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December 14, 2017
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) could complicate things for the Republicans as they try to pass their tax overhaul, having told reporters on Thursday he won't support the legislation unless it increases the refundable portion of the child tax credit.

Senate and House Republicans say they have reached an agreement on a tax bill, which lowers the corporate tax rate to 21 percent and top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 37 percent, and are just ironing out the final details. As it stands now, the bill sets the child tax credit at $2,000 per child, and Rubio wants it to be refundable against both payroll and income taxes. He "can't in good conscience support" the legislation unless this happens, Rubio said, adding, "There's a way to do it, and we'll be very reasonable." Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has said he agrees with Rubio on the child tax credit issue.

The GOP can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate, but several GOP aides and lawmakers told Politico they believe Rubio will come around before a final vote, which they hope happens next week. "The goal is to get a $2,000 per child tax credit with a significant portion of that to be refundable," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. "I think Sen. Rubio would like to see us do a little more and we're trying to work with him." Catherine Garcia

11:48 p.m. ET
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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

10:59 p.m. ET
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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

10:12 p.m. ET
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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

9:10 p.m. ET
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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

8:23 p.m. ET
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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

7:39 p.m. ET
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Polish President Andrzej Duda wants the United States to establish a permanent military base in his country, and knows that President Trump reacts well to flattery, so he came up with a pretty solid plan to get his way: promise to name the base Fort Trump.

Duda and Trump appeared at a joint news conference in Washington on Tuesday, where Duda invited Trump to "post more American military troops in Poland" as a "guarantor of security." Duda said he would "very much like for us to set up a permanent American base in Poland which we would call Fort Trump. I firmly believe that this is possible."

Trump said he would consider the request. "He would pay the United States, meaning Poland would be paying billions of dollars for a base," Trump said. "We're looking at that more and more from the standpoint of defending really wealthy countries." Poland is closely watching Russia and its military moves, and Trump believes that having a presence in the country would keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in check. "I think that Russia has acted aggressively," he said. "They respect force. They respect strength, as anyone does. And we have the greatest strength in the world, especially now." Catherine Garcia

6:52 p.m. ET
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The Diocese of Brooklyn on Tuesday paid a $27.5 million settlement to four men who were sexually abused by a religion teacher when they were children.

The abuse took place between 2003 and 2009 at St. Lucy's-St. Patrick's Church in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, when the boys were between the ages of eight and 12. The New York Times reports that the boys were repeatedly abused by 67-year-old Angelo Serrano, a lay teacher of religion and director of religious education; he was arrested in September 2009 and pleaded guilty in 2011 to first-degree sexual conduct charges. Serrano is now serving a 15-year prison sentence.

The victims, now between the ages of 19 and 21, will each receive $6,875,000. This is one of the largest settlements ever reached with victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Catherine Garcia

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