Good Tuesday morning. TAX REFORM is expected to be on the floor in both chambers today, and in all likelihood, it’s going to pass, and PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP will be able to sign it before Christmas. Republicans will get their holiday season signing ceremony, where they’ll be able to tout what they consider to be their present to the American people — a tax cut.
— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: One lawmaker has been talking about tax reform for some time: SPEAKER PAUL RYAN. The Wisconsin Republican’s office has cut a video — “A Moment Decades in the Making” — that splices together a bunch of clips of Ryan talking about reforming the system. One fun moment: a clip of a 28-year-old Ryan on C-SPAN as a congressman elect in 1998, saying, “Our tax system is punishing all those qualities that make America great.” How Trumpy. The 1:15 video http://bit.ly/2CZqQBb
Story Continued Below
NEWS — INSIDE REPUBLICANS’ GOVERNMENT FUNDING STRATEGY: The GOP — which controls the House and Senate — has an extremely intense four days ahead. They have to fund government and patch the children’s health program by Friday. But in addition, as our colleague Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) pointed out on Twitter yesterday, they have a ton of other stuff to do: renew a key part of surveillance law, pass a disaster supplemental spending bill, a veteran’s bill and waive pay-as-you-go rules for Medicare changes.
— HERE IS WHAT THE PROCESS WILL LOOK LIKE, AS OF NOW: THE HOUSE will pass SEVERAL BILLS: One with the relatively popular stuff (keeping government open and children’s health insurance) and another one, which will include a six-month patch of a key surveillance law. It’s not yet clear how they’ll handle the disaster supplemental, which provides $81 billion in relief for the storms that slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico earlier this year.
— THE BIG QUESTION: What will Mitch McConnell do? Several Republicans we spoke to say he’ll be inclined to combine these bills into one, plus add language to to bolster Obamacare payments — as he promised Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). They are still sorting through what that will look like. In part, the Senate faces a time crunch: it would be nearly impossible for McConnell to have time to bring up two bills by the Friday deadline. That would make for one big massive bill that Ryan will be pressured to put on the floor and pass to keep government open. That package will likely include language to bolster Obamacare. CONSERVATIVES WILL FREAK OUT at the massive, pricey package. And they’ll also moan about being rolled by the Senate — once again.
THIS ENTIRE DECEMBER JAM was designed to allow for a spending-cap deal, which now is out of the question. BEGS THE QUESTION: Why doesn’t Congress punt all this stuff to January and let everyone go home?
THE BUZZ IN THE CAPITOL: With all this spending, many Republicans say they were better with fiscal restraint under Barack Obama.
BULLETIN – AP at 6:14 a.m.: “SANAA, Yemen (AP) – Yemen’s Shiite rebels say they have fired a ballistic missile targeting the Saudi royal palace in Riyadh.”
ATTN. WHITE HOUSE COMMS SHOP — “Trump Asks ‘How’s Your 401(k)?’ But Most Voters Don’t Have One,” by Bloomberg’s Toluse Olorunnipa: “[O]nly about 45 percent of private-sector workers participate in any employer-sponsored retirement plan, and the lower-income workers in Trump’s political base are the least likely to hold money in such an account, according to the Government Accountability Office. Trump mentions the stock market almost daily in tweets or public remarks, taking direct credit for record highs by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other indices. But only about 14 percent of U.S. families directly own stocks, an asset class dominated by the country’s top earners, according to the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the president has also rolled back efforts to expand retirement savings options to more middle-class and low-income workers.” https://bloom.bg/2CENqhn
THE BACKSTORY ON CORKER — “Why Corker flipped on the tax bill: The GOP senator says he had nothing to do with a provision that could enrich him personally, as liberal critics allege,” by Seung Min Kim: “Days before his surprise announcement that he would support the GOP tax bill, Sen. Bob Corker had been summoning administration officials and economists to his office to see whether he could ultimately get on board with the plan. One was Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former Congressional Budget Office director and adviser to GOP presidential campaigns who painstakingly went through varying analyses of the tax measure as Corker — accompanied by at least a half-dozen aides and stacks of spreadsheets — drilled him with questions. …
“[T]he mystery over Corker’s flip quickly swirled into a political firestorm over suggestions that the senator decided to support the tax measure only after winning a provision that could personally enrich him. Liberal activists and lawmakers declared it the ‘Corker Kickback,’ in a last-ditch bid to derail the bill — or at least further tarnish Republicans’ big tax win this week.” http://politi.co/2D360Rs
NYT’S ROBERT PEAR: “Without the Insurance Mandate, Health Care’s Future May Be in Doubt”: “For years, the Obama administration said the health care system as constructed by the Affordable Care Act could not survive without a mandate that most Americans have health insurance. With surgical precision, the sweeping tax bill that Republicans plan to pass this week will do away with that mandate.
“What comes next for health care is unclear. The demise of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate will lead to higher premiums and lower enrollment in plans sold on the health law’s marketplace, Wendy K. Mariner, a professor of health law at Boston University, said Monday. But she added, ‘I don’t think we can say with any confidence’ how much premiums will rise or coverage will decline.” http://nyti.ms/2yXerKO
— “HHS defends withholding comments critical of abortion, transgender policy,” by Dan Diamond: “HHS is defending its decision to withhold more than 10,000 public comments on a proposal that could affect access to abortion and care for transgender patients. … The Trump administration in October sought public comments on its plan to reduce HHS’ regulations for religious and faith-based groups. … While HHS received 10,729 comments on its proposal, the agency has only posted 80 comments — less than 1 percent of all submissions — that overwhelmingly back the administration’s anti-abortion policies or attack regulations advanced by the Obama administration … Sources with knowledge of HHS’ decision say the agency hand-picked the comments that it released.” http://politi.co/2oFi0oQ
IN WASHINGTON STATE — “‘Everything went dark’ — passengers speak about Amtrak derailment, aftermath,” by Tacoma News Tribune’s Alex Krell and Craig Hill: “The tracks are supposed to be rated for 79 miles per hour, and it seemed the train was going about that speed, [passenger Chris] Karnes said, because it was passing cars heading south on Interstate 5. … ‘At a certain point the train wobbled for a second, and the next thing we knew we were being sort of catapulted into the seats in front of us,’ he said. ‘There were crashing and crunching noises, the lights went out. There was glass shattering, everyone’s personal belongings flew to the front of the car and people were screaming.’” http://bit.ly/2yWDaig
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MUELLER WATCH — “Trump team’s meeting with Mueller’s office poised to ratchet up tensions,” by WaPo’s Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Carol Leonnig: “White House lawyers are expected to meet with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office late this week seeking good news: that his sprawling investigation’s focus on President Trump will soon end and their client will be cleared. But people familiar with the probe say that such assurances are unlikely and that the meeting could trigger a new, more contentious phase between the special counsel and a frustrated president, according to administration officials and advisers close to Trump.
“People with knowledge of the investigation said it could last at least another year — pointing to ongoing cooperation from witnesses such as former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as a possible trial of two former Trump campaign officials. The special counsel’s office has continued to request new documents related to the campaign, and members of Mueller’s team have told others they expect to be working through much of 2018, at a minimum.” http://wapo.st/2By2IoG
MEANWHILE, IN THE SENATE — “The Senate’s Russia Investigation Is Now Looking Into Jill Stein,” by BuzzFeed’s Emma Loop: “The top congressional committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has set its sights on the Green Party and its nominee, Jill Stein. Dennis Trainor Jr., who worked for the Stein campaign from January to August of 2015, says Stein contacted him on Friday saying the Senate Intelligence Committee had requested that the campaign comply with a document search.
“Trainor, who served as the campaign’s communications director and acting manager during that time, told BuzzFeed News that he was informed of the committee’s request because during his time on the campaign, his personal cell phone was ‘a primary point of contact’ for those looking to reach Stein or the campaign. That included producers from RT News, the Russian state-funded media company, who booked Stein for several appearances, Trainor said.” http://bzfd.it/2yVNXt7
SEXUAL HARASSMENT FILES — “Kaine’s bid for Senate harassment data rejected,” by Elana Schor: “The secretive office that processes workplace misconduct complaints on Capitol Hill has declined Sen. Tim Kaine’s request for data on sexual harassment claims filed in the upper chamber — data that Kaine had said he would make public. The Virginia Democrat sought details Dec. 6 on the taxpayer-funded settlements that the Hill’s Office of Compliance approved for Senate employers, adding that he would release the broad outlines of the data in the interest of transparency as Congress considers an overhaul of its own harassment system.
“The compliance office’s Monday decision to decline his request is particularly notable given that the office provided the House Administration Committee details on taxpayer-funded settlements processed in that chamber one day after they were requested.” http://politi.co/2ki7akd
— “Fear and yelling in L.A. congressman’s office led to silence on harassment, aides say,” by McClatchy’s Emily Cadei: “Los Angeles-area Congressman Brad Sherman says none of his staff ever complained about longtime aide and California Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, who’s been accused of sexual harassment while working in the congressman’s district office. Eight former aides said the environment in Sherman’s D.C. and California offices was so toxic, it was laughable to think junior staff would have felt comfortable raising concerns about harassment – or anything else. ‘Congressman Sherman showed zero interest in the personal well-being of his staffers and there’s no reason to believe he would have cared or taken any action if a complaint was made,’ said one former staffer.” http://bit.ly/2BcZmux
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Trump administration blames North Korea for global WannaCry cyberattack,” by Eric Geller: “The Trump administration late Monday blamed North Korea for orchestrating a devastating blast of malware that seized networks around the world in May, a rare accusation by the American government that a nation-state perpetrated a significant cyber incident. The digital assault, powered by the WannaCry ransomware, locked up computers at hospitals, universities and businesses in dozens of countries. Its authors demanded ransom payments and threatened to delete victims’ data if they didn’t pay up. ‘The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible,’ Tom Bossert, President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.” http://politi.co/2yWtaFG … Bossert’s op-ed http://on.wsj.com/2AXErYl
COMING ATTRACTIONS — “The battle to lead Trump’s potential impeachment,” by Heather Caygle and Kyle Cheney: “House Democrats this week are set to resolve a seemingly insignificant standoff with deceptively big consequences: deciding who would lead potential impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump should they take back the House. Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), two longtime members who both hail from power centers of the Democratic Party, are competing to be the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
“That’s the panel that historically holds the keys to the impeachment process. Both Nadler and Lofgren know they’re signing up to be Trump’s chief antagonist in Congress. But, in separate interviews, they also emphasized the importance of Democrats not overplaying their hand. They’re both acutely aware that appearing too eager about impeaching the president could alienate voters and vulnerable incumbents in their caucus who cringe when the topic is raised.” http://politi.co/2oL0Gz2
–“Trump judicial pick withdraws after viral hearing video,” by Josh Gerstein: “A White House official confirmed Monday that Matthew Petersen, whom Trump had tapped for a slot on the U.S. District Court in Washington, is throwing in the towel. Petersen has served as a Federal Election Commission member, but he stumbled badly at a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing last week under questioning by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) … Kennedy said Monday that Trump told him he welcomed the Louisiana senator’s grilling of nominees who are not up to snuff. ‘The president … has told me, he said, “Kennedy, when some of my guys send somebody over who’s not qualified, you do your job.” … He said, “Kennedy, I think you’re right,”’ the senator recalled in an interview Monday morning with WWL-TV. ‘And I said, “Thank you, Mr. President.” And I intend to do that.’” http://politi.co/2BdcwYs … The withdrawal letter http://bit.ly/2BGjiWd
HAPPENING TODAY — “Export-Import Bank nominee faces critical vote,” by NBC News’ Leigh Ann Caldwell: “The Senate Banking Committee is set to vote on Scott Garrett’s nomination Tuesday morning, and his path forward appears likely to be blocked because he is opposed by at least one Republican on the panel. But critics worry that won’t be the end, not if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decides to bring his nomination to the floor anyway. …
“And there are some hefty allies pushing for Garrett’s nomination, which supporters of the Ex-Im Bank say flies in the face of Trump’s ‘America First’ philosophy. Lobbyist Dan Murphy was assigned by the administration to help Garrett get through the confirmation process. The lobbying firm Murphy works for, BGR Group, has been paid $1.5 million by Airbus since Murphy joined the account in 2011, according to records kept by OpenSecrets.gov.” http://nbcnews.to/2kLqKEH
TRUMP’S TUESDAY — He will meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. … VP MIKE PENCE has once again delayed his planned trip to Egypt and Israel due to the tax vote on Capitol Hill. Pence is expected to preside over the Senate during passage. He’ll go in January.
THE JUICE …
— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — MSNBC named JESSE RODRIGUEZ and SARAH BAKER directors of booking. They’ll manage current contributors and look for new voices for the network. Baker is based in D.C. and Rodriguez in New York. Many DC’ers know both well. Jesse has long been a key player on “Morning Joe.”
HEADS UP, IOWA! NEW YORK IS COMING, via NYT’s Shane Goldmacher: “When Mayor Bill de Blasio deplanes in Des Moines on Tuesday, it will mark the first landfall of a New York politician in the presidential proving grounds of Iowa ahead of 2020. It almost certainly won’t be the last. The New York region is currently home to the most concentrated glut of nationally ambitious Democratic politicians in the country — a confluence of egos and sometimes overlapping constituencies that all but guarantee friction in the coming years as they scramble up the political ladder.
“Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has built a national following for her opposition to President Trump, so much so that he attacked her personally on Twitter last week. Andrew M. Cuomo is running for a third term as New York governor next year and has become increasingly engaged and outspoken on federal affairs, especially on the looming tax bill. Just next door in New Jersey, which overlaps with the influential New York City media market, is Senator Cory Booker, who recently campaigned aggressively in Alabama and who is on almost everyone’s list of possible contenders. Even 44-year-old Senator Chris Murphy of neighboring Connecticut is featured highly on some lists of 2020 possibilities.” http://nyti.ms/2B0gXlq
THE FIRST FAMILY’S REAL ESTATE …
— “Kushners’ New York City Buildings Are Mostly Owned by Others,” by Bloomberg’s Caleb Melby and David Kocieniewski: “A public appearance of big stakes, often at odds with a more modest reality turns out to be typical of the Kushner portfolio, according to a Bloomberg analysis based on loan documents, agency ratings, deeds filed with New York and interviews with eight people familiar with the deals who asked not to be identified discussing private transactions. Kushner Cos. has a stake in more than 60 buildings in New York City, including Greenwich Village apartments and tony Brooklyn offices.
“In 60 percent of the properties, the Kushners own less than half of each, the analysis shows. In nearly half, they own less than 20 percent. In some high-profile cases, such as Brooklyn’s Watchtower Building, their ownership is in the single digits. There’s nothing unusual about being a minority partner that manages or develops properties for others. But Kushner Cos. often projects a different image. On its website, for example, the company lists 80 and 90 Maiden Lane as a ‘key asset’ despite its tiny, non-controlling share. In public statements, it sometimes conflates its own stakes with those of its partners.” https://bloom.bg/2AYe3gN
— “Ground Zero for Flooding: Washington’s Trump International Hotel,” by Bloomberg’s Christopher Flavelle and David Ingold: “The list of government-own properties in the 100-year flood zone also includes the Old Post Office Pavilion, which the Trump Organization leased and has opened as Trump International Hotel. Patricia Tang, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, said she didn’t know whether the company’s management was aware the building was in a flood plain when it pursued the lease. However, ‘I would assume that it wouldn’t have been an issue, otherwise they wouldn’t have gone forward.’ Tang said the hotel has ‘a lot of plans’ to deal with flooding and other security risks. She declined to say what those plans were.” https://bloom.bg/2kHrKtE
HMM — “EPA chief Pruitt had office swept for surveillance bugs,” by The Hill’s Timothy Cama: “The EPA paid $3,000 in March to Edwin Steinmetz Associates to do a ‘sweep for covert/illegal surveillance devices’ in Administrator Scott Pruitt’s office at the agency’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, documents provided to The Hill show. The EPA source who provided the documents on the condition of anonymity said the sweep, which came weeks after Pruitt’s arrival at the agency, did not uncover any bugs.” http://bit.ly/2kLxrH4
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ABOUT THAT SCOTUS NOM — “Trump talked about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination,” by WaPo’s Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Barnes: “For nearly eight months, President Trump has boasted that appointing Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court ranks high among his signature achievements. But earlier this year, Trump talked about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination, venting angrily to advisers after his Supreme Court pick was critical of the president’s escalating attacks on the federal judiciary in private meetings with legislators. Trump, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions, was upset that Gorsuch had pointedly distanced himself from the president in a private February meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), telling the senator he found Trump’s repeated attacks on the federal judiciary ‘disheartening’ and ‘demoralizing.’
“The president worried that Gorsuch would not be ‘loyal,’ one of the people said, and told aides that he was tempted to pull Gorsuch’s nomination — and that he knew plenty of other judges who would want the job. … Trump was especially upset by what he viewed as Gorsuch’s insufficient gratitude for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court, White House officials said. The judge sent the president a handwritten letter dated March 2, thanking him for the nomination and explaining how grateful he was, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post.” http://wapo.st/2kJZIxF
ISAAC DOVERE talks with SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.VA.) in the latest “Off Message” podcast: Joe Manchin tells Isaac Dovere that Donald Trump repeatedly pushed him to switch parties and become a Republican, the West Virginia senator revealed in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. He said no — ‘I said, ‘You need more Democrats like me, you don’t need Republicans,’ Manchin explained.
“So Trump asked Manchin to support repealing Obamacare, and then the Republican tax bill. He said no to those too. ‘‘I was an easy pickup. Very easy pickup,’ Manchin said. ‘And a couple, two, three other Democrats would have been easy pickups, if they had just made an effort.’ On his re-election chances in Trump-friendly West Virginia: ‘I’m not worried at all. Not one iota am I worried.’
“On what he told NRSC chair Cory Gardner about attacks on his daughter, CEO of Mylan: ‘I said, ‘Be a man enough to go after me. Don’t be chicken shit.’ And that’s what they are. I said, ‘Cory, that’s not you,’ I said—Cory’s a good guy; I like him,’ Manchin said. ‘No different than the DSCC [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee], too, they all do it. I despise that. Their name’s not on the ballot; my name’s on the ballot. OK. If you want to go after somebody, go after me, not after my family.’” http://politi.co/2kKDY4C
— “Have You Ever Felt Sorry for the I.R.S.? Now Might Be the Time,” by NYT’s Patricia Cohen: “After years of upbraiding and even threatening to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, Republicans must now depend on the agency to carry out their signature legislative accomplishment: a comprehensive revision of the tax code. The task is monumental. While processing tens of millions of tax returns for 2017 under the current rules, the I.R.S. would also have to figure out how to interpret and explain a new system and put it into practice.
“‘Beware,’ said John A. Koskinen, who retired last month as I.R.S. commissioner. ‘If the budget keeps being cut and the agency keeps being given more things to do, the I.R.S. is simply not going to work.’ Either the information technology will fail, forcing the filing and refund systems to collapse, he warned, or enforcement and audits will become so scarce that fewer people will be inclined to pay the taxes they owe.” http://nyti.ms/2CCMb26
SPOTTED: Ivana Trump having dinner at Rotisserie Georgette on the Upper East Side on Sunday night … Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on the AA238 flight from Miami to DC on Monday … former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the driver’s seat of a white SUV idling at the end of the St. Regis’ driveway around 9:05 a.m. on Monday … at Café Milano last night at a party upstairs hosted by Mark Ein: Margaret Carlson, Wolf Blitzer and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) … @jacobkornbluh: “Spotted: Jason Greenblatt boarding a plane to Israel” – pic http://bit.ly/2Bvw1Ix
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Liz Halloran, deputy communications director for the Human Rights Campaign (hat tip: Olivia Alair Dalton) … Philip Bennett of Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.)’s office (h/t Samantha Greene) … (was Friday): McCauley Mateja
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Teddy Schleifer, senior editor for finance and influence at Recode. A trend he thinks deserves more attention: “I’m still amazed at the extent to which people (including me) stare into their phones in public and ignore what’s in their immediate vicinity. Take a look next time you’re on a bus at the number of people who are head-down in their screens. It’s a weird phenomenon, and probably not what we would choose to do as a society if were conscious of it.” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2BLqVKX
BIRTHDAYS: journalist Ronan Farrow is 3-0 … Kerri Lyon, a managing director at SKD Knickerbocker … Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is 62 (h/t Peter Pasi) … Joey Scarborough … PBS Newshour’s Daniel Yang … Michael Duncan, founding partner at Cavalry … Ryan Jackson, COS at EPA … Patrick Ventrell … Jill Slabey … Treasury’s Shannon Flaherty McGahn … Politico Europe alum Craig Winneker … retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones, Obama’s first national security adviser, is 74 … Kelsey Moran … Sam Littman … Erin Taylor, program director at Climate Action Campaign (h/t Jon Haber) … Henry Longley … Taara Rangarajan … Molly Pattison, manager of free expression at Charles Koch Institute … Bronwyn Lance Chester, comms director for the Senate Republican Policy Committee and a John Warner, Chambliss and Flake alum (hubby tip: Andrew) … Michaela Balderston, VP of comms at Tusk Ventures … Callie Schweitzer, chief content officer at Thrive Global and Time alum … Ann McDaniel, consultant at Graham Holdings and a member of the board at the Match Group …
… Max McClellan, showrunner, producer, and writer at Efran Films and a CBS News alum … CNN’s Tal Kopan … Kate Mize … Tomicah Tillemann … NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell … Rebecca Edgar … Maggie Polachek, director of President’s Initiatives at CAP and “the proudest Wellesley College alum” (h/t Lindsay Hamilton) … John Vail … Catherine Hormats … Kasey Hampton, press secretary for Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) … Jim Oberman … Ashley Snee Giovannettone … Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) is 47 … Matt Wojtkun is 34 … Michael Feinberg … Sarah Scott … Whitney Patton … Russ Caso … Tim Tank … Patrick B. Donohue … WashPost’s Josh Freedom Du Lac … Dewey Square Group principal Jenny Murphy … CBS’ Sean Gallitz … former Obama advance man Jeff Kiernan … former N.H. state Rep. Shaun Doherty … Bush 43 WH alum Anne Stewart … Bernie Weinraub … Ann Lewis … John Pederson (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)
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