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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

7:48 p.m.

The Pentagon is finalizing a policy to closely examine recruits who have green cards or other foreign ties, an initiative that would likely target thousands of people every year, two Department of Defense officials with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

Last year, a federal judge blocked a similar effort to target green-card holders. The Pentagon is concerned about espionage and terrorism, and this new vetting process will screen "foreign nexus" risks, the Post reports; this could include people with foreign citizenship and those with family members who are not U.S. citizens.

Some U.S. citizens could also be targeted, including those with foreign spouses or relatives with dual citizenship. Anyone chosen for this screening would not be allowed to go to recruit training until they are cleared, which could take days for some and much longer for others. Defense Department officials told the Post the new policy will be distributed to military services no later than Feb. 15. Catherine Garcia

6:56 p.m.

A 27-year-old Marine veteran with PTSD was held for three days in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Michigan, despite being born in the United States, his lawyers said Wednesday.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez pleaded guilty last month to trespassing and damaging a fire alarm at a hospital in Grand Rapids, the ACLU said. He spent some time in a Kent County jail, and was set for release on Dec. 14 to await sentencing. ICE contacted the jail and asked that Ramos-Gomez be held for pickup, and he was then driven 70 miles to Battle Creek. He was there for three days before a lawyer working for his family called the ICE detention center and told authorities Ramos-Gomez is a citizen.

In an interview with NBC News, ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman asked why ICE, which has access to fingerprint records, thought Ramos-Gomez should be deported. "Why did they think he was a non-citizen? Did they get him confused with someone else? Who knows. This is an individual who's incredibly vulnerable with a mental illness." Ramos-Gomez was a lance corporal in the Marines, and earned awards for service in Afghanistan. He is now receiving mental health care for his PTSD.

The ACLU is calling on the Kent County sheriff and county commissioners to look into why the jail released Ramos-Gomez to ICE. Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt told NBC News that once Ramos-Gomez "was released from our custody, he was under the domain of ICE. Where they take him is their process. Our procedures were followed." Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m.

Federal workers will get a paycheck at some point.

President Trump signed a bill Wednesday that ensures federal employees furloughed during the partial government shutdown will get back pay once it's over. Trump has long shown support for the bill, which was introduced by Virginia Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner last week and easily passed both houses of Congress.

Federal employees working without pay throughout the shutdown were already guaranteed back pay once the government reopened. This new law grants back pay to those furloughed during the shutdown. But it doesn't guarantee a paycheck for federal contractors, something Warner pushed for in a Wednesday tweet. He also, of course, advocated for the government to reopen after its 25-day-long shutdown. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:16 p.m.

Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) barely made it two weeks into his term before stirring up some controversy.

The congressman, who is fully aware that he's white, described himself as "an Asian trapped in a white body" at an event Tuesday, per National Journal fellow Nicholas Wu. And, as The Washington Post astutely said, "his apology didn't help" his case.

Case was at "an event celebrating Asian-American and Pacific Islander advances in Congress," Hawaii News Now says, but it's unclear what led up to the comments. What is clear is that Case represents America's only majority-Asian district.

Case told Hawaii News Now that he is "fiercely proud" of representing a state "where no ethnic group has been in the majority for generations." He added that he has "absorbed and live the values of our many cultures" and he "regret[s] if my specific remarks to the national API community on my full absorption of their concerns caused any offense." Also of questionable note: Case's spokesperson said the congressman was just repeating "what his Japanese-American wife sometimes says about him," per the Post.

Case first graced the House in Hawaii's 2nd District from 2002-2007, before leaving the post for an unsuccessful Senate run. He ran for the Senate again in 2012, losing to then-Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in 2012. This time around, he won a primary of largely minority candidates to win his seat. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:34 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may be the only thing standing between a spending bill and the president.

House Democrats and a few Republicans passed two spending bills last week that would reopen the government, but McConnell refused to bring them before the Republican-held Senate. And on Tuesday, McConnell did it again — even though Democrats "have secured enough Republican votes in the Senate to reopen government," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Wednesday.

The government shutdown began Dec. 21 over President Trump's refusal to sign a spending bill without $5.7 billion in border wall funding. Democrats still refuse to bend to that demand. And when they took over the House this year, they and five Republicans quickly passed a spending bill to fund most government departments for the year and another that would fund the Department of Homeland Security for 30 days. McConnell refused to bring them for a vote in the Senate, saying they were "absolutely pointless show votes" on bills Trump wouldn't sign.

Democrats pointed out that the GOP-held Senate passed similar bills last year, which then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) wouldn't bring for a vote. And when those House Democrats, along with 12 Republicans, voted Friday to send a new set of spending bills to the Senate, McConnell again turned them down. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:13 p.m.

The creators of the massively popular online game Fortnite have acknowledged a security flaw that may have put players' accounts at risk.

Check Point Research said Wednesday they discovered a bug that would allow hackers to obtain users' login username and password if they clicked on a phishing link; the user would not need to enter any information at this link for their account to be taken over by the hacker, they say. The group blames this on a "vulnerability found in some of Epic Games' sub-domains."

Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, says that the security bug has been fixed, though it did not disclose how many users were affected. "We thank Check Point for bringing this to our attention," the company said, per Fortune.

Since Fortnite thrives off in-game currency, once a hacker had logged in to a victim's account, they would be able to make purchases using the person's credit card information, The Washington Post notes. Check Point Research also points out that hackers could have been able to listen into private chats by impersonating the user they hacked, although Epic Games clarified to The Verge that the hackers wouldn't be able to eavesdrop on the person whose account they'd taken over.

Fortnite has more than 200 million users and, according to The Verge, generated an estimated $2.4 billion in 2018. Brendan Morrow

3:50 p.m.

The definition of fake news has hit Washington, D.C.

"UNPRESIDENTED," the front page of The Washington Post screamed Wednesday, featuring a story that claimed President Trump had resigned. Except it wasn't The Washington Post, and it definitely didn't happen.

An activist group spent Wednesday morning handing out the fake Post copies around the capital, dated May 1, 2019 and suggesting Trump would resign with a note written on a napkin, the real Washington Post reports. It was full of anti-Trump stories that also appeared on a Post lookalike website, which has since been taken down.

The Post's PR team quickly tweeted that the paper and website were "not Post products." Anti-Trump activist L.A. Kauffman later said she, along with author Onnesha Roychoudhuri and the activist pranksters known as the Yes Men, created the fake paper, per NPR. As Politico report Ian Kullgren tweeted, "this is problematic" and definitely not helping their cause, but whoever was handing out the papers "wasn't having it" when he told her as much, he said.

The now-defunct fake Post website contained just a story called "A look at the 64 bills." The real Post published a real version of it, which you can read here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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