Trump and GOP promises about middle-class tax cuts were apparently swamped by ideology, lobbying, math
President Trump makes his final pitch for the Republican tax bill on Wednesday, with Senate and House Republicans aiming to have a final bill ready by Friday. But if Trump plans on touting a tax bill focused on the middle class, as he has been all year, the Republican plan isn't that. In all, The Washington Post says, the bill provides $1 trillion in tax cuts for businesses over 10 years, $100 billion in savings for estates worth $11 million or more, and $300 billion in temporary cuts for all households combined.
If Trump was serious about targeting the middle class and not the rich, he was ill-served by Republicans in Congress, the Post reports, though based on more than 40 public statements and interviews with top White House and congressional officials, "Trump and his top advisers have continuously prioritized corporate cuts." For many reasons — ideological, lobbying, and because Senate Republicans could lose only two votes — Republicans favored corporate tax cuts, too. There were extenuating circumstances, too, as when House Republicans planned to include a $300 "family flexibility credit," the Post reports:
But the night before they would release the bill, when top tax writer Kevin Brady (R-Texas) was trying to sort out the tax changes and monitor the performance of his Houston Astros in the final game of the World Series, they made a major change to this provision, according to a person briefed on the changes. ... Corporations were concerned their tax cut would last only eight years, a limitation that was necessary to keep the bill under the $1.5 trillion limit. Brady agreed. So in a last-minute decision, Republicans cut the duration of the family tax credit in half — ending it after only five years — to make the corporate tax cut permanent. In effect, Republicans handed $200 billion from families to corporations. [The Washington Post]
CNN's Chris Cuomo games out the messy and likely options with Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford
Are you confused about what's going on with the proposed Senate testimony of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says Kavanaugh tried to rape her in the early 1980s? It is a complicated and fluid situation, but CNN's Chris Cuomo broke out the whiteboard on Tuesday night to outline the facts and game out the possible outcomes. For starters, Cuomo said, he doesn't see Kavanaugh and Ford testifying about the alleged incident on Monday, as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed.
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) September 19, 2018
"This is about politics," Cuomo said. The FBI can — if President Trump allows it — and should investigate Ford's allegations, and Kavanaugh should want the feds to clear his name, Cuomo said. An FBI probe would bring a delay, and "if it doesn't happen, if there is no FBI, if the president doesn't allow it, Monday goes away and this is a done deal," he predicted. Why? Republican voters and Trump's base showed in 2016 they were willing to overlook or discount credible sexual assault accusations by several women against Trump, Cuomo said, and given the choice between "a generation of jurisprudence and having the rules of society reflect what they like, versus this woman and her accusation — if they swallowed so many like a bowl of ice cream, what do you think they'll do with just one?" Trump, for what it's worth, seems to agree with Cuomo's assessment. Peter Weber
The Supreme Court is one of the main reasons I got elected President. I hope Republican Voters, and others, are watching, and studying, the Democrats Playbook.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2018
In a joint statement released Wednesday after their two-day meeting in Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to establish buffer zones along land and sea borders and create a joint military committee that will work to ease tensions and prevent any accidental clashes.
Moon said Kim agreed to let international experts watch as North Korea permanently dismantles a missile engine test site and launch pad, and said if the United States takes corresponding measures, he will take additional steps toward denuclearization, including shutting down North Korea's main nuclear complex.
The two Koreas have also agreed to cooperate in sports events, like the 2020 Summer Olympics, and will try to get the rights to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics. Kim vowed to visit Seoul "in the near future," and if he does make the trip, he will become the first North Korean leader to visit since the division of the Korean peninsula in 1945, The Associated Press reports. Catherine Garcia
Texas Republicans got a big boost on Tuesday as retired game warden Pete Flores beat former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D) in a special state Senate election in a San Antonio district that last elected a Republican in the the 1870s. Flores will serve out the rest of the term of former state Sen. Carlos Uresti (D), until 2021, giving Texas Republicans 21 seats in the Senate and virtually ensuring a 19-seat supermajority in the next legislative session. Uresti resigned in June after being convicted of 11 felonies related to a business venture. Gallego conceded at 9 p.m., when unofficial results had him losing by 6 percentage points, 53 percent to 47 percent.
Flores was boosted by strong support from all top Texas GOP elected officials and Republican enthusiasm. Turnout was low, but not for a special election, the San Antonio Express-News reports. The last Republican to represent Texas' Senate District 19 was Andrew Phelps McCormick, who left office in 1879. Flores will be the first Hispanic Republican ever to serve in the state Senate. Peter Weber
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) responded Tuesday night to a letter sent earlier in the day from lawyers representing Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers.
On Monday, the committee invited Ford to testify next Monday in front of the panel regarding the alleged assault. The letter from Ford's lawyers demanded an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh before Ford will talk to the committee, and revealed that she has received death threats and had to leave her house. "Nobody should be subject to threats and intimidation, and Dr. Ford is no exception," Grassley said. "These are serious allegations and Dr. Ford deserves to be heard."
Grassley said as soon as Ford revealed her identity in The Washington Post on Sunday, "committee staff started working to gather facts related to her claims." She has been invited to attend a public or private hearing Monday with the committee "as well as staff-led interviews, whichever makes her most comfortable," he said, and the offer "still stands." Ford's testimony would only reflect her "personal knowledge and memory of events," Grassley said. "Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay."
Grassley also stated that the committee never planned on having Ford and Kavanaugh on a panel together, and that they gave "Dr. Ford multiple dates" for a hearing. Grassley did not explain why, if Ford was given several dates and her lawyers did not respond to the invitation until Tuesday, he announced on Monday that the hearing would take place next Monday. Catherine Garcia
Christine Blasey Ford's lawyers say she is receiving death threats as part of a 'vicious harassment' campaign
Since coming forward with her allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford has been "the target of vicious harassment and even death threats," her lawyers said Tuesday, forcing her and her family to leave their home.
Ford's legal team revealed this in a letter sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday. CNN obtained a copy of the letter, which demanded the FBI launch an investigation into Kavanaugh before Ford agrees to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in order to "ensure that the crucial facts and witnesses in this matter are assessed in a nonpartisan manner, and that the committee is fully informed before conducting any hearing or making any decisions."
Ford sent a confidential letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in July "so that lawmakers would have a fuller understanding of Brett Kavanaugh's character and history," the lawyers said, and she only came forward publicly after details of her letter were revealed. Since Sunday, Ford "has received a stunning amount of support from her community and from fellow citizens across our country," the lawyers said, but also "vicious harassment." In addition to receiving death threats, Ford's email has been hacked and people are pretending to be her online.
Ford, a professor, wants to cooperate with the committee and law enforcement, her lawyers said, but at the same time must take care of "her own health and security." Read the full letter — which includes a dig at senators like Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, who called Ford "mixed up" — at CNN. Catherine Garcia
Lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were teenagers, said on Tuesday that she wants the FBI to investigate Kavanaugh before she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The committee announced on Monday it would be holding a public hearing next Monday, giving senators a chance to hear from Kavanaugh and Ford and ask them questions. Ford's lawyers said the "first step" before having her go "on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident" would be an FBI investigation, but did not entirely rule out an appearance should an investigation not take place.
It is highly unlikely Republicans will agree to change the date, and they could still hold the hearing on Monday without Ford. The Senate Judiciary Committee had scheduled a vote on Kavanaugh for this Thursday, but delayed it for Monday's hearing. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News on Tuesday evening if Ford "does not come on Monday, we are going to move on and vote on Wednesday." Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. Catherine Garcia
Due to their close relationship, many people have speculated that Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie are a couple, and a former writer for the show said those viewers are correct.
In an interview with Queerty, Mark Saltzman said while writing for the characters, he used his own experiences with his partner. "I didn't have any other way to contextualize them," Saltzman said. Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces Sesame Street, quickly released a statement on Tuesday afternoon saying that not only are Bert and Ernie not gay, but they don't have a sexual orientation, period.
"As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends," Sesame Workshop declared. "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation." A few hours later, Sesame Workshop followed up with another statement, saying Sesame Street has "always stood for inclusion and acceptance. It's a place where people of all cultures and backgrounds are welcome." Should Bert and Ernie weigh in on the matter, this report will be updated. Catherine Garcia