bills. If they can come to an agreement, both chambers would have to pass the version worked out in conference before it could go to Trump to be signed into law.

This story will be updated.

Watch The Senate Floor Proceedings

In Other News…McConnell v. Moore, 42nd Humana Festival, Lawrence on harassment in Hollywood Friday, Nov 17 2017 

Moore or Less: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finds himself at odds with another member of the GOP this week: Alabama’s Republican Senate nominee, Roy Moore. Last week, The Washington Post reported that Leigh Corfman claimed Mr. Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her in 1979 when she was 14 years old. Mr. Moore was […]

McConnell Says Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore ‘Should Step Aside’ Monday, Nov 13 2017 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama “should step aside” in light of allegations he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl decades ago.

McConnell spoke to reporters Monday after visiting a plant in Kentucky. He says he believes the women who were quoted in a Washington Post story about Moore’s past relationships with them as young women.

Previously McConnell had said Moore should step aside if the allegations were proven true.

He says Republicans are looking at a write-in option in Alabama.

In Other News…McConnell vs. Bannon, Jurich vs. UofL, Kim Davis vs. Romania, best diner in the state, Farris on Lawrence Friday, Oct 27 2017 

You’re Tearing Me Apart!: Factions in the Republican Party are declaring war on one another, as the GOP establishment attempts to head off the anti-establishment surging in the wake of President Trump. CNN reported last week former White House senior adviser Steve Bannon declared “war” on the GOP establishment while speaking at this year’s “Values […]

Kentucky Leaders Respond After GOP Pulls ACA Repeal Tuesday, Sep 26 2017 

The latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act has failed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday announced he is pulling the Republican health care bill.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would have eliminated the mandate that people buy insurance or pay a fine. It also would have done away with subsidies that help people purchase insurance and it would have scrapped the national exchange, Healthcare.gov.

The bill would have dramatically changed the way Medicaid and exchanges are operated – giving a state like Kentucky money to create its own system — similar to the now defunct Kynect. That chunk of money also would have not kept up with actual medical costs over time, possibly costing the state billions.

Kentucky Leaders Weigh-In

This past weekend, the bill was revised to send more Medicaid dollars to Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky and Maine — the homes of senators who had voiced opposition to the measure.

At an event in Louisville Monday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a vocal opponent of the bill, called the last-minute changes “suspicious” and said the legislation still didn’t do enough to do away with Obamacare spending.

“I don’t know that we’ve fundamentally changed anything other than we’re re-shuffling who gets the money and that’s going to make some people happy and embitter other people,” Paul said Monday. He has criticized the measure’s block-granting Medicaid funds, saying that it would “immortalize” spending on the program.

Over the weekend, Graham-Cassidy co-sponsor Senator Lindsey Graham addressed Paul’s concerns in an interview with ABC News:

Third District Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth issued a statement Tuesday calling on Republicans to work with his party on fixing health care.

“After seven years of sabotage, it’s time for Republicans to finally come to the table and join Democrats in working together to improve health care,” Yarmuth said. “While I’m certainly glad this latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end coverage for tens of millions of Americans has collapsed, it’s even more clear to me how important it is that we continue to build on the progress we’ve made.”

Fourth District Rep. Thomas Massie couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, but he tweeted his criticism of the latest bill on Saturday:

‘Plenty of fight left’

During a news conference Tuesday, McConnell said the fight to change the health care system is not over.

“We are not going to be able to do it this week, but it still lies ahead of us and we haven’t given up on that,” McConnell said.

Graham on Tuesday defended McConnell against criticism that the Senate leader didn’t win over stray Republicans, like Paul.

“It’s about the process and the short period of time, and the leader could do nothing about that,” Graham said. “So to anyone out there that doesn’t think Mitch McConnell has not done all he could, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It took 18 months to pass Obamacare. It’ll take a while to repeal it. There’s plenty of fight left in us,” Graham added.

On Sept. 30, special budget rules that would’ve protected the repeal bill from a Democratic filibuster — meaning it only needed a simple majority — are set to expire.

Rand Paul still a ‘no’ on Graham-Cassidy bill; calls amendments shifting Medicaid funds to swing senators ‘suspicious’ Monday, Sep 25 2017 

Sen. Rand Paul told reporters in Louisville on Monday that he remained opposed to the Graham-Cassidy bill expected to be voted on in the U.S. Senate this week, which is billed as another Republican effort to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Paul had already expressed his opposition to the […]

In Other News…McConnell/Trump reunite (sort of), Cardinal football and basketball, Lawrence’s ‘mother!’ gets divisive reception Friday, Sep 8 2017 

Together Again: President Donald Trump tried out a new strategy this week: bypassing his own party to work with Democrats. Reuters says the president has reached across the aisle to reach a deal on the budget, debt ceiling and hurricane relief. The New Yorker says: “Give Donald Trump credit for one thing: he retains the […]

End Of DACA Brings Uncertainty To Thousands Of Kentuckians Tuesday, Sep 5 2017 

Tuesday’s announcement from the Trump administration officially ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — also called DACA — means nearly 6,000 Kentuckians brought to America as undocumented children would be eligible for deportation.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the Obama-era program an “unconstitutional exercise of authority” and announced that the administration would give Congress six months to pass a bill keeping elements of the program “should it so choose.”

Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat representing Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional district, called Trump’s promise to dismantle the program “cruel, inhumane, and harmful to us all.”

“These are people who were brought here as children, played by the rules, and earned diplomas,” Yarmuth said of undocumented immigrants affected by the policy. “If we want to be a country that lives by our ideals, that rewards merit and hard work, it is our obligation to reject the president’s heartless decision.”

The program provides some legal protections to about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants across the country.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 5,848 Kentucky residents had been approved for protections under DACA as of the end of March.

DACA applies to people brought to the U.S. prior to mid-2007 who were no older than 16 when they arrived and no older than 31 as of June 2012.

The program allows young undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and protection from deportation. Recipients could not have felony convictions or more than three misdemeanor convictions.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul echoed Sessions’ argument that the Obama-era executive order was illegal, but called on Congress to come up with a legislative solution that would keep parts of the program.

“There are ways to make sure people who have been here for many years since childhood are allowed to stay,” Paul said on Twitter.

“We should include efforts to reduce and reform immigration in other areas at the same time. Congress will need to address this problem.”

Attorney General Sessions made the announcement Tuesday morning, saying the program “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”

Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said he was “sympathetic” to people who had been given protections under DACA.

But in a statement Tuesday afternoon, McConnell praised Trump’s decision to pull the plug on the program.

“President Obama wrongly believed he had the authority to re-write our immigration law. Today’s action by President Trump corrects that fundamental mistake,” he said. “This Congress will continue working on securing our border and ensuring a lawful system of immigration that works.”

This story has been updated. 

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