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November 15, 2017

On Tuesday night, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) released the latest version of the Senate tax bill, to be debated Wednesday morning in his committee. Along with eliminating the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate — which would free up more than $300 billion but also raise premiums by an average of 10 percent and result in 13 million fewer people with health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — the new version of the bill permanently cuts the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, from 35 percent, while setting a 2026 expiration date on all tax cuts for individuals.

For the next eight years, the child tax credit would rise to $2,000 per child, from $1,000 now and $1,650 in an earlier version of the tax bill, and trim rates for upper-middle-income people by 0.5 or 1 percentage point. The bill would also trigger $25 billion in immediate Medicare cuts as well as $85 billion to $90 billion in other spending cuts, the CBO estimated, unless Congress votes separately to negate those cuts. The benefits for individuals expire at the end of 2025 so that Congress won't pay for the tax cuts with more than $1.5 trillion in deficit spending, to conform with Senate rules.

It's unclear how the changes will affect the bill's chances. Conservative Republicans will be pleased with zeroing out the individual mandate, but "the attack on former President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement is likely to rule out the already slim possibility of support from Democrats, and the prospect of adding millions to the ranks of the uninsured could trouble moderate Republicans who voted down previous repeal efforts," The Washington Post reports. "Senators concerned about restraining national debt — long one of the top goals for the GOP — may also raise howls about the plan to sunset the individual income tax cuts in 2025. Congress is unlikely to allow a large tax increase on taxpayers at that point, which could mean a big hit to the deficit over the long run." Peter Weber

2:10a.m.

The official Saudi Press Association reported on Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the eldest son of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi to offer his condolences to the family.

On Oct. 2, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and was never seen again. Turkish officials said he was murdered by Saudi agents, and on Friday, Saudi Arabia admitted he was killed inside the consulate, claiming he died during a fistfight. On Fox News Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said it was a "rogue operation," and "the individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority. There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up. That is unacceptable in any government."

The foreign minister said the crown prince and the kingdom's intelligence services did not know about the operation in advance, and that the Saudis do not know exactly how Khashoggi was killed or where his body is now. Saudi Arabia feels the Khashoggi family's "pain," al-Jubeir said, and "I assure them that those responsible will be held accountable for this." Catherine Garcia

1:08a.m.

The Miami Herald on Sunday endorsed Democrat Andrew Gillum for governor, saying he's the "best candidate to pull Florida back to center."

The editorial board has a lot of faith in Gillum, the mayor of the state capital, Tallahassee. Gillum will ensure that "the middle class and working class don't continue to bear the brunt of Tallahassee's misguided spending," the editorial said, and will also put public schools back "in the spotlight," will help those denied health insurance, and will "fight against sea-level rise and the degradation of the environment."

The Republican candidate, former Rep. Ron DeSantis, is "using worn-out fear tactics to win votes," and voters should "really be alarmed at DeSantis' close proximity to supporters and contributors who have made racist comments, especially at the candidate's campaign appearances." In contrast, Gillum has conducted an "all-embracing, optimistic, and engaging campaign throughout the state," the editorial board said, and that's "another quality that speaks well of the state leader he would be."

The board believes that "after eight years of misplaced priorities, it's time to swing the pendulum back, back to a Florida that works for more of us, that builds on its prosperity and that doesn't squander its more precious resources, be they fiscal, environmental, or human." Read more of the Herald's endorsement of Gillum here. Catherine Garcia

12:48a.m.

President Trump has apparently managed to make people very excited to vote in midterm elections. The percentage of voters with a high interest in the election — a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale — has jumped to 65 percent, according to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, the highest numbers ever recorded in the poll. A record-hight 72 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans are very interested, versus 46 percent among independents.

Overall, 50 percent of likely voters want Democrats to control Congress versus 41 percent who favor Republicans, an improvement of 1 percentage point for Democrats since the September survey. Unusually for a midterm election, Democrats fare better among likely voters than the overall electorate, where they hold a 48-41 percent advantage, down from 12-points in the September survey. The percentage of engaged Latino and young voters, two groups that skew Democratic, has jumped by double digits from previous NBC/WSJ polls. Women favor Democrats by 25 points.

"Although Democrats are preferred in the national poll overall, their advantage has vanished in the House districts that matter most," The Wall Street Journal reports. And as Republican interest in the midterms has jumped, so have Trump's poll numbers — he gets his best job approval number to date in the poll, with 47 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. Among likely voters, 45 percent approve of Trump and 52 percent disapprove.

The "blue wave" has run into a "riptide of uncertainty" from the "surge of Republican intensity," said Democratic pollster Fred Yang. Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the poll with Yang, called the election "a barnburner." Republicans are in a better position, he added, but "you've got to look where the tilt is going. And the tilt didn't change." NBC's Chuck Todd says the data point to a "choose your own adventure" election:

The poll was conducted via telephone Oct. 14-17 among 900 registered voters and 645 likely voters, with an overall margin of error of ±3.3 percentage points, ±3.9 points among likely voters. Peter Weber

12:45a.m.

Florida's gubernatorial candidates — Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis — faced off in a debate Sunday in Tampa, moderated by CNN's Jake Tapper, and they touched on everything from race to climate change to school safety.

On the environment and climate change: DeSantis said he "ran in the Republican primary stressing the need for clean water," but he doesn't "want to be an alarmist" on climate change, and "I want to look at this and do what makes sense for Florida." Gillum said when he's elected, Floridians will "have a governor who believes in science, which we haven't had for quite some time in this state." After DeSantis said Gillum wants to enact a "California-style energy policy," he responded, "I'm not so sure what's so California about believing that the state of Florida ought to lead in solar energy. We're known as the Sunshine State."

On school shootings: Tapper mentioned that after the deadly shooting earlier this year in Parkland, Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed legislation that, among other things, raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm, and he asked DeSantis why he said he'd have vetoed that bill. "We are gonna fix it in terms of school security," DeSantis said, adding he's a "big supporter of school security." Gillum said DeSantis was against the legislation because "he is wholly owned by the NRA. He's not gonna stand up to the National Rifle Association."

On race: DeSantis received criticism after he used the phrase "monkey this up" in regards to Gillum and did not return money to a donor who used a racial slur. He said on Sunday he will be "a governor for all Floridians, that's the only way you can do it." Gillum said that throughout the race, DeSantis has done everything "to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin," and the "'monkey up' comment said it all." Catherine Garcia

October 21, 2018

Julia Louis-Dreyfus was celebrated on Sunday as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, becoming the 21st person the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has recognized with the award.

The acclaimed Emmy-award winning comedic actress, best known for starring in Seinfeld and Veep, was praised by 2010 Mark Twain recipient Tina Fey, who lauded Louis-Dreyfus for her "secret precision" and commitment to making her Seinfeld character Elaine Benes flawed. "Julia let Elaine be selfish and petty and sarcastic and a terrible, terrible dancer," she said.

Before the event, Louis-Dreyfus told The Associated Press she remembers when she realized she could crack people up. "The first time I really knew was when I stuffed raisins in my nose and my mother laughed," she said. "I ended up in the emergency room because they wouldn't come out." PBS will air the ceremony on Nov. 19. Catherine Garcia

October 21, 2018

On Sunday, Hurricane Willa strengthened into a Category 4 storm, and is expected to make landfall on the Pacific coast of Mexico by Tuesday.

Willa now has maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, and is about 220 miles south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes. A hurricane watch is now in effect for the shore between Mazatlan and San Blas, and forecasters are warning Willa could produce dangerous storm surge and dump as much as 10 inches of rain in some parts of western Jalisco, western Nayarit, and southern Sinaloa states. Catherine Garcia

October 21, 2018

Over the last month, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has been diligently following up on leads regarding Roger Stone and whether he was in communication with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, during the 2016 presidential election, several people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Sunday.

Stone, one of President Trump's longtime advisers, bragged during the campaign about his ability to get in touch with Assange, and he predicted future leaks from Assange's website. Now, prosecutors are looking at those comments, as well as private conversations he allegedly had with associates about his connection to Assange, to determine whether he knew in advance that WikiLeaks was going to publish emails hacked from Democrats, the Post reports.

In July, the special counsel filed charges laying out how Russian military intelligence officers created the online persona Guccifer 2.0 to spread the hacked emails through WikiLeaks, and used the Guccifer 2.0 Twitter account to exchange messages with Stone; Stone said those conversations were innocent.

Stone told the Post his only connection to WikiLeaks was through former friend Randy Credico, who had Assange on his radio show in 2016. A person familiar with the probe said Credico told Mueller's grand jury that in 2016, Stone told him he had a secret back channel to WikiLeaks. Mueller is also digging into Stone's relationship with Jerome Corsi, a conservative writer for a website centering around conspiracy theories, and whether he was the contact between Stone and WikiLeaks, the Post reports. Catherine Garcia

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