October Surprise? Trump Is Preparing For A New Round Of Tax Cuts

Is this an October surprise? Over the weekend, President Trump teased that a fresh new round of tax cuts are in the works and could be revealed before November. The package of tax cuts passed in December of 2017 hasn’t been an albatross around the GOP’s neck, which Democrats had hoped for heading into 2018 (they’re wrong about everything). It has increased in popularity, with the GOP taking the reins on trust in handling the economy. Second quarter growth is at four percent, over three million jobs created, three million working class families received bonus checks of $1,000 or more, small business and consumer confidence have reached 18-year highs, and U.S. worker pay has increased to its highest marks in a decade. Oh, and the Dow Jones is breaking records on a constant basis, with a 5,000-point gain in 2017—the largest annual gain in its history. Things are going well, but there’s a catch to these new proposed tax cuts—and it’s not necessarily hard to figure out (via Axios):

Trump has been promising major tax cuts since his presidential campaign. Axios' Jonathan Swan explains that although Congress could technically pass a tax cut in the lame duck session, Trump's proposal has no chance of passing any time soon. He can only announce such a move ahead of the midterms as Congress will remain out of session until after the election, which is just 16 days away.

So, they're not going to get it passed soon, but that’s not the point. The fact that Trump is talking about it, and GOP leaders are pushing it—is the message that needs to be sent. The GOP has been a little lackluster in selling the benefits of its economic agenda. While I’m not complaining that the vicious Supreme Court fight over Judge—no—sorry—Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh gave the conservative a base a much-needed jolt, it shouldn’t have taken this long for Republican voters to get the message that the Democrats are jacked up. They hate us, and if they win, the Trump agenda’s momentum is killed. Voting Republican means supporting Trump. Period. And this new tax cut proposal touches on a winning issue for the GOP, which they should've jumped on this cycle. Let’s look back at The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel, who said the data firm, who calmed the nerves of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in his 2016 re-election campaign, found that a great many of these competitive districts have an R+3 generic ballot advantage. Twenty-five percent of these voters were GOP persuadable, and the Trump tax cuts could be what decides how these voters break come Election Day:

Republicans have +15 point advantage on handling the economy, the highest in the poll's history. Voters trust GOP more on trade/economy, Dems more on health care & (narrowly) immigration. Economy: R+15 Trade issues: R+17 Health care: D+18 Immigration: D+4

WPAi just handed the club in-depth polling of the people who matter most this midterm—1,000 likely voters in 41 competitive House districts. The results are quietly making their way to Republican leaders, and the club agreed to give me an advance look. Bottom line: Many of these races are winnable—if Republicans have the courage of their convictions and get smarter in tailoring their messages to voters.

On the surface, the results mirror other recent polls. President Trump has a net-negative approval rating across these districts, with his unfavorable ratings notably high among women (57%), independents (58%) and suburban voters (52%). Those who answered prefer a Democratic Congress that will check Mr. Trump (48%) to electing Republicans who will pass his agenda more quickly (42%). The biggest alarm bell is the 12-point enthusiasm gap—with 72% of Democrats “very interested” in this election, compared with 60% of Republicans. In suburbia, the 12-point gap widens to 24.

Yet this thundercloud has silver linings. One is that Republicans still hold a 3-point lead on the generic ballot in these districts, meaning they have a real chance if they get their likely voters out. An even bigger opening: Approximately 25% of those polled remain “persuadable” to vote Republican—if they hear the right things.


Which is why the message that resonates most strongly by far with persuadable voters is a Republican promise that they will make permanent last year’s middle-class tax cuts. Rep. Kevin Brady, the Ways and Means Committee chairman, has introduced legislation to do just that—and it’s mind-boggling that Republicans haven’t already scheduled votes. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t have 60 Senate supporters, but Republican candidates could use Democratic “no” positions to huge effect in their races.

Likewise, Republicans have an opportunity in highlighting the left’s more doolally ideas. Uncommitted voters reacted strongly against Democrats’ calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and strongly in favor of GOP promises to defund “sanctuary” cities and states, which refuse to follow immigration law. These were top messages for those crucial suburban voters, who have watched in alarm as urban violence creeps into their neighborhoods. (Interestingly, the other top suburban message was repealing ObamaCare.)

As for the Republican base, the poll finds they are driven most by Democrats’ threats to the presidency, the economy and constitutional rights. They will be inspired by Republicans who promise to protect the Second Amendment. They are likewise stirred by promises to defend Mr. Trump from the partisan impeachment effort that would inevitably accompany Democratic House control. And they want to hear Republicans vow to guard against intrusive and specific Democratic job-killing proposals—a $15-an-hour minimum wage, regulations on autos and drinking straws, government health care, etc.  

I get that history was against the GOP in holding its current positions on the Hill. Losses were expected, but the chances of a full-blown takeover have slowly chipped away. The Senate is now a GOP lock. In fact, it may even gain four seats due to the Kavanaugh fallout. But the booming economy, the left-wing overreach on impeachment and Russia, abolish ICE, and the job-killing, high-taxes economic agenda of the Democrats is more than enough ammunition to take on House Democrats in competitive districts. It would seem that the GOP messaging problem is still a lingering thorn in the side of a party that had a lot of positives to run on this year, least of all another Supreme Court nominee confirmed by this president. If the GOP loses the House, it would be because, well, perhaps the leadership was not there. I don’t know, but there seems to be more than enough for the GOP to actually defy history and hold on to a slim majority…if it's marketed right. 


Republican Senators Doubt Saudi Arabia’s Account Of Jamal Khashoggi’s Death

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Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the journalist’s killing.

Republican senators on Sunday threw cold water on Saudi Arabia’s shifting explanations for journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death, calling for significant action to be taken against the kingdom if the Saudi crown prince is found responsible.

Saudi Arabia, which initially denied any involvement in Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 disappearance, claimed last week that The Washington Post columnist had been strangled in a fistfight with 15 men sent to confront him at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

But Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), during an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said Saudi Arabia had “lost all credibility as it relates to explaining what happened” to Khashoggi.

“I don’t think anybody believes that story,” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “It’s just not credible.”

Corker, who met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday, told CNN that he believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is often referred to as MBS, was involved in Khashoggi’s killing. 

“Obviously, if [MBS] has gone forth and murdered this journalist, he’s now crossed the line, and there has to be a punishment and a price paid for that,” Corker said. “Do I think he did it? Yeah. I think he did it.”

Saudi Arabia on Saturday blamed some of the crown prince’s inner circle for Khashoggi’s death. Five high-ranking officials, including a former two-star general and the communications chief for MBS, were dismissed, and 18 others were detained. 

President Donald Trump has been reluctant to blame Saudi Arabia’s leadership for the death of Khashoggi, a high-profile critic of the crown prince. On Friday, Trump said he found Saudi Arabia’s account credible and that the new information was “a good first step.”

Trump offered his first public criticism of Saudi Arabia’s account of Khashoggi’s death in an interview Saturday with The Washington Post, saying there had been “lies” and “deception.” But the president was also quick to praise the crown prince as a “strong person” and called Saudi Arabia an “incredible ally.” He said the journalist’s death shouldn’t get in the way of a major arms deal between the two countries.

But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday urged Trump to end U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, calling the kingdom’s Khashoggi claims “insulting.”

“I think it stretches credulity to believe that the crown prince wasn’t involved in this,” Paul told “Fox News Sunday.” “There’s no way 15 people were sent from Saudi Arabia to Turkey to kill a dissident without the approval of the crown prince.”

He continued: “That’s why I say we have to be stronger than just saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to sanction a few of these people and pretend like we’re doing something.’ I think we really need to discontinue our arms sales to Saudi Arabia and have a long and serious discussion about whether they want to be an ally or they want to be an enemy.”

Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Instanbul on Oct. 2 to obtain paperwork needed for his upcoming wedding. His fiancee waited outside, but he never reappeared. Turkish officials contend the journalist was killed and dismembered by Saudi nationals within hours after he stepped inside.

Like Paul, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) suggested a viable next step for the U.S. would be to rethink its arms sales with Saudi Arabia in light of Khashoggi’s death.

“We don’t do arms sales for the purpose of the profits from arms sales ― we do arm sales because we want to be aligned with different countries around the globe that believe in our values,” Sasse told CNN following Corker’s interview.

“I think the cover stories from the Saudis are a mess,” he continued. “You don’t bring a bone saw to an accidental fistfight. ... The Saudis have said a whole bunch of crap that’s not right, accurate or true.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (R- N.C.) echoed his fellow Republican lawmakers on Sunday, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he did not think any part of the Saudi government’s explanation was credible.

Despite Trump’s hesitation to speak out against the Saudi royal family, Tillis said he believes “the president will take the appropriate action when all the facts are in.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), one of Trump’s most outspoken supporters, told “Fox News Sunday” that Saudi Arabia’s story is “insultingly stupid.”

“On the one hand you don’t want to break the alliance with the Saudis,” Gingrich said. “On the other hand you cannot teach a 33-year-old crown prince that he can get away with things that are this outrageous and stupid or he will be out of control for the next 40 years.”

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic lawmakers have almost universally called into question Saudi Arabia’s explanation for Khashoggi’s death.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the U.S. should expel the Saudi ambassador from the U.S. while a third-party investigation is conducted into “this kidnap, murder and God-knows-what followed.”



Republicans Will Repeal Obamacare If They Get The Chance, Mitch McConnell Says

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It’s a reminder of how big the stakes are in the midterm elections.

Republicans could make another run at repealing the Affordable Care Act if they retain control of Congress next year, the Senate’s GOP leader said on Wednesday.

The statement, which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made in an interview with Reuters, came in response to a question about what the GOP had accomplished since President Donald Trump took office ― and what business McConnell felt was unfinished.

He called the failure to repeal the law known as Obamacare his singular disappointment but promised that Republicans haven’t given up. “If we had the votes to completely start over, we’d do it,” McConnell said. “But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks. ... We’re not satisfied with the way Obamacare is working.”

The statement should surprise nobody. Wiping Obamacare off the books has been a defining cause of the Republican Party since President Barack Obama signed the bill in March 2010. In 2017, when the GOP finally controlled both the White House and Congress, Republicans spent most of the year trying to pass legislation that would have finally realized that goal.

The closest they came was in July, after the House had already passed repeal legislation, when then-Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) famously gave a thumbs-down to the Senate’s bill ― in the process, providing a critical third “no” vote that likely prevented the bill from becoming law. But McCain has since passed away, a different Republican has taken his seat, and Vice President Mike Pence has already said he would like to see Republicans try again.

Whether Republicans would succeed, of course, is another question. Repeal proved to be spectacularly unpopular and the votes that House Republicans took in favor of their bill are now hurting them politically ― so much so that, all across the country, Republicans who supported repeal are now insisting, falsely, they never tried to take away the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

But it’s not difficult to imagine Republicans learning from their tactical errors, fashioning a similar bill designed to win over a handful of lawmakers who resisted repeal last time, and finally getting something through Congress.

The stakes in this fight are enormous. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, subsidies for people buying private insurance, and prohibitions on discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, the number of people without health insurance has plunged to historic lows. Studies have shown that, as a result, people are struggling less with medical bills and have better access to care.

Some people are paying more for insurance than they otherwise would and, in some states, prices have gone so high that people paying entirely on their own ― without the benefit of federal tax credits ― are finding insurance flat-out unaffordable. Even Democrats concede that this represents one of the Affordable Care Act’s failings.

But where Democrats would bolster the law with additional financial assistance or simply replace it with a straightforward government insurance program, Republicans would ratchet back the regulations, cut funding for Medicaid and provide less assistance to the poor.

That is why, according to the Congressional Budget Office and other independent analysts, all of their schemes would leave millions more people without insurance ― and struggling to find affordable medical care as a result.





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