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November 30, 2017
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Senate Republicans started the clock for a final vote on their tax plan Wednesday evening, but among the unresolved demands from GOP waverers is a provision to prevent the bill from adding up to $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years. No serious analysis has suggested the growth from slashing taxes for corporations and other businesses would make up that shortfall, and Republicans haven't offered any evidence. At a Politico Playbook forum on Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that cutting taxes needs to be followed by cutting spending on popular federal programs.

"I analyze this very differently than most," Rubio said. "Many argue that you can't cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit. But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future." He suggested reducing benefits and raising the retirement age for future retirees, so people can prepare for the changes. "Tax reform is the economic component of this equation," Rubio said. "When more people are working, there are more taxpayers and more revenue, but that alone won't be enough. You are still going to have a debt problem in the absence of spending cuts."

The broadly unpopular tax bill — rushed through with almost no debate or expert testimony and zero Democratic input — would have wide-ranging and uncertain effects on all Americans. As AARP noted, the legislation already includes $25 billion in automatic Medicare cuts for next year alone, along with $111 billion in other cuts to federal programs, and it would either raise taxes or keep them the same for 6.3 million Americans 65 or older in 2019 and 10.8 million by 2027. President Trump, who is pushing the legislation hard, promised during the campaign he would not change Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. You can watch Rubio's interview at Politico. Peter Weber

11:15 a.m. ET
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ESPN President John Skipper resigned from the network Monday, citing a substance abuse problem. "I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem," Skipper said in a statement. "I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation, and a feeling of having let others I care about down."

Skipper said the decision for him to resign was made in tandem with the company. In a separate statement, Bob Iger, the chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, the majority owner of ESPN, said: "I respect [Skipper's] candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family."

Skipper joined ESPN in 1997 and became the company's president in 2012. Former ESPN President George Bodenheimer will oversee a 90-day transition period for the company as it searches for a replacement. Kimberly Alters

11:08 a.m. ET
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Venezuela has long been in chaos. The South American country is plagued by a disastrous, multi-year recession and political instability, mismanagement, and corruption. There isn't enough bread, so the government has arrested bakers. There isn't enough food, so the military is trafficking limited supplies for personal profit. Pets are starving, as their owners can no longer spare them food, and, as The New York Times reported in a lengthy story Sunday, children are starving to death, too.

Times reporters conducted a five-month investigation, interviewing medical staff at hospitals across Venezuela. The doctors they spoke with reported a heart-rending increase in malnutrition cases among their youngest patients:

Parents ... go days without eating, shriveling to the weight of children themselves. Women line up at sterilization clinics to avoid having children they can't feed. Young boys leave home and join street gangs to scavenge for scraps, their bodies bearing the scars of knife fights with competitors. Crowds of adults storm dumpsters after restaurants close. Babies die because it is hard to find or afford infant formula, even in emergency rooms. [The New York Times]

Statistical information about the scale of the malnutrition crisis is difficult to find, as the Venezuelan government has attempted to suppress such damaging data. One 2015 report from the Venezuelan Ministry of Health offers a grim hint: It said the mortality rate for children younger than four weeks increased by 100 percent — from 0.02 percent to just over 2 percent — between 2012 and 2015.

Since then, Venezuela's man-made famine has only worsened, but President Nicolas Maduro continues to reject international aid. Read the rest of the Times report here. Bonnie Kristian

10:37 a.m. ET
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A small group of Senate Democrats want Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to walk back his resignation, Politico reported Monday. Franken announced from the Senate floor on Dec. 7 that he would leave Congress "in the coming weeks" after more than three dozen of his Democratic colleagues called for his resignation following allegations of sexual harassment.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was one of Franken's biggest defenders, telling Politico that the Democrats' cornering of Franken was "atrocious." Even if Franken doesn't reverse his decision, Manchin said, "I hope [Senate Democrats] have enough guts ... and enough conscience and enough heart to say, 'Al, we made a mistake asking prematurely for you to leave.'"

Franken was accused of sexual harassment by eight women and said that he would "fully gladly cooperate" with an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into his behavior, but instead announced he would resign after his party colleagues spoke out against him. Manchin was absent from the Democratic chorus calling for Franken's resignation, but apparently some of the senators who did speak out are also questioning their decision; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) apparently told Franken "privately" that he "regrets" calling for the senator to step down, Politico reports.

A third senator, who declined to be named because of "political sensitivity," lamented: "I think we acted prematurely, before we had all the facts. In retrospect, I think we acted too fast." Read more at Politico. Kelly O'Meara Morales

10:29 a.m. ET
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There is a persistent, if evolving, rumor on Capitol Hill, Politico reports, which has captured the conversations and stoked the speculation of members of Congress and their staff: More than 20 lawmakers from both major parties will be credibly accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct before the fervor of #MeToo dies down.

So far, five members of Congress — Al Franken (D-Minn.) in the Senate and John Conyers (D-Mich.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) in the House — have resigned or announced they will not seek re-election after allegations were leveled against them. That tally means three times as many accusations are yet to come if the rumor is true, a calculation that reportedly has Hill staff grilling their bosses about past misconduct to get ahead of potential exposure stories.

Also raising alarm is the possibility of false accusations, such as the ones that recently surfaced against Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "Members who have high-profile elections coming up or just are really out front on a particular issue are now feeling like they may be targets," Kristin Nicholson, a long-time Democratic staffer, told Politico. "The idea that [false allegations] could potentially get through and cause some harm before it's discounted is causing some fear." Bonnie Kristian

10:17 a.m. ET

"Millennials, you just had $1.5 trillion stolen from you," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said on Morning Joe on Monday, referring to the $1.5 trillion the Republican tax plan is predicted to add to the federal deficit, and thus the national debt, in the next decade. "Past Congresses have stolen $20 trillion from you," he continued, citing the current national debt total, "and over the next ten years, they're going to steal another $10 trillion from you. And they're going to die, and then you're going to be left holding the bill."

Scarborough went on to level charges of irresponsibility at both parties, criticizing both for their role in growing the national debt to its present size. Particularly if the GOP tax bill weakens the economy, he mused, it will "turn a lot of people into socialists." Watch his comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian

8:55 a.m. ET

Last week, Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch brushed off the sexual misconduct cases that ended the careers of the network's top star, Bill O'Reilly, and its top executive, Roger Ailes, telling Britain's Sky News that "it's all nonsense" and "isolated incidents," suggesting the sexual abuse claims were "largely political because we are conservative." CNN's Brian Stelter played Murdoch's comments on Sunday, then gave the floor to former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder, who said Murdoch's statements freed her of the silence imposed under her $2.5 million settlement with Fox News.

Fox News will probably sue her, but "I legally have a right to respond if I am disparaged or defamed," Holder said. "What Mr. Murdoch said, in my opinion as a lawyer, not as a victim or a survivor, is that this gives me a legal right to respond," both for herself and the other victims who can't come forward. "If this is political, then let's take these cases to trial," she added. "Let's open it up. You're the ones who wanted to settle. You're the ones who wanted us to be quiet."

Part of the settlement was a lifetime ban from even applying to work for a 21st Century Fox company, Holder said. "Fox News ruined people's lives," she said. Murdoch "ruined my life. I don't have a job in TV anymore because the place he has secured down like Fort Knox allowed abusive predators to prey on women who just wanted to work." Without naming names, she gave some details of her sexual assault, and criticized Murdoch's characterization of what went on at his company. "He said there were cases that amounted to flirting. Let me be clear. I had a man pull out his penis in his office and shove my head on it — that was not flirting, that was criminal."

"It's just pain on top of pain on top of pain," Holder said. Peter Weber

8:28 a.m. ET
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President Trump plans to unveil a new national security strategy on Monday presenting China and Russia as rivals seeking to realign global power in a potential threat to U.S. interests, Trump administration officials said Sunday. Trump's policy statement is expected to reflect the America First themes of his campaign, reversing Obama-era warnings about climate change and emphasizing the economic implications of U.S. foreign policy. "This strategy advances what I would call a principled realism," one official said. "In some ways, the global balance of power has shifted in unfavorable manners to American interests. This new strategy presents a plan of how America can regain momentum to reverse many of these trends." Harold Maass

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