Trump Proposes to Cut Medicare and Spend Big on Wall, Defense

President Donald Trump will propose cutting entitlement programs by $1.7 trillion, including Medicare, in a fiscal 2019 budget that seeks billions of dollars to build a border wall, improve veterans’ health care and combat opioid abuse and that is likely to be all but ignored by Congress.

The entitlement cuts over a decade are included in a White House summary of the budget obtained by Bloomberg News. The document says that the budget will propose cutting spending on Medicare, the health program for the elderly and disabled, by $237 billion but doesn’t specify other mandatory programs that would face reductions, a category that also includes Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and agricultural subsidies.

The Medicare cut wouldn’t affect the program’s coverage or benefits, according to the document. The budget will also call for annual 2 percent cuts to non-defense domestic spending beginning “after 2019.’

At a time when the prospect of rising annual budget shortfalls has spooked financial markets, the White House said in a statement — without explanation — that its plan would cut the federal deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years and reduce debt as a percentage of gross domestic product. Yet, in a break from a longstanding Republican goal, the plan won’t balance the budget in 10 years, according to a person familiar with the proposal.

The budget, to be released later on Monday, is unlikely to gain traction on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers routinely ignore the spending requests required annually from the executive branch. And Congress passed its own spending bill on Friday, including a two-year budget deal, which the president signed into law.

According to the summary, Trump will urge an increase in defense spending to $716 billion and a 2.6 percent pay raise for troops. He will request $18 billion to build a wall on the Mexican border, the summary indicates.

The White House also seeks $200 billion for the infrastructure proposal the administration plans to unveil alongside the fiscal year 2019 budget, as well as new regulatory cuts.

“This will be a big week for Infrastructure,” Trump said in a Twitter message Monday. “After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!”

Monday’s document will outline proposed spending reforms the administration says would, if enacted, cut deficits over the next decade — even as recently passed tax legislation and spending caps threaten to drive future annual deficits above $1 trillion.

Trump May Struggle on $1 Trillion Pledge to Fix Crumbling U.S.

“Just like every American family, the budget makes hard choices: fund what we must, cut where we can, and reduce what we borrow,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in a statement. “It’s with respect for the hard work of the American people that we spend their tax dollars efficiently, effectively, and with accountability.”

A year ago, Trump asked lawmakers to cut $3.6 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years, and identified deep cuts to domestic spending programs. Instead, lawmakers last week passed a two-year government funding deal that would boost military and non-defense spending by $300 billion over the next two years and add more than $80 billion in disaster relief.

But administration officials argue their proposals, dead on arrival though they may be, is still an important marker of the president’s legislative priorities.

Immigration Enforcement

The plan includes a heavy emphasis on immigration enforcement. Trump is requesting $782 million to hire 2,750 new border and immigration officers, and $2.7 billion to detain people in the country illegally. Trump is also asking for $18 billion over the next two fiscal years toward the goal of constructing a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico. That’s a key point of contention in the ongoing legislative battle over the fate of young people, known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the country illegally as children.

The proposal also includes $13 billion in new funding to combat the opioid epidemic, which Trump has frequently cited as among his top domestic priorities. The administration would provide a $3 billion boost to the Department of Health and Human Services in the next fiscal year, and $10 billion in 2019.

The proposal takes “money that the Democrats want to put to these social programs and move it to things like infrastructure, move it to things like opioid relief, move it to things that are in line with the president’s priorities so that if it does get spent, at least it get spent to the right places,” Mulvaney said Sunday during an appearance on Fox News.

Boost for Veterans

Other elements include $85.5 billion in discretionary funding for veterans health services, education, and vocational rehabilitation, the OMB said on Sunday. It is not clear how much of that funding would represent an increase from current spending levels.

The budget also includes $200 billion in federal funds over the next decade that the White House says would spur $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending through partnerships with state and local governments and private developers. That includes $21 billion over the next two years that the White House says would “jump start key elements of the infrastructure initiative.”

Trump will discuss the public works proposal on Monday with governors, mayors, state legislators and other officials, and he expects to meet with Congressional leaders from both parties at the White House on Feb. 14. The president plans to visit Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 16 for an infrastructure event, and he and cabinet members will also promote the plan at events around the U.S., officials said.

The White House said its initial approach is to offset the $200 billion in the budget for its infrastructure plan with spending cuts elsewhere, including from some transit and transportation programs the administration doesn’t think have been spent effectively. But Trump is open to new sources of funding, a senior White House official told reporters.

‘Robust’ Defense

The White House also didn’t detail how much money it wanted to devote to new spending on the military, but OMB said the proposal would provide “for a robust and rebuilt national defense.” In last year’s budget proposal, Trump called for a $52.3 billion boost for the Defense Department, while asking for deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, State Department, and Department of Health and Human Services.

Mulvaney said this year’s documents — theoretical though they may be — would see those agencies targeted again for budget cuts.

“There’s still going to be the president’s priorities as we seek to spend the money consistently with our priorities, not with the priorities that were reflected most by the Democrats in Congress,” he told Fox News.

Trump on Friday complained on Twitter that in order to boost military spending, “we were forced to increase spending on things we do not like or want.”

The budget proposal assumes that the U.S. economy will ramp up over the next decade to his goal of 3 percent growth, according to an administration official on Friday who confirmed figures to be contained in Monday’s budget proposal. Economic growth is projected at 3.2 percent in 2019 and 2020.

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    Trump Stretches Meaning of Deregulation in Touting Achievements

    One is a federal rule, initiated by former President Barack Obama, that removed Yellowstone’s grizzlies from the list of endangered species. Another repealed a grant program that hasn’t been funded since 2011.

    They are among the 67 so-called "deregulatory" actions President Donald Trump cited at a Dec. 14 event to tout "the most far-reaching regulatory reform in history” designed to unburden the U.S. economy from the shackles of government oversight. To illustrate the point, he cut a length of "red tape" attached to a mountain of paper.

    While the president has succeeded in undoing some major environmental and financial industry rules, a Bloomberg News review of the administration’s list found almost a third of them actually were begun under earlier presidents. Others strain the definition of lessening the burden of regulation or were relatively inconsequential, the kind of actions government implements routinely.

    "They are really undercutting their own credibility by putting out numbers that are not, quite frankly, very believable," said Cary Coglianese, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who is also director of the Penn Program on Regulation. “If I were advising them, I would have said put out something that’s credible."

    Read more: Regulation-Killing Push Falls Short of White House Boasts

    An earlier Bloomberg review of Trump administration claims about regulatory actions found that it had taken credit for killing or delaying rules that were pending and hadn’t gone into effect, including more than 100 that were already dead under Obama.

    There have been victories for the administration’s anti-regulatory push — such as Congress’s repeal of 15 regulations and the Federal Communications Commission’s vote this month to curb open-internet rules — but in most cases it has merely delayed implementing rules it opposes or begun the lengthy process of killing them. That means that, so far at least, many of the actions could easily be overturned by a successor.

    In one of his first actions as president, Trump ordered that two regulations be revised or eliminated before any new federal rule could be adopted. In order to follow the order, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs created a new label for rules or agency policy shifts it deemed were lowering burdens on society, calling them deregulatory.

    In the Dec. 14 press conference, Trump said the government had taken 67 such deregulatory actions through Sept. 30 — with an annual savings to society of $570 million — and had imposed just three new regulations. Instead of two for one, the ratio was 22 to one, he said.

    Earlier: Ex-Industry Lobbyists Win Top Jobs in Agencies They Once Fought

    “The never-ending growth of red tape in America has come to a sudden, screeching and beautiful halt,” Trump said at the event.

    The White House didn’t respond to multiple emailed requests for comment on the administration’s list of 67 deregulatory actions.

    While it isn’t nearly as sweeping as he would like, Clyde Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which advocates for limiting the role of government, applauded Trump’s effort. U.S. law requires many steps before a new rule can be imposed or an old one revised, making it difficult for a new administration to take aggressive action so soon, Crews said.

    “In terms of what a president can do on his own, I think this is a good start,” he said.

    Related: Bureaucrats’ Revenge: Government Careerists Thwart Trump Agenda

    The administration is stepping up its efforts to undercut scores of rules that threaten the environment and public safety, says Amit Narang of the advocacy group Public Citizen, which supports regulatory protections.

    However, the claim about taking 67 deregulatory actions doesn’t always add up. 

    For one thing, it’s difficult to assess the White House’s assertion that the deregulatory actions taken through Sept. 30 have lowered the costs to society by a net $570 million a year, or $8.1 billion over time.

    The Office of Management and Budget, the White House arm that oversees regulatory actions, didn’t respond to questions from Bloomberg starting the day after the Dec. 14 announcement on how that figure was calculated. A review of the 67 regulations cited as helping drive down costs found many didn’t include cost-benefit calculations.

    "I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that $570 million is potentially the cost savings, but they’re not being transparent on how much each action is saving and how it adds up to the $570 million," said Narang, a regulatory policy advocate at Public Citizen.

    Killing Obama’s Rules? Congress Has an Act for That: QuickTake

    The administration’s cost figures also ignore projected benefits for regulations it has blocked, distorting the actual impacts on society, said Denise Grab, a lawyer with the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University’s School of Law. The institute has sued the Trump administration to block some of its regulatory actions. 

    One action on the list of 67 – it was actually counted twice because two agencies had to act separately — was an immigration rule the administration enacted in July that left two experts scratching their heads over how it could be considered deregulatory.

    The action, by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor, raised the cap on immigrants entering the U.S. to work in seasonal, non-agricultural jobs by as many as 15,000. The original H-2B visa program had been capped at 66,000.

    "It’s a stretch to call this deregulatory in any way," said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies in Washington.

    Indeed, instead of lessening the regulatory burden, the regulation imposed additional requirements on businesses that wanted to participate in the expanded visa program, said Vaughan and Laura Reiff, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig LLP and founder of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which lobbies for immigration reform on behalf of businesses.

    At least 22 of the 67 deregulatory actions — from allowing imports of persimmons from Japan to the adoption of new electric vehicle safety rules — were adapted from efforts begun under Obama, often with little or no change, according to records.

    For example, the list included an Interior Department rule proposed by the Obama administration in June 2016 to allow Alaskan natives to use nonedible parts of migratory birds, like feathers, in handicrafts. It was completed this year, after a minor change.

    Likewise, the rule changing the status of grizzly bears around Yellowstone National Park was also begun under Obama.

    "They have no business taking credit for that," Chris Servheen, who helped craft the regulation before he retired as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator, said. "It was all started long before the election."

    While the list of 67 actions runs up until Sept. 30, federal records show agencies have continued after that date to label actions as deregulatory even though they are just eliminating outdated or unnecessary proposals.

    For example, the Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 18 killed a proposed rule that would have prohibited the use of cow byproducts in the manufacture of drugs, according to records. The rule, originally proposed in 2007, was designed to protect against the spread of mad-cow disease, but other actions since then have protected cattle from the disease. Eliminating the rule will have no effect on the cattle industry.

    The proposed rule was dropped because it was “scientifically outdated and has been superseded by subsequent public policy,” the FDA said in an emailed statement.

    Under Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken a number of steps to rescind, delay or undermine environmental regulations issued under the previous administration. The agency put off the carbon-cutting Clean Power Plan and moved to repeal it. It delayed rules on methane leaks from oil and gas equipment, safety requirements on chemical plants and pollution in the water released by coal plants while it moved to rework and ease off on those Obama-era requirements.

    But of the 16 deregulatory actions taken by EPA on the administration’s list of 67, six were proposed under Obama and completed without major changes. It also included small actions that are typical under any administration and a few technical measures altering the paperwork that industry must complete to comply with EPA rules.

    For example, the list includes an EPA delay of a rule requiring makers of nanoscale compounds, microscopic particles increasingly used in drugs and electronic components, to disclose the known health effects of their products. The delay was just for three months, however, from May 12 to Aug. 14. When the requirements went into effect in August, the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council praised them as a rare example of "some good news" from the EPA.

    In another case, Obama’s EPA in 2015 agreed to reconsider monitoring measures for phosphoric acid and phosphate fertilizer that had been set as part of a broader rule in 2014. The EPA proposed the industry-related changes last December, and Pruitt’s EPA ratified and finalized those standards in September.

    One action on the administration’s list scrapped a grant program providing federal funds to help pay for construction of public TV and radio stations. In 2010, the Obama administration ruled that money was available from other sources and ended the program. Congress followed suit and hasn’t funded the program since.

    “This is a nonsensical rule to include,” the University of Pennsylvania’s Coglianese said. “There’s no benefit to business getting rid of this rule. This is meaningless to have on this list.”

      Read more:

      Rates on Offshore Earnings Not Yet Finalized: Tax Debate Update

      President Donald Trump made what his staff members called a “closing argument” for tax-overhaul legislation Wednesday as congressional Republicans hammered out last-minute revisions to key provisions. Here are the latest developments, updated throughout the day:

      Rates on Offshore Earnings Not Yet Finalized (7:44 p.m.)

      The tax rates that U.S. companies would pay on an estimated $3.1 trillion in earnings they’ve stockpiled overseas haven’t been finalized yet — and they may change depending on the final bill’s revenue score, said Representative Tom Reed, a Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

      The House voted last month to tax companies’ stockpiled offshore earnings at 14 percent for income held as cash, and 7 percent for less-liquid assets. The Senate’s bill this month set those rates at 14.5 and 7.5 respectively.

      As Republican leaders of the two chambers work on compromise legislation to send to Trump next week, many of the changes — including a lower rate for the highest-earning individuals and restoring or enhancing some tax deductions — would increase the bill’s revenue cost.

      Both the Senate and House measures were estimated to reduce tax collections by more than $1.4 trillion over 10 years.

      By delaying agreement on so-called “repatriation” rates for companies’ foreign profits, lawmakers may be preserving a way to help cover any increased costs, according to Henrietta Treyz, a managing partner and director of economic policy at Veda Partners.

      “Multinational corporations are maxed out and will start to sour on this tax bill if additional revenue is sought from their basket,” Treyz wrote in a note to clients.

      Under current law, companies can defer paying U.S. income taxes on their foreign earnings until they return, or “repatriate,” them to the U.S. The deferral provision has led companies to stockpile those earnings overseas. Lawmakers, who plan to cut the corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, intend to impose still lower rates on those accumulated earnings.

      They also intend to introduce new taxes on certain types of foreign income in the future, while largely ending the deferral system and moving toward a “territorial” system that would focus on companies’ domestic profits. — Anna Edgerton and Lynnley Browning

      McCain’s Health Poses Question on Senate Vote (5:32 p.m.)

      Republican Senator John McCain is away from the Capitol indefinitely while he undergoes medical treatment for “normal side effects” of his ongoing cancer treatment, his office says, a development that has potential to interfere with Republican leaders’ plans to approve their final tax legislation as early as Monday.

      McCain, who has missed Senate votes since Monday, is receiving care at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland, according to the statement. He was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer in July.

      “Senator McCain looks forward to returning to work as soon as possible,” said the statement. His office declined to comment further.

      Republicans in both chambers are still hammering out the details of a compromise $1.4 trillion tax-cut measure, and their drive to move it through Congress by year’s end could need McCain’s support. In the Senate, Republicans can only lose two votes under their narrow majority to approve the measure, which all Democrats oppose.

      Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only Republican to oppose an initial version of the bill because he said it would increase U.S. budget deficits too much. While he says he’s undecided on a final bill, negotiators haven’t added anything geared toward addressing his concerns. GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine says she’s waiting to decide if she will back the final version.

      McCain has supported the tax legislation. In July, he was the final “no” vote that dashed a GOP-only effort to replace Obamacare. — Laura Litvan

      Here’s Where the Agreed-Upon GOP Plan Stands (2:50 p.m.)

      Details of an agreement among House and Senate Republicans emerged Wednesday — including rate cuts for corporations, individuals and pass-through businesses. Here’s what tax negotiators have agreed to, according to lawmakers — and how the new plan differs from bills that passed both chambers earlier:

      Corporate Rate

      Joint Agreement: Cut the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent beginning in 2018.
      House: Cut to 20 percent in 2018.
      Senate: Cut to 20 percent in 2019.

      Top Individual Rate

      Joint Agreement: Cut the top rate to 37 percent for the highest earners, down from 39.6 percent.
      House: Leave top rate at 39.6 percent.
      Senate: Cut top rate to 38.5 percent.

      Pass-Through Tax Breaks

      Joint Agreement: Provide a 20 percent deduction on pass-through business income, and extend that break to trusts as well as individuals.
      House: Tax such business income at a top rate of 25 percent, but service businesses like accounting and law firms wouldn’t be eligible. Provide a lower rate of 9 percent for some lesser-earning businesses.
      Senate: Provide a 23 percent deduction, with limitations related to taxable income and amount of wages paid.

      Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax

      Joint Agreement: Repeal it.
      House: Repeal it.
      Senate: Maintain it.

      Obamacare Individual Mandate

      Joint Agreement: Repeal it
      House: No action.
      Senate: Repeal it by zeroing out the tax penalty for individuals who don’t purchase health insurance.

      Mortgage Interest Deduction

      Joint Agreement: Cap it at loans of $750,000 — down from $1 million — for new purchases of homes.
      House: Cap it at loans of $500,000.
      Senate: No change.

      In addition, tax writers plan the following change, according to people familiar with the discussions:

      Individual State and Local Tax Deductions

      Joint Agreement: Limit combined deductions for state and local income taxes and property taxes to $10,000.
      House: Repeal deduction except for property taxes, capped at $10,000.
      Senate: Repeal deduction except for property taxes, capped at $10,000. — John Voskuhl

      McConnell Says ACA Mandate Repeal in Overhaul (2:14 p.m.)

      Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Wednesday that a tax overhaul will include the repeal of the mandate for individuals to buy insurance — a core part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

      The tax bill approved by the Senate on Dec. 2 included the individual mandate repeal, while the House bill didn’t. House Republicans mostly support repealing the mandate.

      The repeal of the mandate is seen as a win-win for most Republicans — smashing Obamacare, as they’ve promised to do for years, while raising some $300 billion to pay for tax cuts. The Congressional Budget Office has said the savings would result because the federal government would no longer have to provide subsidies for roughly 13 million people who would no longer be insured.

      Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine voted to approve the Senate tax bill after she said McConnell had committed to support the passage of two pieces of legislation before the end of the year to mitigate the cost of health insurance premiums. Collins has said she’ll wait to see the final version of the tax legislation before deciding how to vote.

      Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the only Senate Republican to vote “no” for the tax bill, said he’s still undecided on a final vote. Still, he said that his concerns about tax cuts adding to the deficit haven’t been addressed at all.

      Corker confirmed a tax compromise will feature a 21 percent corporate rate and a top individual rate of 37 percent. He added that there is a long list of pay fors to offset the cost of a lower individual rate. — Erik Wasson and Allyson Versprille

      Tentative Deal Said to Repeal Corporate AMT (1:58 p.m.)

      A compromise that’s gathering steam among Senate and House Republicans is likely to include a full repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

      Senate Republicans included a last-minute change in the bill they approved Dec. 2 that would have preserved the corporate AMT at 20 percent. Business groups criticized the surprise move, which would have invalidated various tax breaks that the bill’s drafters intended to preserve.

      Also Wednesday, Trump said he’s receptive to setting the corporate tax rate at 21 percent — a change that’s also said to be part of the emerging deal. “We haven’t set that final figure yet, certainly 21 is a very great success,” Trump said. –Sahil Kapur, Jennifer Dlouhy and Kaustuv Basu

      State Income Break Said to Be Part of Deal (1:09 p.m.)

      A tentative deal reached by House and Senate lawmakers includes letting taxpayers deduct state income taxes in addition to property levies — up to a $10,000 cap, according to two people briefed on the details.

      The versions of the bills approved by the House and Senate just preserved the individual deduction for state and local property taxes — capped at $10,000 — but not for income taxes. House and Senate leaders, along with the White House, had previously signaled they were open to including state income tax deductions in the cap.

      Under the House and Senate agreement, pass-through entities would be able to deduct 20 percent of their business income, instead of 23 percent as originally proposed in the Senate bill approved Dec. 2, the people said. The top individual tax rate would also be lowered to 37 percent, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Combined with a lower individual income rate, the change would still provide roughly the same amount of relief for owners of the most lucrative pass-through businesses.

      The tentative accord comes as some Republican senators are still being briefed, and before the first open meeting of conferees at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

      President Donald Trump said Wednesday afternoon that passage of the bill would be a “historic” victory and that Republicans are “very, very close” to an agreement as he met with congressional negotiators at the White House.

      “I think the conferees have reached a good place,” said Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina regarding the tentative deal. — Sahil Kapur

      Negotiators Are Said to Reach Tentative Deal (12:13 p.m.)

      House and Senate negotiators have reached a tentative compromise for the tax overhaul, said a person familiar with the conversations who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

      Lawmakers still need to get a cost analysis of their agreement, so it’s not yet definite, the person said.

      House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, who’s overseeing the House-Senate conference committee, said he couldn’t confirm that a tentative deal had been reached, adding there is still work to do.

      Representative Dave Reichert, a Washington Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said there are still details to nail down.

      The House-Senate conference committee is scheduled to hold its first and only public meeting at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Thus far, negotiations on the tax overhaul have taken place behind closed doors. — Kaustuv Basu and Erik Wasson

      GOP Plans to Set 21% Corporate Rate in 2018 (11:40 a.m.)

      Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said House and Senate lawmakers are “very close” on a deal that would meld their approaches to overhauling the tax code. “I think you’ll hear an announcement here relatively soon,” said Cornyn, the chamber’s second-ranking GOP leader.

      The current plan is to set a corporate rate of 21 percent, but make that rate cut effective in 2018 — a year earlier than the Senate’s measure would have — according to a Republican official who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

      Republicans in both chambers had approved cutting the corporate rate to 20 percent from the current 35 percent, but the House plan would make that move in 2018.

      Lawmakers are also leaning toward keeping the estate tax, the official said. Both chambers called for doubling the exemption limits for the tax, but the House bill calls for its full repeal in 2025. Negotiators are also planning to set a top individual tax rate of 37 percent and cut the mortgage deduction limit to $750,000 from $1 million, according to the official.

      Republicans are trying to get final legislation hammered out in time for President Donald Trump to sign it next week — giving the party a long-sought major policy victory before the end of 2017.

      An announcement of a deal between the House and Senate is likely Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the discussions who asked not to be named because the talks are ongoing.

      The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, on Wednesday called for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay a vote on the tax bill until Democrat Doug Jones, who won a special election in Alabama Tuesday, could be seated. That would take the GOP’s majority down to 51-49.

      GOP Senate leaders have reiterated their desire to send the bill to Trump next week. — Steven T. Dennis, Ari Natter, Laura Litvan

      GOP Eyes Cut for Top End, 21% Corporate Rate (4:00 a.m.)

      Million-dollar earners would get a bigger tax break, and corporations would get a slightly smaller one under changes Republican tax writers were discussing behind closed doors Tuesday — changes that would revamp their overhaul legislation as it nears final votes next week.

      Lawmakers and congressional staffers worked into the night Tuesday, amid discussions of setting the top individual tax rate at 37 percent — down from the current 39.6 percent and lower than the Senate’s plan to set the top rate at 38.5 percent. Discussions of that potential boon for the highest earners — confirmed by two people familiar with the talks — come as Trump plans to pitch the bill’s benefits for American families during a White House speech on Wednesday.

      Despite strong support for the tax plan among Republican lawmakers, who are rushing to complete the bill for Trump’s signature next week, polls show the plan is unpopular with Americans amid perceptions that the tax changes would favor the wealthy. Administration officials say the polls have been skewed and they predict the plan’s popularity would grow as Americans focus on the legislation’s specifics.

      But lawmakers were considering changing those details on Tuesday as people familiar with the secret negotiations described various potential revisions:

      • Cutting the top individual income tax rate to 37 percent, which would help address top earners’ complaints about losing certain tax deductions, but could also damage claims by Trump and others that the measure is mostly aimed at middle-class relief.
      • Setting the corporate tax rate at 21 percent, instead of the 20 percent proposed in both the House and Senate bills. The current corporate rate, 35 percent, is the highest among industrialized economies. Trump had initially sought a 15 percent rate, then said he wouldn’t accept any rate higher than 20 percent. But earlier this month, he suggested he was open to a number as high as 22.
      • Adopting the Senate’s general method of cutting tax rates for partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called pass-through businesses, but revising the particulars. The Senate bill would create a 23 percent deduction for pass-through business income, but a potential compromise would cut that deduction to 20 percent. Combined with a lower individual income rate, the change would still provide roughly the same amount of relief for owners of the most lucrative pass-through businesses.
      • Capping the mortgage-interest deduction at loans of $750,000 or less. The House bill proposed a cap of $500,000. The Senate bill left the current $1 million cap in place.

      Negotiations remained fluid Tuesday night, and details were subject to change. Final compromises may emerge Wednesday ahead of a planned public meeting of a joint House and Senate conference committee that’s charged with preparing the final, compromise legislation.

      “If everything works right,” the Senate would vote on the final package Monday, the House would vote Tuesday and Trump would sign the bill by Wednesday of next week, said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

      Trump is scheduled to host members of the conference panel at the White House for lunch on Wednesday before the president’s speech, Trump spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.

      What to Watch on Wednesday

      • Trump’s lunch meeting with conference committee participants may shed light on the latest details.
      • The House-Senate conference committee will hold its first and only public hearing at 2 p.m.
      • The president’s speech in the grand foyer of the White House takes place at 3 p.m. Trump will highlight five American families to show how they would benefit from the tax overhaul.
      • Sticking points that remain between the House and Senate tax bills include whether to retain or repeal the individual and corporate alternative minimum taxes and the estate tax, whether to preserve a deduction for large medical expenses and how to tax pass-through businesses. Resolutions could emerge prior to the open meeting.

      Here’s What Happened on Tuesday

      • Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate race, an outcome that will reduce the GOP’s advantage in the chamber to just 51 seats once Jones will be sworn later this month or in early January. Republican leaders — who need at least 50 votes to win passage — say they’ll get their tax bill approved before Jones takes office.
      • Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida criticized his party for considering a cut in the top individual tax rate to 37 percent as part of its tax-overhaul plan — while setting the proposed corporate rate slightly higher than planned to cover the revenue loss. Rubio, along with Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, had proposed expanding the child tax credit earlier this month, and paying for it by setting the corporate rate at 20.94 percent.

      — Anna Edgerton, Sahil Kapur, Erik Wasson, Allyson Versprille, Laura Davison and Kaustuv Basu

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        Trump Says Republican Tax Bill Essentially Repeals Obamacare

        President Donald Trump claimed victory for “essentially” repealing Obamacare in the Republican tax bill that cleared the House on Wednesday.

        The bill eliminates a tax penalty for Americans who don’t carry health insurance, a pillar of the Affordable Care Act, while leaving the law’s other elements intact. Insurers have warned that eliminating the requirement will cause them to raise premiums. Healthy people will have less incentive to sign up for coverage, leaving insurers with a sicker pool of customers overall, the companies and many economists and health policy experts say.

        “The individual mandate is being repealed. That means Obamacare is being repealed,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “We have essentially repealed Obamacare.”

        The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that repealing the individual mandate would lead to 13 million more uninsured in 2027, and that premiums in the individual market would increase by about 10 percent. Lifting the penalty saves the government $338 billion over the next decade, the CBO said, because some of those who go uninsured would have gotten subsidized coverage. Lawmakers used that savings to reduce taxes.

        Removing the individual mandate doesn’t undo other essential elements of Obamacare. The law still requires insurers to sell policies to sick people at the same prices as healthy people, and provides subsidies for low-income families to make health plans more affordable.

        Trump also boasted that he successfully downplayed the provision to avoid media coverage of the change.

        “We didn’t want to bring it up. I told people specifically ‘be quiet with the fake news media because I don’t want them talking too much about it,’” Trump said. “But now that it’s approved I can say: the individual mandate on health care, where you had to pay not to have insurance — think of that one, you pay not to have insurance — the individual mandate has been repealed.”

        Trump said Republicans will “come up with something that will be much better” to replace the mandate. Republican legislation to replace much of the Affordable Care Act failed earlier this year.

        The true importance of the mandate has been debated by economists and policymakers, and the CBO has said it is revising how it calculates the effect. S&P Global Ratings suggested last month that rolling back the penalty would save less than expected, and increase the number of uninsured by only 3 million to 5 million. About 6.5 million people paid an average penalty of $470 for not having insurance in 2015, according to IRS data.

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          Melania Trump Tells Children Her Dream Christmas Would Be on A Deserted Island

          First lady Melania Trump dont want a lot for Christmasthere is just one thing she needs. She dont care about the presents underneath the White House Christmas tree. She just wants to be on her own, more than you could ever know. Make her wish come true: all she wants for Christmas… is to be on a deserted tropical island.

          The first lady was visiting with patients, families, and staff members at Childrens National Hospital in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, when she let slip her ideal holiday plans. The visit, a tradition dating back more than 60 years to Bess Truman, began with a tour of the hospitals neuroscience center, after which Trump, accompanied by 25-year-old Alena Sydnor and 7-year-old Damian Contreras, both patients at Childrens National Hospital, joined Santa onstage to read The Polar Express.

          If you could spend the holidays anywhere in the world, where would you go? asked 10-year-old Andy, a patient at the hospital, after Trump read Chris Van Allsburgs Caldecott-winning classic to patients assembled in the hospitals atrium.

          The first lady, clad in a cream long-sleeved dress, draped in a cream coat, and flanked by Santa Claus himself, considered Andys question.

          I would spend my holidays on a deserted island, a tropical island, the first lady said. With my family.

          I was so grateful at the opportunity to spend time with the children and their families today, and want to thank the medical staff at Childrens National for their lifesaving work, Trump, who as first lady has committed to supporting childrens issues, fighting cyberbullying, and aggressively post-modern interior illumination, said.

          The holidays are a time for hope, love, traditions and family, and it is my wish for everyone to be able to celebrate them in good health with their loved ones, she continued. Many of the patients and families I visited with today cannot spend the holidays at home this year, so I ask everyone to keep them in their thoughts and prayers as we hope for a speedy recovery and joyous New Year.

          The first lady has been a fervent supporter of the holiday season during her husbands time in office. The unveiling of the White House Christmas decorations sparked a national dialogue about the importance of downlighting, and encouraged even Babadooks to join in the holiday spirit.

          Pressed by a little girl named Sammy, the first lady also said that she would ask Santa for peace on the world, health, love, [and] kindness.

          President Donald Trump and the first lady are planning on spending the holidays at Mar-a-Lago, their Palm Beach estate, which is, technically, on an island.

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          Democrats Pull Out of Trump Meeting After His Shutdown Tweet

          The top two Democratic leaders in Congress pulled out of a meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday after he tweeted that a budget deal with them was unlikely, raising the odds that the U.S. government will partially shut down next week.

          Trump proceeded with the meeting anyway, calling reporters into the White House Roosevelt Room to see name cards for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at empty seats. The president was joined by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

          Trump blasted the Democratic leaders as “all talk and no action” and said he wasn’t surprised they didn’t come to the session. He said he expected Pelosi and Schumer would soon meet with him, but if there’s a shutdown, “I would absolutely blame the Democrats.”

          The Democratic leaders said after Trump’s tweet that they’d skip a “show meeting” at the White House and instead ask for a meeting with Ryan and McConnell.

          “Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” they said in a joint statement.

          Pelosi later criticized the president on Twitter, saying he was engaging in political stunts.

          “@realDonaldTrump now knows that his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated. His empty chair photo opp showed he’s more interested in stunts than in addressing the needs of the American people. Poor Ryan and McConnell relegated to props. Sad!,” Pelosi tweeted.

          Trump sparked the dispute Tuesday morning.

          “Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working,” Trump said on Twitter. “Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

          ‘Urgent Issues’

          “It’s disappointing that Senator Schumer and Leader Pelosi are refusing to come to the table and discuss urgent issues,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “The President’s invitation to the Democrat leaders still stands and he encourages them to put aside their pettiness, stop the political grandstanding, show up and get to work. These issues are too important.”

          McConnell and Ryan echoed the White House in a joint statement.

          “We have important work to do,” they said. “There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement on these issues, they will be there.”

          If Democrats and Republicans do not reach a deal on spending by Dec. 8, the federal government could face a partial shutdown.

          Investors’ response to the dispute was muted. The dollar dipped after the Democrats’ statement and Treasuries extended gains, with the 10-year yield reaching the 2.31 percent level, signaling some movement to safety. But the U.S. stock market’s benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index continued to rise as investors placed greater emphasis on remarks made by Federal Reserve Chairman nominee Jerome Powell which analysts interpreted as favorable to bank stocks.

          ‘Dreamers’ Deal

          Some Democrats have called for any year-end spending deal to include legislation to codify an Obama administration policy protecting from deportation young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children. Trump, who announced in September he was ending the Obama program, has said any deal protecting the so-called “Dreamers” should be paired with funding for a border wall and legislation that would reduce legal immigration.

          The Dec. 8 deadline was set in a deal Schumer and Pelosi struck with Trump — against the wishes of Ryan and McConnell — to avoid a government shutdown and debt default in September. They agreed to fund the government at current levels and suspend the debt limit for three months.

          Since that deal was struck, Congress has focused mostly on a tax overhaul and has made little progress reaching a spending deal to keep the government open. Other issues have also piled up, including the fate of cost-sharing subsidies that help defray deductibles and co-payments for low-income people with Obamacare insurance policies. Trump has stopped reimbursing insurers for the subsidies.

          The negotiations also include efforts to lift legislative caps on military spending, raise the debt limit, provide more funding for disaster assistance, and extend a children’s health insurance program and an intelligence surveillance program.

          Several of those issues face year-end deadlines and may end up in a huge spending plan requiring votes from both Republicans and Democrats.

          Congressional Talks

          The Trump administration does not want to include immigration as part of the year-end spending deal to keep the government open, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Monday.

          “We hope that the Democrats aren’t going to put our service members abroad at risk by trying to hold the government hostage over partisan politics, and attaching that,” Sanders told reporters on Monday.

          A Senate Democratic leadership aide said that Democratic leaders were able to reach a deal on a spending plan in April with Republicans in Congress and not the White House. They are looking to do that again.

          In recent talks on a year-end budget deal, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have discussed a possible agreement to lift budget caps established under an Obama-era debt deal. The agreement would add $200 billion in spending above the caps over two years. However, the two sides haven’t agreed to divide the money equally between defense and non-defense programs, which Democrats want. Republicans are pushing for more defense spending than domestic spending.

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            The GOP Tax Plan Is Entering Its Make-or-Break Week

            The $1.4 trillion item on President Donald Trump’s wish list — a package of tax cuts for businesses and individuals that he has said he wants to sign before year’s end — is headed into the legislative equivalent of a Black Friday scrum next week.

            Senate Republican leaders plan a make-or-break floor vote on their bill as soon as Thursday — a dramatic moment that will come only after a marathon debate that could go all night. Democrats are expected to try to delay or derail the measure, and the GOP must hold together at least 50 votes from its thin, 52-vote majority in order to prevail.

            Their chances improved this week when Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she’ll support repealing the “individual mandate” imposed by Obamacare — a provision that Senate tax writers are counting on to help finance the tax cuts. Murkowski had earlier signaled some reservations about the provision; and her support was widely viewed as a positive sign for the tax bill’s chances.

            Trump is scheduled to address Senate Republicans at their weekly luncheon Tuesday afternoon on taxes and the legislative agenda for the rest of the year, according to a statement from Senator John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee. 

            The White House previously announced that the president would talk with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders at the White House the same day about an agreement on spending to keep the government open after funding expires on Dec. 8. David Popp, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, both said that meeting is still on the schedule.

            If the tax bill clears the Senate — a step that’s by no means guaranteed — lawmakers in both chambers would have to hammer out a compromise between their differing bills, a process that presents potential pitfalls of its own. For now, though, much of the Senate’s attention will focus on its legislation’s price tag.

            Three GOP senators — Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and James Lankford of Oklahoma — have cited concerns about how the measure would affect federal deficits. Independent studies of the legislation have found that — contrary to its backers’ arguments — its tax cuts won’t stimulate enough growth to pay for themselves. Both the Senate bill, and one that cleared the House earlier this month, would reduce federal revenue over a decade by roughly $1.4 trillion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

            On Wednesday, a report from the Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania said the bill would reduce federal revenue in each year from 2028 to 2033. That finding would mean it doesn’t comply with a key budget rule that Senate Republican leaders want to use to pass their bill with a simple majority over Democrats’ objections.

            Budget Rule

            In essence, that rule holds that any bill approved via that fast-track process can’t add to the deficit outside a 10-year budget window. The JCT has already found that the Senate bill would generate a surplus in its 10th year because it has set several tax breaks for businesses and individuals to expire.

            But JCT hasn’t yet weighed in publicly on the revenue effects in subsequent years. Senate GOP leaders have expressed confidence that their proposal will satisfy the rule ultimately.

            Another potential stumbling block stems from the fact that Congress is trying to act on complex tax legislation under a tight, self-imposed timeline in order to deliver on promises from Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and McConnell.

            For example, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has said he can’t support the current Senate bill because it would give corporations a tax advantage — a large rate cut to 20 percent from 35 percent — that other, closely held businesses wouldn’t get.

            ‘Change the Most’

            His concern centers on the Senate’s plan for large partnerships, limited liability companies, sole proprietorships and other so-called “pass-through” businesses. Under current law, these businesses simply pass their earnings to their owners, who pay income taxes at their individual rates — currently, as high as 39.6 percent, depending on how much they earn.

            Read more: A QuickTake guide to the tax-cut debate

            The Senate bill would provide pass-through owners with a 17.4 percent deduction for income — but in combination with other provisions, that would result in an effective top tax rate for business income that’s more than 10 percentage points higher than the proposed corporate tax rate.

            The House bill would use an entirely different approach, setting a top tax rate of 25 percent for pass-through business income, but then limiting how much of a business’s earnings could qualify for that rate.

            Reconciling those differences — and addressing Johnson’s concern — may be a complicated process. “That’s part of the equation that could change the most over the next few weeks,” Isaac Boltansky, senior vice president and policy analyst at Compass Point Research and Trading LLC, told Bloomberg Tax. “No one is planning around it yet. There is uncertainty across the board.”

            Meanwhile, the Obamacare issue looms in the background — threatening at least one GOP senator’s vote. Susan Collins of Maine said earlier this week that tax bill “needs work,” and “I think there will be changes.”

            The 2010 Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare — contained a provision requiring individuals to buy health insurance or pay a federal penalty. Removing that penalty in 2019, as the Senate tax bill proposes to do, would generate an estimated $318 billion in savings by 2027, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The savings would stem from about 13 million Americans dropping their coverage, eliminating the need for federal subsidies to help them afford it.

            Because many of the newly uninsured would be younger, healthier people, insurance premiums would rise 10 percent in most years, the nonpartisan fiscal scorekeeper found.

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              Meet the Porn Star Running for President in 2020

              Cherie DeVille reasons that if a reality TV personality with zero previous political experience can be voted into office, then why not her? She feels just as qualified, if not more. The physical therapist has firm opinions on immigration, education, environmental reform, and how to handle the war on drugs.

              Shes also a porn star.

              The 39-year-old caused a bit of a stir when she, during a press conference, announced her bid to run for President of the United States in 2020. She was joined by her running mate Coolio, the rapper of Gangstas Paradise fame; Press Secretary Alix Lynx, herself a porn star as well; and DeVilles bodyguard, the WWE wrestler Virgil, who will serve as head of security.

              Virgils familiarity and relationship with Donald Trump can help smooth over the transition process when Cherie DeVille is named President, the announcement read, alluding to the fact that Virgil and Trump crossed paths a few times when the 45th president hosted WrestleMania in the aughts, including his infamous Battle of the Billionaires with WWE owner Vince McMahon. DeVilles campaign, sponsored by the mens clothing brand Fucking Awesome, isnt the first time a porn star has announced a bid for U.S. public office. In 2003, adult actress Mary Carey ran for governor of California in the recall election (then lieutenant governor in 2005), and in 2009, Stormy Daniels launched a brief bid for Louisiana state senator. While Carey ran as an independent and Daniels a Republican, DeVille is representing the Democratic Partywhich makes sense, given the GOPs aversion to porn.

              DeVille, meanwhile, considers the notoriety shes gained working in the adult entertainment business for the past six and a half years more of an asset than a hindrance.

              In an interview with The Daily Beast, DeVille explains how serious she is about her run for the White House, and that this isnt just another desperate bid for attention. The slogan for her 2020 presidential campaign: Make America Fucking Awesome Again.

              Do you have any background in politics?

              Cherie DeVille: I dont. I grew up in the Washington D.C. area so Ive been somewhat surrounded by it but Ive never held political office.

              All of my skeletons are on the internet for all to see. If you discount porn I have zero moral scandals. Id be a breath of fresh air.
              Cherie DeVille

              Why run for President?

              It began when Trump was elected president. I always took it for granted that whether the Republicans or the Democrats won, someone reasonably appropriate was in office even if they werent my choice. Until this election cycle. I was incredibly disappointed in the political processand thats when I realized Trump basically won because hes a celebrity. It made good television. If Americans are going to vote based on celebrity and scandal, well, I can give them that.

              What would you change if you were in office?

              Im most passionate about health care, education, and immigration.

              How would you handle the health care issue?

              Im an adult actress and a physical therapist but Ive spent more of my life as a physical therapist. Over the seventeen years Ive spent as a physical therapist, Ive seen the repercussions of poverty and middle class Americans with staggering health care bills making choices about their bodies based not on their health or their needs but money. Health care is a basic human need that should and can be met.

              You mentioned being passionate about education, what would you change about it?

              Im not like some hardcore Democrats that feel all higher education should be free. I think college is the new high school. If we want our country to be competitive with the rest of the world, then our state-run educational institutions should be free. Im not suggesting we socialize all educationwe can still have private schoolsbut high school today is not the minimum; its not what our citizens need to succeed in the current economy.

              How do you expect people to react to you as a porn star running for POTUS?

              Negatively. Im not saying this to insult myself or my profession. I did my first scene as a personal larkit was something I wanted to say Ive done. Even if I dont win the bid for Democratic candidate I hope that my run can at least make enough of a splash to get some of my ideas out there, for people to see me as a sex worker and a human being. I want to expand the perception of sex workers.

              What do you say to critics out there who are concerned with your lack of experience in politics? And your background in porn?

              If Trump hadnt won Id have said no one without political experience can run for office, it cant be donebut clearly we as a country have decided you dont need political experience to run for the highest political office. Negative expectations? All of my skeletons are on the internet for all to see. If you discount porn I have zero moral scandals. Id be a breath of fresh air.

              What would you try to legalize if you were voted into power?

              I know this is controversial but I feel complete drug decriminalization is important. In poor communities, doing illegal things is the only chance some people have for advancement and they choose it, which forces them outside of the law. I think we could decrease the violence in underserved and poor communities by decriminalizing all drugs, not just marijuana. At the end of the day, not everyones going to start using heroin. Lets be honest: if someone wants to use heroin in any part of the country theyll find a way to get it. Decriminalizing it will keep the people who started selling drugs as a way to survive out of jail.

              What about porn? Would you want to legalize filming everywhere?

              Its absurd that its not legal in every state, but at the same time the adult community has to centralize somewhere. There are only a few hundred people making porn for the world, so wed congregate somewhere anyway.

              Why should people vote for you?

              Because I really do want to make America great again like Trump said, but in a way that helps all of the people. Every politician says they will help the middle class but few of them have ever been middle class. Ive actually lived my life as a middle and upper middle class citizen, and Coolio has grown up in poverty, so we understand what its like not to have decent health care or educational opportunities handed to us in a way most politicians cant understand. How can we ask the ultra-rich to make choices about something they dont have a handle on? They cant comprehend how the American people really live.

              What would you do differently?

              I have faith in the American people to do the right thing. Certain choices should be left up to them.

              Do you really think people are that responsible?

              Weve been pampered. We are a society of entitlementlook at our youngest millennial generationWe need to engage, we need to feel responsible for ourselves and the world, we need to get in the game. We cannot be passive and allow the Donald Trumps of the world to step all over us. We do have power and we need to wake up. I do have faith in people. We created this problem and now we need to snap out of it.

              Do you think its cultural or generational?

              Its a cultural thing. These kids are not at fault they were raised like thisthis is the advent of technology. Society has changed and we need to help the new generation of workers be strong and responsible. We need to help them, not roll our eyes at them.

              What are your opinions on the sexual harassment allegations in the media?

              Its disgusting. If youre an actor, actress, singer, or comedian in Hollywood it happens and I know people in all of those professions at the highest levels. When I go out with friends who are in those various professions, Im the only one whos never sucked a dick for a job and that is ridiculous. My comedian friends, my mainstream actress friends, and absolutely my fashion model friends have all felt pressure or been directly asked to perform sexual favors in the direct or indirect promise of work, and its disgusting. The male culture in Hollywood is disgusting to me and Im thrilled that these ladies are speaking out. I want those men to know we wont take this anymore.

              Youve named the rapper Coolio as your running mate. How did you decide on him?

              I knew I needed to do something crazy to get the American peoples attention. I needed someone that was passionate and well-known but it was also for shock value.

              What steps have you taken to make your bid for president a reality?

              Ive been testing the waters to see if anyone cares, and the past three weeks cemented it for me. It seems like the public is interested in hearing what I have to say, so Im doing this. Im going to find investors, file the paperwork, and do this.

              How do you plan to finance your campaign?

              Itd be silly to say the obvious. Im not going to take money from big lobbyists, not that theyd give it to me anyway. So Im going to go the grassroots way and start small.

              Are you launching this campaign for attention?

              My vagina gets more attention than this. Millions of people watch me everyday around the world. Im not trying to be conceited but as one of the few performers that works nearly every day of the week my porn is more prevalent than almost anybody elses. Whether people want to admit to knowing me or not, if youve watched porn youve watched me. My pornography has already and will continue to get more attention than this bid for president.

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              Repealing Obamacare Mandate Would Save $338 Billion, CBO Says

              Rolling back Obamacare’s requirement that all Americans have health insurance would save the U.S. $338 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, a smaller benefit than previously projected for a plan favored by the White House.

              Republicans are considering repealing the coverage rule in the Affordable Care Act as a way to pay for far-reaching changes in the tax code. The savings would come from the government spending less to subsidize Obamacare plans as more people opt to forgo health coverage. 

              While ending the mandate could free funds up for a tax overhaul, it would also leave people without health insurance and lead to higher premiums. CBO estimated Wednesday that 13 million more people would be uninsured in 2027 compared with current law if the mandate is repealed starting in 2019. Premiums would increase by about 10 percent in most years of the decade the report covers.

              Both the savings and coverage losses are lower than CBO’s December projection, in part because the non-partisan agency updated the impact from the federal health-insurance subsidies and determined that people and their employers would take longer than it previously thought to make changes to their insurance plans.

              Back in December, CBO said eliminating the mandate would reduce the deficit $416 billion over a decade, and lead to 15 million more people without health insurance. The new number of 13 million doesn’t take into account a decision by President Donald Trump to stop paying cost-sharing reduction payments made to insurers under Obamacare to help Americans afford health costs, CBO said Wednesday.

              Spread Risk

              The mandate is meant to spread risk evenly among healthy and sick people to help keep overall costs down. Without it, healthier people could buy cheaper plans that don’t meet Obamacare coverage requirements, while those who need care, such as people with pre-existing medical conditions, will face rising costs.

              Concerns about people losing coverage doomed a Senate bill that would have ended the mandate while leaving other parts of the ACA intact, known as “skinny repeal,” in July.

              The House Committee on Ways and Means started debate Monday on the tax bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. An amendment from Chairman Kevin Brady revised one of the GOP tax bill’s offshore provisions — leading to an estimated $74 billion revenue hole, which is sending tax writers scrambling to find additional revenue.

              Trump backed overturning the mandate in a tweet last week, pushing for the savings generated to be used “for further Tax Cuts.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday” that GOP leaders are considering the idea.

              CBO’s December estimates covered the 2018 -2026 period. The new projections assume the mandate would be repealed in 2019 and apply to the years 2018 to 2027. The CBO said that it is revising its methods for calculating the effects of repealing the mandate but isn’t including major changes in this analysis.

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                Tax Plan Has Lobbyists Swarming, Lawmakers Asking Whats in It?

                Republicans are barreling into a lobbying frenzy next week, when House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady plans to unveil a sweeping tax bill to remake the U.S. economy that’s being crafted with rigorous secrecy.

                The stage was set with the House’s adoption Thursday of a budget resolution designed to speed the course of tax legislation and kick off a three-week sprint toward a House bill. Now, lobbyists representing every corner of the economy are poised to first devour, then attack what may be hundreds of pages of legislation that Brady says he’ll release Nov. 1.

                Special interests from realtors to dairy farmers will be trying to save their industry-specific tax breaks, said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity. His group, which is backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, supports ending such breaks.

                “It’s pretty fierce,” Phillips said. “We met with Brady on Tuesday and he was saying their offices are swamped with all the special interest groups swarming in asking to be protected.”

                President Donald Trump has promised that middle-class Americans will be the biggest beneficiaries of the tax overhaul. But it remains to be seen which groups will lose their advantages — a necessary step to help pay for cutting tax rates. Even Republican members of Brady’s committee say they don’t know whether any decisions have been made.

                “The problem is that Ways and Means has somewhat been kept out of the loop with details,” Representative Jim Renacci of Ohio, a member of the House tax-writing panel, said in an interview. “There are still a lot of hurdles to get it done.”

                The bill is supposed to be released in just five days.

                “Chairman Brady and Ways and Means members are meeting regularly to discuss specific pro-growth tax reform policies that will deliver more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks,” said Emily Schillinger, a Ways and Means spokeswoman. “They will meet again on Monday and Tuesday in the lead up to the bill introduction. Committee members have also met extensively and regularly with members throughout the House Republican Conference about how tax reform will directly improve the lives of their constituents.”

                ‘80 Percent Plus’

                Leaving such details under wraps has become “almost a double-edged sword,” said lobbyist Will Hollier, whose clients include Microsoft Corp. and Visa Inc. The secrecy has allowed for some efficiency, but it’s also prevented GOP leaders from winning broad support for the legislation in their own conference so far, he said.

                A key test will be how House leaders deal with the state and local tax deduction, the first flash point in the debate. Trump and congressional leaders have proposed abolishing that break, which benefits high-tax states that tend to vote Democratic. But several Republican House members from such states want to preserve the break in some form.

                “Can you get people to put their party loyalty above home-grown constituents’ concerns?” said Hollier, a former chief of staff and legislative director for Senator Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican. “How they deal with that will show that people can be broken.”

                Some conservatives wonder if the secrecy does more harm than good. “I think it’s important that members feel like they have ownership of big, majority-defining packages like this,” said Ryan Ellis, a tax lobbyist who formerly worked with anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. “They really didn’t on health care.”

                The tax framework that the White House and GOP leaders released on Sept. 27 calls for tax rate cuts for individuals and corporations, and is estimated to raise the deficit by $2.4 trillion. Republicans need to get that number down to $1.5 trillion under their budget parameters — a difficult balancing act as they’ve promised a more generous Child Tax Credit and bigger tax breaks for middle-income families.

                “I don’t think that people realize that 80 percent plus of this effort is eliminating things in the code,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has called for a tax bill that won’t add to the federal deficit after taking into account reasonable economic growth expectations.

                “I mean, over the next two weeks, especially when the Senate tax-writing committee puts their stuff out, they’re going to realize that this the biggest tax code rewrite since 1986 and it’s going to affect everyone,” he said.

                ‘Totally Undecided’

                One of the ways to make up the revenue gap is by limiting the deductions corporations take on the interest they pay on their loans — a major consideration for industries such as private equity and real estate. A prior House Republican proposal called for completely eliminating the corporate break, which could have raised more than $1 trillion over a decade.

                “They’re totally undecided,” about how to restrict corporate interest deductions, said Marc Gerson, the chair of law firm Miller & Chevalier. Gerson said proposals include setting limits based on a company’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, a key measure of profitability. Existing debt might be grandfathered in, he said.

                Another piece of the framework is aimed at preventing U.S. companies from shifting their earnings to offshore tax havens — by imposing a minimum foreign tax. The idea — described briefly and obliquely in the framework language — was called “appalling” several weeks ago by Ken Kies, a lobbyist whose clients include Microsoft and General Electric Co. The rate and formula for such a tax haven’t been specified, but the proposal carries multibillion-dollar implications for multinationals.

                On the individual side, the treatment of state and local deductions remains in question. At least 12 Republicans from high-tax states, whose constituents stand to lose if the tax break is repealed, voted no on the House budget Thursday. The most vocal among them have demanded a compromise on the issue.

                Brady said Thursday he hadn’t made a decision on what to do about SALT after meeting with Republicans who are worried that ending the tax break would slam middle-class families in their states — although he said he’s confident he can accommodate their concerns.

                ‘Minority Express Lane’

                “The bottom line is the ball is in their court, and they know it,” said Representative John Katko, a New York Republican who’s a top target of Democrats in the 2018 election. “They didn’t get specific in this” meeting, he said, but gave “a lot of assurances.”

                Democrats, meanwhile, are also waiting to pounce. Brady has so far resisted pressure to embrace Trump’s call for making no changes to the tax-protected status of 401(k) retirement plans. Five Democratic senators — Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Ron Wyden of Oregon; Ben Cardin of Maryland; and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania — on Thursday signed a letter warning Republicans against “reducing the opportunities that millions of Americans have to save for their retirement.”

                The tax battles will take place amid a mad dash to complete a tax overhaul by the end of the year. House and Senate leaders hope to pass bills through their chambers by Thanksgiving, said Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn. The different bills would then have to be reconciled.

                It took about 10 months from when a tax bill was introduced until it was signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 — the last time the U.S. tax code was revamped.

                There are, of course, other issues on the congressional agenda. Congress must fund the government to avoid a shutdown by Dec. 8. That could turn ugly as the White House has signaled it’ll demand funding for a border wall, and Democrats say they want a solution to protect young undocumented immigrants. Congress also faces impending business to shore up health-care markets, extend flood insurance and revisit the Iran nuclear deal — all of which could soak up valuable time.

                Nonetheless, there may be some common ground among members of Congress — a shared interest that could surpass the special interests.

                The Republican determination to complete a tax overhaul by the end of the year is driven in part by “the very real and justified fear that the majorities hang in the balance and that failure on tax puts you in the express lane to the minority,” said Rohit Kumar, a former deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who now oversees tax policy for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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