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Published: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 4:52 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 08, 2018 @ 4:51 PM
WASHINGTON — Congress passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut package just two months ago. Turns out it wasn't enough.
Wedged into the new mammoth Senate spending deal is a pack of tax breaks for homeowners and electric car owners — as well as goodies for motor speedways. There's also tax relief for people and businesses affected by the California wildfires and the hurricanes that devastated Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Owners of racehorses will get a break, too.
The new tax benefits didn't make it into the Republican-backed tax overhaul enacted in December, which had to land under a $1.5 trillion limit in order to pass the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes. Now, with fresh bipartisan legislation allowing the shattering of tight caps on defense and domestic programs, lawmakers have found room for dozens more tax breaks.
The provisions for the disaster-struck areas and the extensions of benefits for homeowners and energy savers are popular with lawmakers from both parties and may have helped sweeten the deal for Democrats, all of whom rejected the GOP tax plan. Most of the proposed tax breaks are not new, but extend expired provisions through the end of this year.
Among the proposed extensions of tax benefits for homeowners: the deduction for mortgage insurance premiums and the exclusion from income of some forgiven debts on mortgages. The deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses for higher education also is extended, subject to certain caps.
Tax credits are extended for investments homeowners make to improve energy efficiency, such as solar panels, windows, skylights, water heaters and heat pumps. The $1,000 to $2,000 credit for building or selling new energy-efficient homes is extended. The $4,000 to $40,000 credit for purchases of new hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is extended, as is the credit for 10 percent of the amount paid for new two-wheeled plug-in electric cars. Electric car charging stations also benefit.
The tax law that kicked in Jan. 1 already provides a credit of up to $7,500 for purchases of larger plug-in electric cars such as the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt. And it offers tax support for wind and solar energy — while also boosting oil and gas production.
Other extensions: the 20 percent credit that employers can claim for wages and health care expenses related to employing certain members of an Indian tribe; the credit for railroad track maintenance; special rules for expensing in qualified film and television productions; and benefits for business activities in so-called empowerment zones.
The roar of NASCAR racing, a perennial favorite among both parties, can be heard in the extension of tax rules for so-called motorsports entertainment complexes. The shortened, seven-year period for writing down the value of the asset would be extended. Lawmakers have promoted racing, with its correlated food vending and other facilities, as a job creator. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has been one of the active proponents of the tax allowance.
A big winner, at least for this year: International Speedway Corp., which owns and operates 13 motorsports facilities around the country, including Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway.
The owners of racehorses get an extension of the three-year period for writing down that asset.
The new agreement to fund the government for two years adds nearly $90 billion in overdue disaster aid for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. That includes tax relief: allowing for hardship withdrawals from retirement plans, deductions for property losses and other benefits.
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM
WASHINGTON — The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.
Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.
Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.
Porter has denied any wrongdoing.
"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy on allegations of spousal abuse against former top White House aide Rob Porter: “How in the hell was he still employed… How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” https://t.co/vuNO7b7riO https://t.co/nHySCCvUGb— CNN (@CNN) February 14, 2018
Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.
The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.
“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.
White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.
“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.
Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.
Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.
She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM
ANDERSON, S.C. — A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.
In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.
Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 @ 4:16 PM
BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats, telling reporters in New Jersey that the decision will help the U.S. cut down on salaries.
“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we will have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’re going to save a lot of money.”
The comments were Trump’s first addressing Putin’s decision last month to expel 755 diplomats and technical personnel from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, according to The Post.
Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 included a 29 percent cut of State Department funding, NPR reported.
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email to The New York Times on Friday that the president was making a joke.
“He was being sarcastic,” she told the newspaper.
Still, some lawmakers questioned Trump’s decision to praise Putin.
“After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this,” he said.
According to Politico, “many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.”
Unidentified sources told the news site that most of the U.S. diplomats made to leave Russia will be moved to different posts.
Putin’s decision to kick American diplomats out of the country came in retaliation for sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. Trump signed the bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support and required congressional approval to lift the restrictions, although he criticized it as being “seriously flawed.”
Published: Saturday, February 03, 2018 @ 2:58 PM
— A Democratic congresswoman from Michigan was caught playing Candy Crush on her phone during Tuesday's State of the Union address.
A Getty photographer captured U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence playing the game on her iPhone during President Trump's address, the Detroit Free Press reported. Other photographs taken during the address show many legislators using their phones.