Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Senate Releases Its Tax Bill
      •  Roy Moore Is Accused of Sexually Assaulting a 14-Year-Old Girl When He Was 32
      •  Miller Meets Mueller
      •  Wilbur Ross Feels the Heat, Again
      •  Jury Deliberation in Menendez Case to Start All Over Next Week
      •  Republicans Hold Virginia House of Delegates...For Now
      •  Goodlatte to Bid Good Night

Senate Releases Its Tax Bill

The House tax bill has had its 15 minutes of fame. Now it is time for the Senate's bill get its turn. The two bills differ in a number of respects, which will require some tough negotiations in conference if each chamber passes its own bill as it currently stands. The Senate bill does not lower the cap on the mortgage deductions, as the House bill does. It also keeps the current deductions for medical costs and interest on student loans. Most notably, the Senate bill eliminates all deductions for state and local taxes, something that will be hard for House Republicans in high-tax states to swallow.

Of course, by leaving popular deductions in the internal revenue code, the Senate bill explodes the deficit, making it impossible to pass using the budget reconciliation process. To fix that problem, the Senate bill delays the corporate tax cut until 2019, thus getting $100 billion in corporate revenue in 2018 to help pay for leaving in the popular deductions. That will not be popular with President Donald Trump or House Republicans.

The Senate bill also differs from the House bill in other ways. For example, it reduces the top rate from 39.6% to 38.5%. It also does not create a special rate for pass-through businesses. Instead it creates a deduction for owners of pass-through businesses. In addition, the Senate bill keeps the estate tax (which the House bill eliminated). It does, however, double the exemption to about $10 million. This will surely dismay first daughter Ivanka Trump when she hears about this. The Senate bill also creates seven tax brackets instead of the four in the House bill.

Democrats immediately began attacking the Senate bill. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said: "Not a single Democrat has had any input into this bill." He further said that Republicans concocted the bill behind closed doors and are trying to rush it through the Senate with reckless speed.

The House bill was reported out of the Ways and Means Committee yesterday on a straight party-line vote. It can be amended on the floor of the House and may very well be in order to make it more like the Senate bill. While House Republicans view compromise as something close to treason, they really, really want this bill to pass and might be willing to make a one-time exception in order to avoid having nothing to show for a year in power. (V)

Roy Moore Is Accused of Sexually Assaulting a 14-Year-Old Girl When He Was 32

The Washington Post is reporting that the Republican running for Jeff Sessions' Senate seat in Alabama, Roy Moore, sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in 1979, when he was 32. The victim, Leigh Corfman, said that Moore picked her up from near her home and drove 30 minutes to his house in the woods, then took off her shirt and pants and touched her bra and panties. She told her friends about it shortly thereafter.

Three other women have now come forward with similar stories, including his giving wine to them when they were teenagers, in violation of Alabama laws. All the women said that he kissed them. The Post did a lot of investigating before publishing the article. All of the other women, when questioned separately by the reporter, gave consistent stories. None of them have donated to Moore's opponents or worked for them. Corfman said that she is a Republican and that she voted for Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, and John McCain, so it doesn't look like these women were politically motivated.

Republicans in the Senate, who never had a problem with Moore's extreme statements and behavior in the past, suddenly have become allergic to him. Here are a few of their comments:

  • Lisa Murkowski (AK): "I'm horrified and if this is true he needs to step down immediately."
  • Jeff Flake (AZ): "If there is any shred of truth to the allegations against Roy Moore, he should step aside immediately."
  • Pat Toomey (PA): "If there's a shred of truth to it, then he need to step aside."
  • Richard Shelby (AL): "If that's true, then he wouldn't belong in the Senate."
  • Mike Lee (UT): "If these allegations are true, Roy Moore needs to step down."
  • Tim Scott (SC): "If they're accurate, he should step aside."
  • Cory Gardner (CO): "If these allegations are found to be true, Roy Moore must drop out of the Alabama special Senate election."
  • Susan Collins (ME): If there is any truth at all to these horrific allegations, Roy Moore should immediately step aside as a Senate candidate.

Donald Trump, for his part, agreed that Moore should stand down if the claims are true. Which would seem to be a pretty clear case of, "Do as I say, not as I do."

Though some Republicans responded to Thursday's news with outrage, others on the right don't see a problem here. Sean Hannity wondered why it took so long for this news to come out, and asked, "Is it about money?" Breitbart is pointing out that the age of consent in Alabama is 16, which thus means that Moore's activities were either legal or, in the case of Corfman, close enough for government work (Moore was an assistant district attorney at the time). The Steve Bannon-led outlet also tried to get the drop on the Washington Post, running a piece about the paper's lack of objectivity shortly before the Moore story was published on its website.

That wasn't the only wagon-circling, though. Some Republicans have suggested that something that happened 40 years ago is no longer germane; that it was a "different time." Still others have said, "they only kissed" (apparently missing the part about garments being removed). Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler (R) went Biblical, saying: "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus." Consequently, "There's just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual." Of course there is nothing in the Bible about Joseph touching Mary's bra (possibly because the bra wasn't invented until 1889). Also, little detail is given on the mechanics of how Mary was impregnated and whether any breast-related activities were involved.

What all of these defenders are doing, whether they realize it or not, is admitting that they believe the revelations are true. That is not Moore's position; he denied the allegations, as we would expect, since it would be unusual for any politician to say: "Yes, I used to be a child molester, but I'm too old for that kind of stuff now." The problem for the Republicans is that Alabama officials say that it is too late for Moore to be replaced on the ballot if he withdraws. However, the courts could override Alabama law and insist that the Alabama Republican Party be allowed to name a new candidate if he withdraws. There is even a precedent for that. In Sept. 2002, then-senator Bob Torricelli withdrew from his reelection race as a result of a scandal. His withdrawal came after the deadline for putting new candidates on the ballot. Nevertheless, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the voters were entitled to a choice and said that the Democratic Party could put a replacement candidate on the ballot. The Party convinced former senator Frank Lautenberg to come out of retirement and run. He ran and won.

Derek Muller, an associate professor of law at Pepperdine University, has researched the question of replacing Moore. He found that Alabama law states that if a candidate wishes to withdraw, the withdrawal must be done at least 76 days before the election. The election is 33 days from now, so that deadline is long past. Since Moore's name would remain on the ballot, even if he withdraws, there is a question of what happens if he gets the most votes. The law is clear here: Those votes don't count and Democrat Doug Jones would win.

An option that Murkowski is talking about is having Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) run as a write-in candidate, a strategy she knows about from first-hand experience, having done it herself in 2010. Alabama has a "sore loser" law, which prevents candidates who lose a primary from running as independents, but it does not prevent write-ins.

Another complication is that overseas voters may have already received and cast absentee ballots. Figuring out what to do with them could be a real puzzle. In any event, if Moore steadfastly insists he is innocent and does not withdraw—and he has made clear he has no intention of doing so—there is no way to force him off the ballot. In addition to the lack of any legal leverage, the Republican leadership has no political leverage over him either. It fought him bitterly during the primary and lost. If they ask him to drop out to help the Party, he is likely to point out that he won against their active opposition and doesn't need their help. In short, if Moore wants to stay in, he can stay in.

Staying in doesn't mean winning, though. A Strategy Research poll taken before the accusations against Moore came out showed him leading Jones 51% to 40%. Of course, yesterday's news could change some minds should Moore decide to stay in the race. On the other hand, Donald Trump was caught on video admitting to (arguably) worse behavior than Moore's and it did not hurt him a bit. Even Corfman, who—if her story is true—just revealed herself as a survivor of sexual abuse, voted for The Donald. In one poll, eleven percent of respondents said that Trump's treatment of women made them more likely to vote for him. So, Moore may not be dead yet.

In any event, this whole incident clearly reveals what Republicans feel is really important. Moore was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for violating the U.S. Constitution, but no Republicans are saying that disqualifies him from being a senator. Yet inappropriate touching of teenage girls 40 years ago makes him a leper. (V & Z)

Miller Meets Mueller

Special counsel Robert Mueller has interviewed White House aide Stephen Miller. This is the first time Mueller has talked to someone in Trump's inner circle. According to one of CNN's sources, the subject of conversation was the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and Miller's role in it. In particular, Miller helped Trump write a memo explaining why Comey was fired. The memo was eventually vetoed by White House counsel Don McGahn as problematical. Mueller may be considering obstruction of justice charges against Trump, in which case the President's motivation for firing Comey becomes central to the case. This is something Miller knows about first hand. (V)

Wilbur Ross Feels the Heat, Again

Last week, the publication of the "Paradise Papers" revealed that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross did much business with the Putin family before taking office. Not good. This week, he found himself receiving more unwanted attention, when Forbes announced that it now believes that instead of being worth $3.7 billion (as Ross claims), he's actually worth more like $700 million. This, in turn, would mean that the Secretary has been lying about his net worth for years, and using those lies not only to boost his ego, but to con folks into doing business with him. Ross has attempted to explain away the discrepancies in his financial picture, but none of his stories are particularly plausible.

This is bad news for Ross' long-term prospects at Commerce for three reasons. First, because it's the second scandal for him in a week. Second, because he certainly appears to be a crook. Third, because a paltry $700 million is far short of $1 billion, and Donald Trump does not respect non-billionaire civilians (especially those who lie about being billionaires). So, we have another cabinet secretary that might not make it to the one-year mark. (Z)

Jury Deliberation in Menendez Case to Start All Over Next Week

The corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) went on for 10 weeks, far longer than anyone had expected. Back in August, before the trial started, one of the jurors in the case told the judge that she had a prepaid vacation in November. The judge promised her that she could serve on the jury and still go on her vacation. The judge kept his word and the juror has been dismissed, meaning that one of the alternate jurors will take her place when the jury deliberations begin again on Monday. The consequence of this change in the panel is that the jury deliberations will have to start from scratch Monday.

This could be important because the longer the process goes on, the less likely that Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) will get to appoint Menendez' successor if he is found guilty and resigns from the Senate. On Tuesday, Democrat Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey, and if Menendez can hang in there until Murphy is sworn in, then his successor (should he resign) will be appointed by Murphy and thus be a Democrat. (V)

Republicans Hold Virginia House of Delegates...For Now

After Tuesday's blue-colored tidal wave in Virginia, it was unclear exactly which party would control the lower house of the state's legislature. The dust has settled, but only a bit, with the GOP clinging to a 51-49 lead. If they can hold on, then the Party will have control of the entire legislature, and will prepare for two or more years of battle with newly-elected governor Ralph Northam (D). However, there are four races that were so close, including one decided by just 13 votes, that the losing candidate is entitled to ask for a recount. If the Democrats triumph in three of four cases, which is certainly possible, they will flip the Virginia House of Delegates. It will take a couple of weeks until we know, one way or another. (Z)

Goodlatte to Bid Good Night

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is one of the most powerful men in Congress, by virtue of his position as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. After 13 terms, however, he has decided to call it a career, announcing on Thursday that he would not stand for re-election. He wants to spend more time drawing a six-figure salary as a, hanging out with his family.

The Congressman's retirement does not create a Democratic pickup opportunity, as his R+13 district is about as safe as it gets for the GOP, even without an incumbent running. However, it is yet another Republican retirement, thus keeping up the brisk pace we've seen in the past year, and especially in the past week (when Jeb Hensarling, Ted Poe and Lamar Smith, all R-TX, joined Goodlatte in announcing their retirements). Clearly, some GOP members see that their two options after the midterm elections are: (1) Democratic control of the House, or (2) Continued Republican control but with Donald Trump still president, and they have decided they don't like either scenario. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov09 Takeaways from the Election
Nov09 What Happened in Virginia?
Nov09 Cohn: Democrats Shouldn't Be Counting Their Chickens Quite Yet
Nov09 Election Day Brought Numerous Firsts to Many States
Nov09 Trump Kowtows to Xi
Nov09 The Tax Bill Has Winners and Losers
Nov09 Tax Bill Hits Rough Waters
Nov09 Why Trump Will Never Lose His Supporters
Nov08 Virginians Give Red Team, and Their White Nationalist Supporters, the Blues
Nov08 Mostly Good News for Democrats Elsewhere
Nov08 Seven Problems Trump Will Face on His Asia Trip
Nov08 Martha McSally Will Run for Jeff Flake's Seat
Nov08 Frank LoBiondo Is Retiring from the House
Nov08 Twitter Doubles Down
Nov07 Today Is Election Day
Nov07 Retirements Will Shape the New House
Nov07 GOP Shrugs Off Texas Shooting
Nov07 Was the Tax Bill Written Specifically Tailored to Donald Trump's Needs?
Nov07 Dean: Kushner Is Going Down
Nov07 Trump Undermined Bon Jovi NFL Bid
Nov07 Paul Clips Grass, Neighbor Kicks Ass
Nov06 26 Dead in Yet Another Mass Killing
Nov06 Brazile Keeps Firing at Clinton Campaign
Nov06 Democrats Pin Hopes on Black Voters in Virginia
Nov06 Democrats Look to Build a "Blue Wall" Along the Pacific
Nov06 Flynns Could Be Mueller's Next Targets
Nov06 Papadopoulos Repeatedly Represented Trump Campaign
Nov06 "Paradise Papers" Released
Nov06 Rand Paul Could Be Sidelined at Home for a While
Nov06 Prosecutors Question Manafort's Bail Offer
Nov05 Democrats Prepare to Resist Tax Bill
Nov05 Conservative Media Outlets Becoming Houses Divided
Nov05 Bushes Blast Trump
Nov05 Brazile Reopens Old Wounds for the Democrats
Nov05 Can the Democrats Recapture Obama-Trump Voters?
Nov05 Democrats Attracting Lots of Women Candidates
Nov05 When it Comes to Mother Mary, Trump Lets It Be
Nov04 Russiagate Plot Thickens, Courtesy of Page and Sessions
Nov04 Mueller Shows How the Game is Played
Nov04 Trump Shows How the Game is Not Played
Nov04 Tax Bill Faces Hurdles in the Senate
Nov04 Bannon's Endorsement May Not Mean Much
Nov03 Republicans' Tax Plan Will Unleash Numerous Battles
Nov03 Half of Americans Think Trump Committed A Crime
Nov03 Trump Blames Kushner
Nov03 Clovis Is Out
Nov03 DNC Fires Its Top Fundraiser
Nov03 Trump Silenced on Twitter (Temporarily)
Nov03 Perry: Petroleum Stops Sexual Assault
Nov03 Northam Has a Small Lead over Gillespie