Calls to Action
• The Senate took a big step forward when the Budget Committee voted to pass the Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax package, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on the bill later this week.
• After a day of deal making, several senators who were on the fence now seem more receptive to voting for the bill.
• Some hurdles still exist, including aligning the Senate version with the House bill and ensuring that the changes some senators want don’t rankle other lawmakers.
• On Wednesday, the full Senate will vote on whether to proceed with consideration of the bill.
• The advancement of the bill came after a day of partisan sparring in which Congress’s two top Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, pulled out of a White House meeting after President Trump attacked them in a tweet.
Chances the bill will pass the full Senate strengthened considerably
A flurry of last-minute deal making helped garner the support of a few Republican lawmakers who had expressed concerns about the $1.5 trillion package, including its treatment of small businesses and its effect on the deficit.
The rapid turnaround underlines the pressure Republicans face to pass a tax cut and notch a significant legislative victory in their first year controlling both Congress and the White House. To help push the effort forward, President Trump visited Capitol Hill for a lunch meeting with Republican senators, where he made promises to some and admonished others.
“I think we’re going to get it passed,” Mr. Trump said at the White House later in the day. “It’s going to have lots of adjustments before it ends, but the end result will be a very, very massive — the largest in the history of our country — tax cut.”
Republicans emerged from the lunch increasingly optimistic about the bill’s fate and played down the concerns that had threatened to bedevil its passage.
Three key Republican holdouts, Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, sounded positive about the bill on Tuesday after gaining assurances from Mr. Trump and Republican leadership that those worries would be addressed.
The bill passed the Senate Budget Committee on a party-line vote
Among those who voted the bill out of committee were Mr. Johnson and Mr. Corker, both of whom had said on Monday they would oppose the legislation without changes to address their individual concerns. Mr. Johnson wants more favorable treatment for pass-through businesses and Mr. Corker wants assurances the $1.5 trillion tax bill won’t add to the deficit.
But the meeting with Mr. Trump and discussions with Republican leaders seemed to have swayed them enough to vote to advance the plan.
A vote on Wednesday could open the bill to debate and amendments
On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on a procedural motion to begin consideration of the bill on the Senate floor. If that passes, the Senate can begin offering and debating amendments to the bill, which is a precursor to a floor vote that could happen on Friday.
But there are still hurdles ahead, including the need to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of receptivity to the change that Mr. Corker wants made, which would require some taxes to increase if the overall package adds to the deficit.
So while the Senate took a big step forward, it still has several more paces to go before declaring victory.
Mr. Trump attacked ‘Chuck and Nancy,’ and then they pulled out of a White House meeting
The two top Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, refused to attend a meeting with Mr. Trump and congressional leaders that was scheduled for the afternoon after the president posted on Twitter this morning that he was meeting with “Chuck and Nancy” to discuss ways to avert a government shutdown and wrote “I don’t see a deal!”
“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,” Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.
“Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to meet this afternoon. We don’t have any time to waste in addressing the issues that confront us, so we’re going to continue to negotiate with Republican leaders who may be interested in reaching a bipartisan agreement.”
Just a few months ago, Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi seemed to be forging a fruitful partnership with Mr. Trump, who refers to them as “Chuck and Nancy.” In September, the president sided with them to strike a fiscal dealthat raised the debt limit and extended government funding into December.
Now, lawmakers are facing another pressing fiscal deadline, as government funding expires Dec. 8. Republican leaders in Congress will need Democratic votes in order to keep the government open beyond that date. Mr. Trump’s tweet follows similar comments about the minority party on Monday, when he said he did not need Democrats to support the tax bill moving through Congress.
The White House spokeswoman said that the Democrats’ boycott showed ‘pettiness’
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, accused Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer of “pettiness” in declining to attend Tuesday afternoon’s meeting.
“It’s disappointing that Senator Schumer and Leader Pelosi are refusing to come to the table and discuss urgent issues,” she 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.”
Republican leaders say Democrats were playing politics with their boycott
The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, said in a statement that Democrats need to show up at the meeting if they care about preventing a government shutdown.
“We have important work to do, and Democratic leaders have continually found new excuses not to meet with the administration to discuss these issues,” they said. “Democrats are putting government operations, particularly resources for our men and women on the battlefield, at great risk by pulling these antics. There is a meeting at the White House this afternoon, and if Democrats want to reach an agreement, they will be there.”
Democrats have deep concerns about the tax bill, too
Mr. Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor, pounded on Republicans and Mr. Trump for blocking Democrats from participating in the tax overhaul, saying it would help the rich and corporations instead of the middle class.
“It’s an issue crying out for a bipartisan solution,” he said of the tax rewrite. “There are a lot of areas we agree. We have to work to find a middle ground that’s acceptable to both parties.” The bill as it stands, he said, would balloon the debt and help hedge funds and lobbyists but not average Americans.
Democrats are also worried about a provision in the Senate bill that repeals the requirement that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. Dropping the so-called individual mandate would produce savings that would help pay for the tax cuts, since people would forgo health insurance and therefore the government would spend less on subsidized health coverage.
Right now, about 4.5 percent of tax filers pay a penalty rather than get health insurance. Here’s a look at who they are and where they live:
A “dynamic” economic analysis may come on Wednesday
Senate Republicans have been speeding ahead toward a vote on their tax bill even without a “dynamic” score from the Joint Committee on Taxation that would show the effects of the proposed tax cuts on the economy. That score is important, since it will show the extent to which the tax cuts will boost growth and avoid adding to the deficit.
The analysis could roil the tax debate at the 11th hour by giving pause to deficit hawks in the Senate. It would be the first attempt by the committee to project the economic effects of the Republican tax plans. The House passed its bill this month before the committee could complete a so-called dynamic score of the bill.
Outside analysts expect the score will show that the Senate bill does not create nearly enough economic growth to generate revenues to offset those lost via tax cuts. Such a showing would undermine Republicans’ claims that the bill would pay for itself.
In a letter that was sent on Monday to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the J.C.T. said there is still a chance that such an analysis could be ready this week, perhaps as soon as late Wednesday.
“The Joint Committee staff is currently involved in analyzing the macroeconomic effects of the bill, and is trying to complete the analysis for purposes of producing the estimate of the budget effects” in time to inform debate on the Senate floor, Thomas Barthold, chief of staff of the J.C.T. wrote in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the finance committee.
Thus far, dynamic analyses of the Republican tax bills have failed to match the promises of the party’s lawmakers that the tax cuts would pay for themselves by creating a surge of economic growth and new revenues.
Mr. Barthold could make no guarantees that the analysis would be ready in time and he warned that it would not account for any last minute changes that are made to the bill.
“When we produce these estimates, we subject them to a number of quality checks before releasing them, and cannot guarantee a specific release time until we have completed that process,” he said.
Times, T. (2017). G.O.P. Tax Bill Takes a Big Step Forward With Committee Vote. Nytimes.com. Retrieved 29 November 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/us/politics/republican-tax-bill.html
Save Net Neutrality
Voice your Opposition to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Declaratory Ruling, Docket No. 17-108, Destroying Internet Freedom
We oppose this shameful abandonment of a free and open Internet. This rule change is a gift to a small but powerful group of corporations, who will gain even more influence to the detriment of the general public. This could also allow corporations to suppress free speech.
What is it “net neutrality”?
Net neutrality is a term commonly used to describe to rules implemented by the FCC to regulate Internet Service Providers (ISPs), requiring them to treat all Internet traffic as equal. This means that ISPs can’t slow down, speed up, or block your data based on the type of data it is or where it originates from.
This is how we have come to expect Internet service to operate. When you sign on for service from Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc., you expect them to make their best effort to deliver content to your device, regardless of where that data comes from or what that data is. All of that is about to change if the FCC has its way.
What is happening to the net neutrality rules?
The Trump administration is in the process of gutting net neutrality. A final proposal was recently published by the FCC and will be subject to vote by the FCC Commissioners on December 14, 2017. Once passed, this will allow ISPs to alter your Internet traffic any way they see fit. The reasons given by the FCC for voiding these rules range from uninformed to dishonest.
If this passes as proposed, any remedies for ISP abuses will have to come from the over-extended Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has limited enforcement power. It is also not clear that the FTC can address abuses that don’t affect trade, such as the suppression of free speech by ISPs. For example, if Verizon doesn’t want you to read this website because they don’t like it’s message, they will be able slow it down or otherwise make it unusable under this new regime.
Destruction of the free Internet could impact your wallet. Soon you might be forced to pay more for Internet access, because ISPs want to offer more expensive “premium” tiers of end-to-end service. There is a very strong incentive to throttle service for those who aren’t paying the premium. Without net neutrality in place, they can do this with few repercussions.
Why should progressives care about this issue?
The core technologies that enable today’s Internet came from a government-funded project in the late 60’s. The Internet infrastructure resulting from that research has benefited both our economy and our society. Therefore the government should continue to ensure the Internet is an equal playing field, and not just hope that ISPs will put the public’s interests above their own profits.
Killing net neutrality will undermine the ability of poor people to get broadband, knee-cap funding for rural telecommunications, encouraging consolidation and higher prices in business broadband, enable massive broadcasting conglomerates to gobble up more local voices. The only ones who benefit from killing these rules are the big ISPs, who will try to shake down consumers and businesses that rely on the Internet.
What can I do?
Contact the three Republican FCC Commissioners and tell them to vote NO on December 14. We want to keep net neutrality just as it is.
- Ajit Pai – Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov
- Michael O’Rielly – Mike.ORielly@fcc.gov
- Brendan Carr – Brendan.Carr@fcc.gov
You can also add your voice to the over 20 million public comments already on record regarding these proceedings (Docket 17-108). Go to the FCC SITE (Link Here) and select “+Express” and then fill in the form. In the comments, make sure to indicate you want the FCC to continue enforcing Net Neutrality under Title II.
Also, contact your representatives and tell them you want them to support legislation to ensure the Internet remains free.
The following links provide additional information about this issue.
On May 18, the FCC voted to begin a proceeding that will completely gut consumer protections for the open internet. The 2015 Open Internet Order was an historic victory for Americans everywhere, protecting our rights online in the face of big-monied cable interests. Now, Trump’s FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to strip those away, allowing cable and Internet Service Provider (ISP) giants to swoop in and pick winners and losers online—to decide what you can or can’t do, see, or say. The fight starts NOW to stand up for the open internet as the essential tool for free speech and civic engagement. Call your Senator or House Representative today and tell them to oppose Pai’s rollback of net neutrality protections.