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November 30, 2017

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

11:56 a.m.

President Trump revisited familiar complaints on Twitter Sunday, reiterating his animosity toward a variety of people on a variety of topics.

He began with a gripe about the media, particularly Saturday Night Live, which opened the night before with Alec Baldwin reprising his role as the president in a sketch parodying the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life.

Alas for Trump, satire is indeed legal.

He soon moved on to the subject of former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. While Trump claimed in tweets Saturday night and Sunday morning that "19,000 Texts between [the two] were just reported as being wiped clean," the reality is Politico reported Thursday that about 19,000 previously missing texts were recovered by the Department of Justice investigation into Strzok and Page.

Trump next made a convoluted non sequitur about the FBI's warranted search of an office belonging to his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen:

On immigration, Trump at once condemned the Obama administration for separating some migrant families while boasting of his own separation policy. And finally, the president said he would review the case of Matt Golsteyn, a former Green Beret who has been charged by the Army with premeditated murder for his admitted role in killing an Afghan man he claimed was a Taliban bomb maker. Bonnie Kristian

10:53 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday pushed back on calls for a second referendum on Brexit, the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union.

May particularly condemned remarks from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said this week a new vote should be considered if "none of the other options work." May accused Blair of "seek[ing] to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum," arguing "Parliament has a democratic duty to deliver what the British people voted for."

May's proposed Brexit deal with the EU has stalled, lacking support to pass a House of Commons vote. Bonnie Kristian

10:48 a.m.

The North Korean government on Sunday issued a typically dramatic statement condemning the United States' sanction regime and suggesting denuclearization plans are in jeopardy.

Pyongyang accused the U.S. State Department of being "bent on bringing [North Korea]-U.S. relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire," warning that additional U.S. sanctions would be America's "greatest miscalculation" and would "block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever."

This comes as Pyongyang observes the seventh anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong Il and the rise to power of his son, current leader Kim Jong Un. Bonnie Kristian

10:24 a.m.

Negotiators representing nearly 200 nations in Katowice, Poland, on Saturday agreed to universal greenhouse gas emissions limits intended to mitigate global climate change.

"It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical," said Polish economist Michal Kurtyka, who is leading the United Nations negotiations. "Through this package you have made a thousand little steps forward together," he told the assembled delegates. "You can feel proud."

U.S. negotiators sought to label coal a possible source of clean energy but also pushed for transparency and rules which apply equally to all participant nations. "Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules," Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions told The Associated Press. "[T]he U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it's largely succeeded." Bonnie Kristian

8:46 a.m.

Saturday Night Live's President Trump (Alec Baldwin) was in a pensive mood on the White House balcony when an angel named Clarence (Kenan Thompson) showed up, straight from helping George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, to help Trump see the world as it would have been had he never been president.

Where a world without George Bailey was grim indeed, a world where Trump lost in 2016 is pretty great — for everyone. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon) is on good terms with her husband; Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (Matt Damon) is a regular guy having a great time with his beers and calendars; Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller), is his current personal attorney who is not headed to prison; and Special Counsel Robert Mueller (Robert De Niro) is enjoying a pleasant old age with his grandchildren.

Alas, Trump doesn't learn the lesson Clarence hopes. Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

8:31 a.m.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's past criticisms of President Trump have received new attention over the weekend following Friday's news of Mulvaney's acceptance of his third role in the Trump administration.

After the 2016 discovery of Trump's lewd Access Hollywood remarks, Mulvaney wrote on his congressional Facebook page that Trump is "not a very good person," and his words were "disgusting and indefensible." In a debate with his Democratic rival for that year's election, Mulvaney similarly said he was supporting Trump despite thinking "he's a terrible human being" because "the choice on the other side is just as bad."

Despite this past antipathy, a Politico report late Saturday describes Mulvaney as an eager recipient of his new role. "He would have given up a very valuable appendage to get that job," an unnamed Republican close to the Trump White House claimed.

Politico's sources said Washingtonian assessment of Mulvaney's aims in rising through the ranks of the Trump administration varies. While "some conservatives on the Hill see him as a sellout, a ladder-climber who puts career advancement over principle," others "argue that he's done the best he can given the president he serves and advanced conservative priorities where he can." Read the full report here. Bonnie Kristian

8:11 a.m.

The family of Jakelin Caal Maquin, the 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) custody this month, have challenged the agency's account of her death.

"She had not suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border," said a statement from lawyers representing Jakelin's father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz. "Jakelin's father took care of Jakelin — made sure she was fed and had sufficient water." CPB has reported Jakelin had not been given food or water for several days before she was taken into custody, attributing her illness and subsequent death to circumstances outside CPB's control.

The statement also says CPB had her father sign a form about Jakelin's health in English, a language he does not speak, and noted that autopsy results determining a cause of death have yet to be released. The statement calls for a "transparent and neutral investigation of Jakelin's death." Bonnie Kristian

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