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House budget plan a step toward goal of tax overhaul

Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 3:36 AM
Updated: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 3:34 AM

The House has passed a $4.1 trillion budget plan that promises deep cuts to social programs while paving the way for Republicans to rewrite the tax code later this year.

The 2018 House GOP budget reprises a controversial plan to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program for future retirees as well as the party's efforts to repeal the "Obamacare" health law. Republicans controlling Congress have no plans to actually implement those cuts while they pursue their tax overhaul.

That's especially so in the Senate, where the Budget Committee on Thursday gave party-line approval to a companion plan.

Instead, the nonbinding budget's chief purpose is to set the stage for a tax overhaul plan that is the party's top political priority as well as a longtime policy dream of key leaders like Speaker Paul Ryan.

The White House issued a statement saying the House plan is a key step toward "Making America Great Again."

The House measure, passed by a near party-line vote of 219-206, calls for more than $5 trillion in spending cuts over the coming decade, promising to slash Medicaid by about $1 trillion over the next 10 years, cutting other health care costs, and forcing huge cuts to domestic programs funded in future years by Congress.

"It's a budget that will help grow our economy, and it's a budget that will help rein in our debt," said Ryan, R-Wis. "It reforms Medicaid. It strengthens Medicare."

But Republicans are not actually planning to impose any of those cuts with follow-up legislation that would be required under Washington's Byzantine budget rules. Instead, those GOP proposals for spending cuts are limited to nonbinding promises, and even a token 10-year, $200 billion spending cut package demanded by tea party House Republicans appears likely to be scrapped in upcoming talks with the Senate.

Instead, the motivating force behind the budget measures is the Republicans' party-defining drive to cut corporate and individual tax rates and rid the tax code of loopholes. They promise this tax "reform" measure will put the economy in overdrive, driving economic growth to the 3 percent range, and adding a surge of new tax revenues.

"In order to pay for these huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, this Republican budget makes savage cuts to the life and death programs that mean so much to ordinary Americans," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Passing the measure in the House and Senate would provide key procedural help for the tax measure because it sets the stage for follow-on legislation that can't be filibustered by Senate Democrats. Republicans used the same so-called reconciliation procedure in their failed attempt to kill "Obamacare," including its tax surcharges on wealthy people.

"Through reconciliation, our budget specifically paves the way for pro-growth tax reform that will reduce taxes for middle-class Americans and free up American businesses to grow and hire," said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who chairs the House Budget Committee.

Eighteen Republicans opposed the measure, including several from high-tax states like New York and New Jersey who are concerned that the upcoming tax effort would repeal the deductions for state and local taxes.

Democrats blasted the sweeping spending cuts proposed by Republicans — more than $5 trillion over 10 years in the House plan and somewhat less in the Senate GOP measure — as an assault on middle-class families and the poor.

"Is it a statement of our values to take a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in our country?" said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The Senate Budget Committee's companion plan approved Thursday differs in key details — but would still result in a deficit of $424 billion in 2027, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The House measure assumes the upcoming tax bill won't add to the deficit; the Senate version, however, would permit the measure to add $1.5 trillion to the $20 trillion-plus national debt over the coming 10 years. The final version is likely to stick closely to the Senate measure in key respects. A final House-Senate agreement won't come until November, Black said, but she anticipated conflict over the Senate plans.

"That is certainly going to be a very lively discussion," Black said of House-Senate talks. "Our members are concerned about (budget) balance and they're also concerned about the debt and deficits."

The real-world trajectory of Washington, however, is for higher deficits as Republicans focus on tax cuts, a huge hike in the defense budget, and a growing disaster aid tally that is about to hit $45 billion.

"The train's left the station, and if you're a budget hawk, you were left at the station," said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.

Omarosa Manigault Newman ‘physically dragged’ from White House, reports confirm

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 9:57 AM
Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 9:08 PM

Who is Omarosa Manigault Newman

Omarosa Manigaul Newman, the “Apprentice” star turned White House aide, was removed from the White House Tuesday night,“physically dragged and escorted off the campus,” according to several news reports.

Manigault-Newman announced her resignation on Wednesday, effective next month.

>> Read more trending news

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State attorneys general ask FCC to delay net neutrality vote

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 4:13 PM

This June 19, 2015, file photo, shows the entrance to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) building in Washington. In its push to undo Obama-era net neutrality rules, the country's Republican-led telecom regulator has defended its proposal with some statements that are incomplete or misleading. But a Democratic official in favor of net neutrality also criticized the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, in a way that left out crucial context. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Andrew Harnik/AP
This June 19, 2015, file photo, shows the entrance to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) building in Washington. In its push to undo Obama-era net neutrality rules, the country's Republican-led telecom regulator has defended its proposal with some statements that are incomplete or misleading. But a Democratic official in favor of net neutrality also criticized the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, in a way that left out crucial context. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)(Andrew Harnik/AP)

The attorneys general of nearly 20 states asked the Federal Communications Commission to delay a vote on changing the country’s net neutrality rules as they investigate reports that impersonators posted hundreds of thousands of fake comments on the commission’s notice of the proposed change.

>> Read more trending news

“If the well of public comment has been poisoned by falsified submissions, the Commission may be unable to rely on public comments that would help it reach a legitimate conclusion to the rulemaking process,” the attorneys general of 18 states said in a letter sent Wednesday to the FCC. “Or, it must give less weight to the public comments submitted which also undermines the process.”

The FCC plans to vote Thursday on gutting the Obama-era rules, meant to stop broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet.

“This is akin to identity theft on a massive scale – and theft of someone’s voice in a democracy is particularly concerning,” said the letter, led by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and signed by the attorneys general of 17 other states: California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

>> Read the full letter sent to the FCC on Wednesday

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accused the FCC last month of stonewalling his office’s investigation into thousands of suspicious comments made the to the commission’s net neutrality rule change notice. Since then, Schneiderman said his office has gotten more than 5,000 complaints from people whose identities were used to submit fake comments to the FCC’s notice.

In its letter to the FCC, the 18 other state attorneys general said they have received similar complaints.

>> Related: New York AG investigating fraudulent net neutrality comments to FCC

“I’m sick to my stomach knowing that somebody stole my identity and used it to push a viewpoint that I do not hold,” an Ohio resident wrote in one of the complaints. “This solidifies my stance that in no way can the FCC use the public comments as a means to justify the vote they will hold here shortly.”

A South Carolina resident said one of the false comments was posted using his or her mother’s information, even though she died in 2009.

“This is terrifying,” a Missouri resident wrote in another complaint. “Who knows what else has been said falsely under my name?”

As many as 2 million comments posted to the notice are believed to have been made using stolen identities, Schneiderman said Wednesday.

“The FCC is moving full steam ahead with a vote based on this corrupted process, while refusing to cooperate with an investigation,” Schneiderman said. “As we’ve told the FCC: moving forward with this vote would make a mockery of our public comment process and reward those who perpetrated this fraud to advance their own hidden agenda. The FCC must postpone this vote and work with us to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Net-neutrality rules bar cable and phone companies from favoring certain websites and apps — such as their own services — and give the FCC more oversight over privacy and the activities of telecom companies. Supporters worry that repealing them would hurt startups and other companies that couldn't afford to pay a broadband company for faster access to customers.

Critics of the rules say that they hurt investment in internet infrastructure and represent too much government involvement in business. Phone and cable companies say the rules aren't necessary because they already support an open internet, and have lobbied hard for their repeal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

#ThankYouAlabama: Doug Jones wins Senate seat over Roy Moore, Twitter celebrates

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 11:23 AM

Watch the Moment When Supporters Find Out Doug Jones Wins Alabama's Special Senate Election

News that Alabama voters chose Tuesday to send Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate over embattled Republican Roy Moore was greeted with relief and joy on social media.

>> Read more trending news

Moore was considered a favorite to take the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions early in the race, but his grip on the position slipped amid a flurry of sexual misconduct allegations. Several women told reporters that they were teenagers when Moore made inappropriate sexual advances toward them. 

>> Related: Alabama Senate race: Doug Jones defeats Roy Moore

Moore has denied the allegations.

>> Related: 5 things to know about Doug Jones, winner of the Alabama Senate race

Jubilant revelers took to Twitter to celebrate Jones’s victory, many with messages that included a thank you to the Dixie State:

Democrat Doug Jones waves to supporters Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. In a stunning victory aided by scandal, Jones won Alabama's special Senate election, beating back history, an embattled Republican opponent and President Donald Trump, who urgently endorsed GOP rebel Roy Moore despite a litany of sexual misconduct allegations. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)(John Bazemore/AP)

Trump accusers call for congressional investigation into alleged sexual misconduct

Published: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 1:39 PM
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 3:19 PM

Accusers of Trump Sexual Misconduct Call for Congressional Investigation

Update 3:15 p.m. Dec. 11: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied the allegations levied against President Donald Trump in a news briefing Monday, telling reporters that the president has “addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations.”

"The American people knew this and voted for the president, and we feel like we're ready to move forward," she said. "This took place long before he was elected to be president and the people of this country had a decisive election."

Original report: At least four women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment called on Monday for a congressional investigation into Trump’s behavior, pointing to recent investigations announced into lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct.

>> Read more trending news

Rachel Crooks, Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Lisa Boyne were among the more than a dozen women who accused Trump of sexual harassment in the run-up to last year’s election.

“They’ve investigated other Congress members, so I think it only stands fair that (Trump) be investigated as well,” Holvey said Monday at a news conference. “I think also a nonpartisan investigation is very important, not just for him but for anybody that has allegations against them. This isn’t a partisan issue. This is how women are treated every day.”

In a statement, White House officials dismissed the accusations as false and politically motivated.

>> Related: Who is accusing Trump of sexual misconduct? 

Leeds said she was motivated to speak out again in the wake of recent allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

“In some areas, the accusations of sexual aggression were being taken seriously. People were being held accountable. Except for our president,” Leeds said. “In fact, his staff made a big point of calling us all liars.”

Earlier on Monday, Crooks, Leeds and Holvey appeared on “Megyn Kelly Today” to share their stories.

Leeds said she shared her story because she "wanted people to know what kind of person he is.” Holvey said his election despite the allegations against him made Trump’s inauguration day particularly difficult.

“It was like the entire country said, ‘Meh, we don’t care that he’s like this,’” she said.

Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant, told CNN last year that Trump inspected each woman during an event in New York City in the month before the contest. 

"He would step in front of each girl and look you over from head to toe like we were just meat; we were just sexual objects; that we were not people," Holvey told CNN. "You know when a gross guy at the bar is checking you out? It's that feeling."

Crooks told The New York Times that she shook hands when she met Trump while working for a firm in Manhattan's Trump Tower in 2005. Crooks, then 22, said he wouldn't let go of her hand, kissed her cheeks, then kissed her "directly on the mouth."

>> Related: Rep. John Conyers announces retirement in wake of sexual harassment allegations

"It was so inappropriate," she told the Times. "I was so upset that he thought I was so insignificant that he could do that."

Leeds told The New York Times that Trump put his hands up her skirt after meeting her on a plane in the early 1980s.

"He was like an octopus," she said. "His hands were everywhere."

Boyne told The Huffington Post that Trump made models walk on a table during a dinner in New York in 1996.

She told the news site Trump “stuck his head right underneath their skirts” and made crude comments about their underwear and genitalia.

In a statement released Monday, White House officials called the accusations false.

“The American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory (last year),” the statement said. “The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them.”

Crooks called the White House statement “laughable.” 

“I think, if they were willing to investigate Sen. (Al) Franken, I think it’s only fair that they do the same for Trump,” Crooks said.

>> Related: Al Franken will resign amid allegations of sexual misconduct

Franken announced last week that he plans to resign in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him by several women. The Minnesota Democrat was accused of groping women as they posed for photos with him and forcibly kissing at least two women.

He is one of three lawmakers who have announced their intention to leave office in weeks amid sexual misconduct scandals.

Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, submitted his resignation last week after he was accused of sexually harassing several women who worked for him. Conyers, D-Michigan, denied the allegations but said he decided to retire because of health concerns. The 88-year-old congressman was hospitalized in Michigan earlier this month.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, said last week that he plans to resign from his seat by the end of January after the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating allegations of sexual harassment levied against him by his former employees.