Highlights of House, Senate GOP plans to overhaul tax code

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 3:02 AM
Updated: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 3:01 AM

A comparison of a Republican-written tax bill approved Thursday by the House Ways and Means Committee and another being proposed by GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee:

—Personal income tax rates: House condenses current seven brackets to four: 12, 25, 35 and 39.6 percent. Senate retains seven brackets but changes them to 10, 12, 22.5, 25, 32.5, 35 and 38.5 percent. Under current law, top bracket is 39.6 percent.

—Standard deduction: Is currently $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for married couples. House, Senate would both raise those levels to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples.

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—Tax credits: House raises per-child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600, extends it to families earning up to $230,000. Creates a $300 tax credit for each adult in a family, which expires in 2023. Senate raises per child tax credit to $1,650 and raises income limit of families who qualify to $1 million. Both bills preserve adoption tax credit, which House bill initially eliminated.

—Home mortgage interest deduction: House would limit the deduction to the first $500,000 of the loan. Senate would retain the current $1 million ceiling.

—Other deductions: House reduces allowable charitable deductions and eliminates medical expense deductions. Senate does neither.

—State and local taxes: House ends deductions for state and local income and sales taxes, allows it for up to $10,000 in property taxes. Senate eliminates entire deduction.

—Alternative minimum tax: House, Senate both repeal the tax aimed at ensuring that higher-earning people pay at least some tax.

—Inheritance tax: When someone dies, the person inheriting the estate currently must pay taxes on its value above $5.5 million for individuals, $11 million for couples. House bill initially doubles those limits and repeals the entire tax after 2023. Senate doubles the exemptions but does not repeal the tax.

—Individual mandate: Neither chamber repeals the requirement in President Barack Obama's health care law that people pay a tax penalty if they don't purchase health insurance.

—Corporate taxes: House, Senate both reduce current 35 percent rate to 20 percent, but Senate has one-year delay in dropping that rate.

—Pass-through businesses: Millions of U.S. businesses "pass through" their income to individuals, who then pay personal income tax on those earnings, not corporate tax. House bill would tax many of them at 25 percent, plus creates 9 percent rate for the first $75,000 in earnings by some smaller pass-throughs. Senate bill would let people deduct some of the earnings and then pay at their personal income tax rate on the remainder.

—Businesses: House, Senate both expand write-offs allowed companies that buy equipment.

—Multinational corporations: House levies 10 percent tax on profits for overseas subsidiaries of U.S. corporations, and seeks to eliminate tax incentives that encourage some U.S. companies to move overseas. Senate ends tax advantages for firms moving overseas.

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Cohen’s lawyer confirms existence of Trump tape

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 6:28 PM

A lawyer for Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney for President Donald Trump, confirmed late Friday that Cohen does have a recording of a phone call with Mr. Trump from 2016, disputing assertions by the President’s current lawyer that it would be ‘exculpatory’ evidence which would help the President.

In a post on Twitter, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis wrote, “suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt” Cohen.

“Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape,” Cohen added, in what was interpreted by some as a jab at Mr. Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who downplayed the tape to news organizations on Friday.

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The recording of the President – if done by Cohen in New York – would be legal, as the Empire State has laws which only require one party on a phone call to consent to any recording.

The White House made no statement about the tape. The President ignored questions shouted at him about the subject, as he left the White House for a weekend at his golf club in New Jersey.

The tape was part of extensive evidence seized by the FBI during an April 9 raid on Cohen, which sparked outrage from the President – “Attorney-client privilege is dead!” Mr. Trump tweeted a day after the raid.

The raid was an effort by prosecutors in New York to find out more about work that Cohen had done for the President on payments to women such as porn star Stormy Daniels, and model Karen McDougal. Both women have claimed they had relationships with the President, and were paid money to keep quiet.

Prosecutors have indicated that they are probing questions about how the payments were made before the 2016 elections – and whether any of the transactions could run afoul of federal campaign finance laws.

In recent weeks, Cohen has cut his legal cooperation with the President, making it clear in statements and interviews that his loyalty was to his family, and not Mr. Trump.

“I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy,” Cohen told ABC News earlier this month.

It wasn’t immediately clear if this tape recording of a Cohen-Trump phone call was among the items which had been reviewed by a former federal judge, as to whether or not attorney-client privilege would prevent its release to prosecutors.

Acting as special master in the Cohen case, Barbara Jones has already released over 2 million items seized by the FBI to prosecutors.

On Friday, she told a federal judge in court documents that of 4,085 items designated as privileged – either by Cohen or by the President’s lawyers – 1,452 of those did not deserve that designation, and were given to the feds for further review.

No charges have yet been filed against Cohen, as he now is being represented by Davis, well known for his unyielding defense of President Bill Clinton during the Whitewater investigation.

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Trump faces more domestic flak over tariffs, trade policies

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 4:16 AM

In a loud, bipartisan message from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and across the landscape of American business and agriculture, President Donald Trump is facing sharp questions about his tariffs on China, Mexico, Canada, and Europe, as businesses and farmers say they’re being economically harmed by the President’s actions on trade.

In hearings this week in Congress and at the Commerce Department, in speeches on the floors of the House and Senate, and in news conferences outside the Capitol, the message has been simple – the Trump Tariffs are hurting, and more won’t help.

Sporting signs that said, “Say No to the Car tax,” auto workers rallied outside the Capitol on Thursday morning as Commerce Department officials were listening to car industry officials denounce the idea of a new tariff threatened by President Trump on imported cars from Europe.

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“The opposition is widespread and deep, because the consequences are alarming,” said Jennifer Thomas, with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Thomas’ testimony was echoed by a series of other industry groups, all arguing that a new tariff on imported autos and auto parts would only hurt U.S. consumers.

“The tariffs will lead to higher vehicles prices for all automakers, foreign and domestic,” said Matt Blunt, the former Governor of Missouri, now with the American Automotive Policy Council.

“Tariffs on parts will also increases cost on other things made in America,” said Linda Dempsey of the National Association of Manufacturers.

On Capitol Hill, 149 lawmakers signed a letter to the Commerce Secretary opposing the use of a special ‘national security’ tariff procedure.

“We do not believe that imports of automobiles and automotive parts pose a national security threat,” read the letter, spearheaded by Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN). “Price increases from tariffs, quotas, and other trade restrictions will ultimately be borne by American families in the form of higher vehicle prices.”

A day earlier, Walorski had joined members in both parties at a House hearing to vent their frustration at how earlier tariffs levied by the Trump Administration were hurting U.S. farmers back home.

“We are concerned with the administration’s decision to place tariff’s on our trading partners,” said Russell Boening, the head of the Texas Farm Bureau, who said one-quarter of Texas agriculture depends on exports.

“The current tariffs, the continuing back-and-forth retaliatory actions, and trade uncertainties are hitting American agriculture from all sides,” said Kevin Papp, the President of the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

“Once you lose a market, it’s really hard to get it back,” Papp added, who grows corn and soybeans on his family farm.

“Farmers are dealing with big shifts in the commodity markets because of trade and tariff threats,” said Scott VanderWal, who heads the South Dakota Farm Bureau.

The stories of concerns on the farm – and in other every day businesses – are echoed almost daily by lawmakers in both parties, who worry that President Trump’s drive to level the trade playing field is going to turn into a trade war.

“If this starts to spiral out of control, business will pull back,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who has been an especially sharp critic of the President’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Rattling off examples of businesses back home who are feeling the pinch from either the higher tariffs – or retaliatory tariffs by other nations – has become almost a daily experience on Capitol Hill.

“We’re in the midst of a full-blown trade war,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “If it gets out of control, it can take us into an economic recession.”

It has led Democrats to hammer on the issue more in recent weeks, convinced that rural voters with ties to agriculture might not be as thrilled to vote Republican in the fall elections for Congress.

At the White House, there has been no sign that President Trump is going to back off of his push on trade, as he looks at tariffs as leverage to force other countries to lower their own trade barriers.

But so far, the only response from other countries has been retaliatory tariffs – and those are clearly being felt across the U.S., especially in agriculture.

“There have been very few issues in my career as a farmer that have caused me to lose sleep,” said Michelle Erickson-Jones, with the Montana Grain Growers Association.

“But these tariffs are one of them.”

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Jim Jordan blames political rivals for Ohio State sex allegations

Published: Thursday, July 19, 2018 @ 2:57 PM


            In this Thursday, July 12, 2018, photo, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok during the House Committees on the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform hearing on “Oversight of FBI and DOJ Actions Surrounding the 2016 Election,” on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jordan, who coached wrestling at Ohio State University, has been interviewed by the law firm investigating allegations that a now-dead team doctor sexually abused male athletes there decades ago. Jordan’s spokesman says the congressman spoke Monday, July 16, 2018, with the firm looking into allegations against Dr. Richard Strauss and how the school responded to any complaints about Strauss. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
In this Thursday, July 12, 2018, photo, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok during the House Committees on the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform hearing on “Oversight of FBI and DOJ Actions Surrounding the 2016 Election,” on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jordan, who coached wrestling at Ohio State University, has been interviewed by the law firm investigating allegations that a now-dead team doctor sexually abused male athletes there decades ago. Jordan’s spokesman says the congressman spoke Monday, July 16, 2018, with the firm looking into allegations against Dr. Richard Strauss and how the school responded to any complaints about Strauss. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim Jordan suggested those on the left “choreographed” accusations that as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State he ignored warnings from wrestlers that a team doctor engaged in inappropriate behavior with them.

During an interview Thursday with Fox News, Jordan, R-Urbana, said he found it “suspect” the charges have emerged this summer as he and Republicans are threatening to impeach Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for what they claim is his unwillingness to provide Congress with documents related to the FBI’s investigation into Democratic presidential Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

RELATED: Report: 5 former OSU wrestlers say Jordan aware of team doctor’s alleged sex abuse

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Rosenstein last year tapped Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate accusations that Russian intelligence officials interfered with the election in a way to help Trump win.

“I mean, jeepers, the way it seemed to me was sequenced and choreographed” by some on the left, Jordan said. “I find all that suspect.”

RELATED: Former Ohio State wrestlers defend Jim Jordan

“I guess I like to think that the reason you see the left coming after me and lies being told is because we’re being effective in doing what we told the American people we were doing,” Jordan said. “I also think it has something to do with the fact that President Trump is doing a great job, and we are trying to support him and help him make America great again.”

Jordan has raised the argument previously that he is a victim of a vendetta by liberals in the wrestling scandal. He has not provided any evidence to back that claim.

MORE: Rep. Jim Jordan interviewed in doctor sex abuse inquiry

More than a half-dozen former wrestlers at Ohio State have said that Jordan, who served as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Richard Strauss worked there as a team physician, knew of inappropriate behavior by Strauss but did not report it.

Attorneys for Ohio State on Monday interviewed Jordan, who said “the interview was fine. We’re not allowed to get into details in what was talked about. They are doing an investigation for the university.”

“I knew of no abuse,” Jordan said. “Never heard of it. Never had any reported to me. If I had, I would have dealt with it. Every single coach has said the same thing I have. All kinds of wrestlers have said the same thing I have. And the reason they have all said that it is because is the truth.”

Jessica Wehrman of the Washington Bureau contributed to this story.

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Lawmakers press for details on Trump-Putin summit

Published: Thursday, July 19, 2018 @ 1:00 PM

Alarmed by the lack of information from the White House on what was discussed in talks earlier this week between President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, lawmakers in both parties on Thursday demanded that the Trump Administration detail what exactly was agreed to by Mr. Trump in his talks in Helsinki, Finland.

“We have got to find out what the Russian Ambassador was finding out yesterday, when he said that important agreements were reached,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

“We shouldn’t be just guessing based on the statements of the Russian Ambassador, or based on the reports of what we hear in the media,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).

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“What are they hiding?” Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer added on the Senate floor. “What are they afraid of?”

At a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday, the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said that no ‘secret deals’ were made in the Trump-Putin meeting – but then, Antonov said in a television interview later in the day that, ‘important verbal agreements were made.’

“The meeting was important, intense, constructive and productive,” Antonov was quoted by the Russian TV network RT.

But with no joint statement from the two leaders after the Trump-Putin meeting, and no rundown of exactly what was discussed, lawmakers felt they were being left in the dark.

Those expressions of concern on Capitol Hill came as other arms of the federal government made clear they were also did not know details of any Trump-Putin agreements as well.

At the Pentagon, reporters spoke via video conference with CENTCOM Commander, Gen. Joseph Votel, who said he had received no information from the White House on any future U.S.-Russian military cooperation in Syria.

Gen. Votel said there had been “no new guidance for me as a result of the Helsinki discussions as of yet.”

President Trump on Wednesday declared his meeting with Putin to be a ‘tremendous success,’ adding on Twitter this morning that he wants a second meeting with the Russian leader.

In a pair of tweets, Mr. Trump rattled off a list of items which he had discussed in the Putin meeting: “stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more.”

“There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems,” the President wrote, “but they can ALL be solved,” as he again attacked the press as the “enemy of the people.”

Some lawmakers were also demanding any notes from the woman who served as Mr. Trump’s interpreter during the meeting – but that option seemed unlikely.

One other discussion point between the two leaders drew additional bipartisan notice, as the Senate moved to go on the record against the idea of allowing Russia to question the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, as the White House faced stern criticism for not rejecting the idea out of hand.

“When President Trump called Putin’s offer, an incredible offer, he was incredibly wrong,” said Sen. Schumer.

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