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White House tells Woodward he'll 'regret' criticism

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 5:34 AM
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 @ 5:34 AM


            White House tells Woodward he'll 'regret' criticism

Veteran Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward says a senior official from the White House told him he will “regret” a claim he made in an op-ed piece.

Last week, Woodward wrote that President Obama is “moving the goal posts” by demanding a package of tax revenues and spending cuts to replace the sequester starting Friday.  He said it was “wrong” to blame the cuts on Republicans.

In an interview with Politico¸ Woodward revealed an email from an unidentified administration official that read, "You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here... I think you will regret staking out that claim."

Woodward appeared on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” and the White House declined to send anyone to debate him on the issue.  But as The Week reports, a White House official who would not speak if named said late Wednesday, “Of course no threat was intended.”

On CNN, Woodword said, “It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, you're going to regret doing something that you believe in."

In the op-ed, Woodward criticizes the President for requiring new taxes, saying it wasn’t part of the original sequester deal in 2011.  The piece has been cited by many Republicans who are against new taxes.

Others, such as Brian Beutler from Talking Points Memo, says Woodward is wrong because President Obama has always called for new revenues along with spending cuts in order to reduce the deficit.  He says the sequester was signed to compel Congress to act on a different deficit reduction package.

On Wednesday, Woodward criticized the President who said he’s going to hold back on military deployments because of the budget cuts.

Woodward called it, “madness.”

Retailers rise up against border tax

Published: Sunday, February 19, 2017 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Friday, February 17, 2017 @ 8:17 PM

The name sounds innocuous enough — Border Adjustment Tax. But those three bureaucratic words could cripple the cherished Republican dream of overhauling the federal tax code for the first time in three decades.

The 20 percent tax, which would be imposed on all goods imported into the United States, would raise the money Republicans need to dramatically lower tax rates for corporations without adding trillions of dollars to the federal debt during the next decade.

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But though House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is among the leading advocates of the idea, it has run smack into opposition from major retailers such as Target and Best Buy and automotive companies like Honda, which employs more than 14,000 people in Ohio.

“By definition, if you are putting a 20 percent tax on everything imported that’s a pretty good start for a higher purchase price,” said Edward Cohen, vice president and lobbyist for Honda in Washington, D.C.

“Until we see the whole bill, I can’t tell you exactly how this will come out,” Cohen said. “A border adjustment tax could have significant negative impact on our customers if the rest of the bill doesn’t offset it.”

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In a meeting at the White House Wednesday, executives of major retailers made similar points, warning the import tax would punish American consumers by raising the prices of electronics and other goods manufactured abroad. But without the $1 trillion raised by the tax during the next decade, hopes of lower corporate tax rates could slip from the grasp of Republicans.

“You could do comprehensive reform without the border adjustment,” said Alan D. Viard, a resident fellow of tax policy at the American Enterprise Institute and former professor of economics at Ohio State University. “You probably would have higher tax rates.”

The border adjustment tax, which some financial analysts say is not much different from a sales tax or a value-added tax, is just one part of a sweeping House Republican plan unveiled last June designed to scrub away scores of loopholes and preferences from the tax code and substitute a far more simple system.

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The election of President Donald Trump has given Republicans their big chance. If they can use their Senate and House majorities to win approval of a tax bill this year, they have a president who will sign it into law.

“I am convinced we will do tax reform” this year, said suburban Columbus Rep. Tiberi, R-Genoa Twp., who remains undecided about a border tax. “We have a long way to go and if President Trump is not for whatever we do, it will never become law.”

Last month, aides to Trump said the administration was considering a 20 percent border tax on Mexican imports to finance the construction of a border wall. The tax is a variation on the House Republican plan to levy a border tax on imports from all countries.

Republicans claim a major revision of the tax code would jolt an economy they believe has recovered too sluggishly from the depths of the 2009 recession. They maintain it would simplify a tax code so complex that 90 percent of Americans need help in filling out their income tax returns.

And they contend lowering the corporate tax rate while offering corporations a one-time low tax on cash held abroad would unleash new investment in plants and technology. 

“The goal is to bring people together to pass pro-jobs tax reform,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who talked about overhauling the code Thursday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “I think this is the best way to get the economy moving and raise wages.”

But Democrats, many of whom acknowledge the tax code has become mind-numbingly complex for ordinary Americans, warn the tax reductions talked about by congressional Republicans would provide the wealthiest of Americans with a substantial tax savings while raising prices for average Americans.

They argue a border tax would add complexity to the code, not make it simpler. And they fear such massive tax cuts included in the GOP plan would add trillions of dollars in new debt.

“It loses an enormous amount of money and basically all of that money goes to the top 1 percent,” said Harry Stein, director of fiscal policy at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic-leaning non-profit organization in Washington.

So to solve the deficit quandary, Ryan and other Republicans have backed the border tax.

“The revenue impact of the border adjustment is pretty significant within a 10-year window,” Viard said. “Over the long haul it should be revenue neutral.”

In Ohio, lawmakers are being tugged in competing directions. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, whose district is near Honda’s assembly plant in Marysville, said, “The people who have a supply chain in the United States love it and the people who have a supply chain outside the United States hate it.”

“The reason we haven’t done tax reform is 30 years is it is really complicated and the last thing we want to do is screw it up and make prices rise,” said Stivers, who also is undecided about the border tax.

Portman, while saying he has “some concerns” about a border tax, said he did not “want to be negative about any proposal out there because we should be encouraging reform.

“But I don’t want to spend the next year squabbling about this,” Portman said. “I want to find a common ground.”

Details of Republican tax plan

*Reduces current six income tax brackets to three

*The new brackets will be 33 percent, 25 percent and 12 percent

*Increases standard deduction from $6,300 a year to $12,000 for singles

*Increases standard deduction from $12,600 to $24,000 for married filing jointly

*Eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax

*Eliminates all deductions except home mortgage interest and charitable

*Reduces corporate income from 35 percent to 20 percent

*Reduce tax on small pass-through companies from ordinary income to 25 percent

* Reduces taxes on capital gains and dividends to a maximum of 16.5 percent

Kasich: It’s a ‘bad idea’ to phase out Medicaid expansion

Published: Sunday, February 19, 2017 @ 1:13 PM
Updated: Sunday, February 19, 2017 @ 1:15 PM

Calling it a “very, very bad idea,” Gov. John Kasich sharply criticized a House Republican plan to phase out federal health spending for a program Kasich has used to provide health coverage for 700,000 low-income people in Ohio.

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Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday as he attended an international security conference in Munich, Kasich said “we cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable,” saying he was “not going to sit silent and just allow them to rip that out.”

Kasich was referring to an expansion of Medicaid, a joint federal and state program dating to 1965 that provides health care for the poor. The 2010 health law, known as Obamacare, funneled hundreds of millions of additional Medicaid dollars to the states to expand coverage to millions of low-income people across the country.

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Last week, House Republicans circulated a memo on scrapping Obamacare that would include phasing out the additional federal dollars Kasich used to expand Medicaid coverage in Ohio.

“There are 700,000 Ohioans who now get care who didn’t have it before, a third of whom have either mental illness and need to be treated or drug addiction,” Kasich said.

“And to turn our back on them makes no sense,” Kasich said. “Now, I believe there is an ability to reform, to repeal and replace Obamacare which also includes a reform of Medicaid that will make the program more affordable.

Ohio Gov. Kasich breaks with President Trump on media criticism

Published: Sunday, February 19, 2017 @ 1:18 PM
Updated: Sunday, February 19, 2017 @ 1:18 PM

In a sign that Ohio Gov. John Kasich is continuing an independent approach, Kasich broke with President Donald Trump on his tweet that the news media is the “enemy of the American people.”

“While I don’t always agree with the reporting of the press, they are vital,” said Kasich who at times has had a turbulent relationship with the Ohio news media.

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Kasich made the comments during an interview from Munich, Germany on CNN.

In another dig against Trump, Kasich said a joint House-Senate intelligence committee “investigation ought to get to the bottom of” charges that Russian officials orchestrated an effort to hack Democratic National Committee e-mails during last year’s campaign between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

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“Were they trying to influence our election?” Kasich asked. “Many European countries are worried about Russia’s hacking their elections, disrupting their elections. So, I believe that the House and Senate can carry this out. And I think that it has to be done in a bipartisan and thorough way.”

Kasich also urged Trump to reassure America’s nervous European allies that he is committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, saying they need to directly hear from Trump that “we all stand together in the Western Alliance.”

Kasich said while Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis in Munich and Brussels this week said the administration stands with NATO, many allies point to Trump’s past description of the alliance as “obsolete.”

“The president’s people have all said it, but, frankly, he needs to be heard in a more … clear way,” Kasich said. “Because, despite all these people being here, I have been meeting with all these folks from all over the world. They say: ‘We’re just not sure.’”

Senate silence speaks volumes about Russia probe

Published: Saturday, February 18, 2017 @ 9:04 PM
Updated: Saturday, February 18, 2017 @ 9:05 PM

A surprise meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday with the FBI Director yielded a surprise reaction from Senators, as normally chatty members of the Senate said next to nothing about their closed door meeting, raising eyebrows over that discussion and that panel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Usually, the appearance of someone as senior as FBI Director James Comey would have been on the schedule; instead reporters just happened to run into him on Friday afternoon in the Capitol.

Several hours later, no one had much to say about what went on inside their closed door meeting.

“I really have to go,” said Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID).

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) brushed off questions, as did Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) emerged with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and playfully suggested that we ask Cotton about the meeting; he headed to his office without stopping.

One of the few to stop and take some questions was Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who said he hoped any probe of Russia would be bipartisan.

“I think it will be very important to have a public final report,” Lankford said, before hopping on the Senate subway.

But Lankford wasn’t shedding any light about what was discussed with the FBI Director.

Now, I know that many will say – well, of course they’re not going to say anything concrete about what was discussed in an intelligence committee meeting.

Yes, that’s true – but from many years of experience of standing in stakeouts in the hallways of the Capitol when members of the Congressional intelligence committees meet, usually you at least get a little banter that chews around the edges of the issue.

But not this time.

A few hours later, we did get a Tweet that seemed significant, from Sen. Rubio.

While it didn’t say anything about the FBI Director, it sure seemed like it was a tweet that was meant to send a message about a review of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, coming a few days after the resignation of President Trump’s National Security Advisor, and renewed questions about ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

On Saturday, Reuters reported that the FBI is “pursuing at least three separate probes relating to alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential elections,” but it wasn’t clear if any of that had been discussed by the FBI chief and Senators.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that the top members of each party on the Senate Intelligence Committee had sent out letters to the White House and other agencies to preserve any investigative material that might be related to Russian activity in 2016.

Was this just a regular briefing from Comey? Or something bigger?

The silence of Senators makes me wonder.