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House passes sweeping tax bill in huge victory for GOP


Reported

The House on Thursday passed legislation to overhaul the tax code, moving Republicans one step closer to achieving the top item on their legislative agenda.  The measure was approved by a vote of 227-205. No Democrats voted for the bill, while 13 Republicans broke ranks to oppose it.

Passing this bill is the single biggest thing we can do to grow the economy, to restore opportunity and help these middle-income families who are struggling, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said ahead of the vote.

Once the bill reached the magic number for passage, Republicans in the chamber erupted into applause. Democrats mockingly joined in, with some singing “na na na na, hey hey, goodbye,” like they did when the chamber passed an ObamaCare repeal bill earlier this year.

Besides Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who had concerns about the bill’s impact on the debt, all of the GOP no votes came from the states of New York, New Jersey and California.

Opposing the bill were New York Reps. Dan Donovan, John Faso, Pete Kingc, Elise Stefanik and Lee Zeldin; New Jersey Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen , Leonard Lance , Frank LoBiondo  and Chris Smith, and California Reps. Darrell Issa , Tom McClintock 

Passage of the tax bill, which was unveiled just two weeks ago, was relatively drama-free compared to the GOP’s failed effort to repeal ObamaCare earlier this year.

The stakes are high for Republicans, who are feeling pressure to show that they can govern ahead of next year’s midterm elections. The Democratic wave in last week’s gubernatorial and state house elections in Virginia and New Jersey has only added to their anxiety.

GOP leaders are hoping to get legislation to President Trump’s desk by Christmas, an ambitious timeline given the obstacles that are mounting in the Senate.

Ahead of the House vote, Trump visited the Capitol to rally the House GOP conference in support of the bill. The president and his economic advisers have touted tax reform as the key to unlocking economic growth.

The measure approved Thursday would reduce the number of individual tax brackets, slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and eliminate a number of tax breaks and deductions.

The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the bill would lower federal revenues by about $1.4 trillion over 10 years — a key finding, as the Republican budget only allows lawmakers to add $1.5 trillion to the debt during that time.

JCT said that all income groups would see a tax cut on average under the bill in 2019, but that some income groups, particularly those making $20,000 to $50,000, in some future years would see tax increases on average.

House Republicans who have labored for months on the tax bill celebrated the vote on Thursday, saying the GOP is on track to put more money in people’s pockets and spur investment in new jobs.

“For too long, this broken tax code has eroded America’s economic leadership around the world,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady  (R-Texas), the chief architect of the legislation.

Democrats denounced the bill, saying it mostly benefit wealthy individuals and corporations while increasing taxes on some in the middle class.

Rep. John Yarmuth  (D-Ky.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, brought a giant check to the House floor debate giving $500 billion to “The Wealthiest 1%” from “The American Taxpayers.” The fake check was signed, “Congressional Republicans.” 

“Hard-working families get pocket change,” Yarmuth said, holding up a handful of coins for emphasis. “But millions don’t even get that.”

The House bill would eliminate the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes and cap the property-tax deduction at $10,000, which could hurt people in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.

“I just have too many constituents who are going to see their taxes go up or not see the benefit of the tax relief,” Zeldin said.

Senate Republicans have their own tax bill, which is currently being considered by the chamber’s tax-writing committee. The Senate legislation differs from the House’s in a number of ways. Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill fully repeals the state and local tax deduction, delays the corporate tax cut until 2019 and repeals ObamaCare’s individual mandate. The Senate’s bill also sunsets tax cuts for individuals after 2025, in order to comply with the “Byrd rule” that the measure can’t increase the deficit after 10 years if it is to pass with a simple majority.

No more than two Senate Republicans can vote against their bill if Democrats are united in opposition to it. Already, Sen. Ron Johnson  (R-Wis.) has said he doesn’t support either the House or the Senate bills because they provide more of a benefit to corporations than to other types of businesses. Sen. Susan Collins(R-Maine) has expressed concerns about including repeal of the individual mandate, but has not taken a hard stance yet on the measure.

Senate Republicans are aiming to vote on their tax plan during the week after the Thanksgiving holiday.

If the Senate passes its bill, it will set up a difficult conference negotiation between the two chambers over the final legislation.

– This story was updated at 2:15 p.m.

New House Resolution Directs Intel Committee to Release 28 Pages From 9/11 Report


waving flagBy Brian P. McGlinchey June 15, 2016

URL of the original posting site: https://28pages.org/2016/06/15/new-house-resolution-directs-intel-committee-to-release-28-pages-from-911-report/

Rep. Walter Jones
Rep. Walter Jones

Encouraged by rising, bipartisan support for a resolution urging President Obama to declassify 28 pages said to link Saudi Arabia to the 9/11 hijackers, the leaders of Capitol Hill’s declassification drive have now introduced a resolution directing the leaders of the House intelligence committee to take matters into their own hands.

Introduced Monday, House Resolution 779 directs the chair and ranking member of the House intelligence committee—Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff, respectively—to declassify the 28 pages by publishing them in the Congressional Record under the protection of the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

Congressman Walter Jones introduced the resolution along with original cosponsors Stephen Lynch and Thomas Massie. The same trio is the driving force behind House Resolution 14, which urges the president to release the pages that comprise the final chapter in the report of a 2002 congressional intelligence inquiry. Introduced last year, HRes 14 has seen a surge in support following an April 60 Minutes report on the 28 pages, and now has 70 cosponsors.

“I have read these pages and can say that while their release will not harm national security, the contents are critical to our foreign policy moving forward…That is why I have introduced a resolution that would enable the House Committee on Intelligence to declassify the 28 pages,” said Jones in a press release issued today.

Committee Leaders Support Declassification

Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes
Rep. Devin Nunes

In April, both Nunes and Schiff voiced their support for releasing the 28 pages. Nunes said “the benefits of publishing this information would outweigh any potential damage to America’s national security,” and Schiff told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “They should be released and I think, as is often the case, the speculation about what they contain is more damaging in fact than the contents.”

H.Res.779 has been referred to the House rules committee. The committee’s ranking member, Louise Slaughter, is a cosponsor of the resolution urging the president to declassify the pages. The resolution’s preamble notes that the CIA has acknowledged that the 28 pages are the property of Congress and that the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional prerogative of Members of Congress or committees of Congress to disclose classified information” by way of the Speech or Debate Clause.

This new legislative action comes as an intelligence community declassification review of the 28 pages is expected to wrap up in the next few weeks.

The White House said it ordered the review in the summer of 2014. Skeptical that a review of just 28 pages could truly take two years and counting, many observers—including 9/11 family members and victims—point to the delay as signaling the Obama administration’s desire to put off a resolution of the issue as long as possible.

Former Sen. Bob Graham
Former Sen. Bob Graham

The delay strategy grew untenable in April when the 60 Minutes report spawned fresh media attention, dozens of newspaper editorials, heightened citizen interest and an increase in legislator requests to read the secret pages. Soon after the 60 Minutes segment aired, former senator Bob Graham said that a Department of Homeland Security advisor told him to expect a decision in June.

However, confusion has mounted over what exactly will happen at the end of that review. In a May meeting with proponents of the pages’ release, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reportedly voiced an expectation that the president would turn the matter back over to the Congress. If that is indeed the White House’s intention, it could represent a new means of stalling the release of a document that, according to Graham, “point(s) a very strong finger at Saudi Arabia as being the principal financier” of the 9/11 attacks. H.Res. 779 addresses that possibility head-on.

A New Angle on Speech or Debate Clause

The drive to declassify the 28 pages has spanned 13 years; throughout that time, many citizens have called for members of Congress to declassify the 28 pages by entering them into the congressional record under the protection from prosecution provided by the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

brian

As we reported earlier this month, one of those advocating that avenue of declassification is former senator Mike Gravel, who used it to release the “Pentagon Papers,” a secret government history of the Vietnam War.

In his own declassification feat, Gravel had something that individual members of Congress lack where the 28 pages are concerned: physical custody of the document. The 28 pages are kept in a secure facility in the basement of the Capitol, precluding Jones, Lynch, Massie or other members of Congress from entering them into the record themselves.

SchiffRecognizing that, House Resolution 779 challenges those with greater dominion over the 28 pages—the chair and ranking member of the House intelligence committee—to do for Congress what rank-and-file members cannot do on their own.

Apart from the Speech or Debate Clause, both the House and Senate have rules by which either body, acting alone, can declassify information, even over the objection of the president. In both houses, the initiation of that process begins in the intelligence committee, but also entails seeking the president’s opinion and then a majority vote of the chamber to override it, if necessary.

In opting instead for a Speech or Debate Clause approach, Jones, Lynch and Massie are pursuing a route that bypasses the president and gives Congress an opportunity to assert its own authority by flexing a rarely-used muscle.

A Multi-Purpose Tactic

In the widening, multi-front battle to secure the release of the 28 pages, House Resolution 779 could serve two purposes.

First, the prospect of a congressional declassification of the 28 pages adds a new variable for Obama to weigh as he considers his own decision to declassify the 28 pages.

REDACTED1Embedded in his pending decision is yet another question: If the pages are released, what information, if any, should continue to remain secret? Knowing that the House intelligence committee could later release additional details he chose to conceal puts additional pressure on the president to be more liberal in his declassification. If he attempts to cater to Saudi Arabia or other interested parties by leaving damning details secret, he could face criticism and questioning of his motives if and when those details come out later.

Second, the new resolution also serves as a Plan B: Should the president decide not to release the 28 pages, to do so with heavy redactions, or turn the issue back to Capitol Hill, Congress would be poised to deliver transparency to the American people on its own.

“At a minimum, the draft resolution tends to maintain a drumbeat of pressure on the issue and makes it a tad more likely that the administration will act to release the material,” said Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, in an email to 28Pages.org. Whether the resolution does more than that depends on what kind of reception it receives in the House.”

The development was applauded by Sharon Premoli, who endured a harrowing escape from the World Trade Center on 9/11: “I think it is unconscionable that it has taken this administration 8 years to read 28 pages and to make a decision. Anything that can move congress to declassify the 28 pages is a good thing and I support it 100 percent.”

Contact the White House Today: Demand Full Declassification of the 28 Pages

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‘Fed up’ conservatives plot revenge against Boehner


waving flagBy Susan Ferrechio | June 23, 2015

Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said Monday in a radio interview that many conservatives were “fed up” with the string of punishment meted out to members who don’t vote in line with the Republican leadership on key legislation.

The latest punishment was handed down to Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., for voting against an important procedural resolution to advance “Fast Track” trade legislation the GOP is eager to pass. Meadows last week was stripped of his chairmanship of the House Oversight Government Operations subcommittee. “So, Mark Meadows, a good man, a good friend, and what they did to him is exactly wrong, and there are a number of us who are fed up with it,” Jordan said on the Laura Ingraham show. “And we are looking for ways that we can say, hey, we are going to stay with Mark and be as helpful as we possibly can.”

It’s not clear what the frustrated group could do to thwart Boehner, but some are kicking around the idea of trying to slow the work of the House. Freedom Caucus members say that while they number a little more than three dozen, there are an additional 20 conservatives who could potentially vote along with them if they decided to take a stand against the leadership by making it difficult to pass legislation. Republicans control 246 votes, and on legislation that lacks Democratic support, the leadership can only afford to lose 29 Republicans.

Anger at the leadership has been brewing for many months, as the GOP retribution against disobedient conservatives appears to have escalated;

  • Just last week, Reps. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Steve Pearce of New Mexico, and Trent Franks of Arizona, lost their posts on the Republican whip team for voting along with Meadows against advancing the trade legislation.
  • Earlier this year, Republican leaders booted Reps. Daniel Webster and Richard Nugent, both of Florida, from the powerful Rules Committee after they voted against John Boehner for a third term as speaker.
  • In the last Congress, Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., Walter Jones, R-N.C., and David Schweikert, R-Ariz., were tossed from committees after voting against the leadership.
  • Meadows told the Washington Examiner the move to strip him of his subcommittee chairmanship was made by Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, but came at the direction of Boehner, R-Ohio.Reality 2

“I think it was an action meant to try to humiliate or intimate me, but I wear it as a badge of honor, standing firm for freedom for the American people,” Meadows told the Examiner.

Republican leadership aides say the GOP is not striking back in a punitive manner, but places a high value on loyalty from the members and gives top posts to those who don’t buck the Speaker on certain measures, such as resolutions to advance legislation for debate. Lawmakers who are being punished say the leadership is trying to force them to vote against what they believe is best for their constituents, who have flooded their offices with calls and emails in opposition to the trade legislation. Meadows and other Republicans opposed to the trade bill believe the trade bill would cede too much power to the executive branch and would facilitate trade deals that would cause U.S. job losses.

“There is no honor in bowing to a bully,” Meadows told the Examiner. “There is only fighting the good fight and whether you win or lose, I am willing to do my best to represent the people who elected me.”

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