Dem 48
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GOP 52
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New polls:  
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Tax Bill Is Hanging by a Thread

A second Republican senator, Steve Daines (MT), has now come out against the Senate tax bill, joining Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in opposition to it. Both have the same objection: It gives big businesses, which are nearly all corporations, tax advantages over small businesses, which are generally pass-throughs. Both senators think that is unfair to the millions of small businesses in the country. Daines and Johnson have both said that they are open to changing their minds if the bill is changed.

The problem is that reducing the tax rate that pass-throughs will pay to the corporate rate of 20% will cost a vast amount of money, which would have to be found somewhere else. In addition, if the pass-through rate is 20% and the top individual rate is 38.5% or 39.6%, many wealthy professionals will be willing to jump through a huge number of hoops to file as businesses and get the much lower rate, leading to a major loss of revenue for the government. The Senate leadership is no doubt going to be rounding up every carrot in town to offer these senators, even if they have to poach them from Bugs Bunny. They fully understand that if the two senators remain "no" votes, all it takes is one more Republican to kill the bill.

One place the death vote won't come from is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who generally votes "no" on everything. Yesterday he said he is a "yes" vote on the tax bill. However, Republican senators Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ), John McCain (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK) are still undecided. We may learn more about Corker's position when the Senate Budget Commitee, of which he is a member, votes this week. Corker is in favor of tax cuts but doesn't want to blow a hole in the budget. (V)

CBO Rescores Tax Bill; Not Good News for the GOP

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has had time now to dig into the nuts and bolts of the Republican tax plan, and so issued a new report. Their basic conclusion: The bill hurts the poor more than originally thought.

The key to this new conclusion—which Republican leadership disputes—is health insurance. The CBO has tried to project what will happen if the individual mandate to buy insurance is repealed. They see a vicious cycle emerging where healthy people drop their plans, causing rates to go up for the rest of the insured. At that point, the subsidies that poor folks receive to help cover their insurance bill will no longer be sufficient, and the poor people will drop their plans, causing rates to spike further. And so it goes. The CBO, then, is not only factoring in the loss of insurance in the new report, but also the loss of the subsidies that poor people will no longer be able to claim. Hence, the larger hit than was originally calculated.

The Republicans' position is that purchasing insurance is a choice, and so those who choose not to do so are no more suffering a "loss" than those who choose not to buy a new car. They also observe that losing subsidies is not the same thing as paying more taxes, and that poor people will not see any meaningful change in their tax bills. This seems a dubious argument, but when a dubious argument is all you've got, you go with it. In the end, however, it's not important what the CBO thinks, or other economists, or the Wall Street Journal, or Mick Mulvaney, or Donald Trump, or Steve Bannon, or the media. Eventually, the Republicans in Congress who vote for this bill are going to have to face the voters. And we shall see what their views are when it comes to the "technically, you didn't lose anything when you lost your insurance" argument. (Z)

Flynn Is Exposed Six Ways to Sunday

Apparently, it never occurred to Michael Flynn that someone might take an interest in the extracurricular activities of a three-star general who is a key member of the GOP's presidential campaign. We say this because he appears to have engaged in all manner of activities that were questionable from an ethical and legal standpoint, and that were relatively easy to track.

The latest development involves a June 2015 trip that Flynn took to Israel and Egypt, with an eye toward getting some Russian-backed nuclear power plants built. The future (brief) NSA was a part of the project for more than a year, which means he was working on it while he was also on Donald Trump's payroll. Even worse, however, is that Flynn neglected to disclose his involvement on his security clearance paperwork. Unless the General is prepared to argue that he plumb forgot a year-long project that paid him in the six figures, then it means he deliberately withheld information, which is a felony.

At this point, we're getting pretty close to "shooting fish in a barrel" territory for special counsel Robert Mueller. He's surely got enough dirt to send Flynn (and son) away for a long time, if that's what he wants to do. This is presumably why all signs suggest that Flynn is about to sing like a canary, if he hasn't already. He better hope that he's got something juicy enough to sate the special counsel's appetite. He also better hope that he hasn't committed any state crimes because the president's pardon power includes only federal crimes. (Z)

Retired Marine Colonel Is Launching a Write-in Campaign for Alabama Senator

Col. Lee Busby, USMC (ret.) is launching a write-in campaign for senator from Alabama. Busby said that neither of the current candidates, Roy Moore (R) and Doug Jones (D), is qualified to be senator. When asked whether he thought Moore had molested teenage girls 40 years ago, he said he found the matter distasteful, but added: "As a voter, I don't need to get to the bottom of it." Busby isn't going to be getting any money from the Republican Party or from Steve Bannon, so he is going to be dependent on small donors. He did manage to put up a Website already, though,

Busby retired from the Marine Corps in 2013. At one point he served as vice chief of staff to a three-star lieutenant general, a fellow named John Kelly, who is currently White House chief of staff. Busby has not yet called Kelly to tell him about his plans to run for the Senate. Kelly is not likely to be amused when the call finally comes.

Even if all votes for Busbee, Bussby, Bussbee, Busybee, Busbea, Buzbee, and Buzzbee are counted for him, the colonel has zero chance of being elected the next senator from Alabama. But he does have a decent chance of helping Jones win. The polls so far have shown it to be close race between Moore and Jones. It is almost inconceivable that more than a handful of Democrats vote for Busby, as Jones is a credible candidate with no scandals or even missteps in his campaign. However, more than a few Republicans who think Moore is disgusting but can't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat now have an outlet to help Jones win but have a clean conscience doing so by voting for a pro-life military officer. If even 5% of the Republicans write in Busby, that could be enough to elect Jones. (V)

Woman Tried to Trap WaPo into Running False Story

Last week, a woman named Jaime T. Phillips approached the Washington Post with some salacious new information about Roy Moore, namely that he impregnated her when she was 15, and then forced her to get an abortion. That is some prime dirt; a story like that would sell a lot of newspapers, and would likely be the death knell for the would-be senator's campaign. However, the story was just a bit too good to believe. The WaPo's reporters, evincing an apropos degree of skepticism, found that Phillips' account did not stand up to scrutiny, and that the more questions they asked, the more inconsistencies that presented themselves. For example, she claimed that she had only lived in Alabama for that one summer 26 years ago, and yet she had a cell phone with an Alabama area code. Eventually, the newspaper's staff found a gofundme page in which a Jaime Phillips was raising money to move from Alabama to New York to take a job combating "liberal lies" in the media. They also observed Phillips entering the offices of Project Veritas, a New York-based conservative group that is known for undercover "sting" operations like this. In short: busted.

The whole story is really worth reading, as it's got a cloak and dagger feel to it, but with a bit of Keystone Kops thrown in, given the bumbling incompetence of Phillips, et al. Obviously, Project Veritas' goal was to prove that the Post would print anything salacious about Moore just to move newspapers, and that the paper's coverage of this subject is not to be trusted. In the end, they managed to prove the exact opposite. (Z)

Sanders Is Acting More and More Like a Presidential Candidate

In 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) came out of nowhere and got 43% of the vote in the Democratic primary against a candidate with universal name recognition and support of nearly all the party pooh-bahs. He is now thinking: "Look what happened when nobody knew my name. Just imagine what I could do now that I am the most popular politician in the country." When he started in 2016, he knew he couldn't win and was just trying to showcase his ideas. In his increasingly likely 2020 run, he intends to become president.

Signs of a 2020 run are everywhere. He clearly understands where his weaknesses are and is working hard to reduce them. In 2016, he railed against American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Now he is working closely with her. In 2016, he talked very little about foreign policy. Now he is hanging out with people like Bill Perry, a defense secretary in the Clinton administration.

Sanders is also surrounding himself with precisely the kind of people that presidential candidates surround themselves with. Pollster Ben Tulchin is now part of his inner circle, along with Ari Rabin-Havt, a former aide to Harry Reid.

He has also launched policy initiatives, like single-payer health insurance and gotten more than a dozen senators to sign up as co-sponsor. He has visited important states, like Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia. Senators who are not running for president don't generally visit those places. In short, he is more than testing the waters. He is already running.

One potential obstacle in his path is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who may also run. Like Sanders, she is much beloved by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. She also has a few advantages over him. First, he will be 79 on inauguration day 2021 whereas she will be a mere stripling at 71. Second, some Democrats would very much like to see a female president. Third, she is an actual Democrat and has done things to help the Party, not just herself. Fourth, she can say something like: "You had your chance and lost so it's time for someone else." None of these mean it's curtains for Bernie, just that if Warren decides to run, Sanders will not only have competition from more centrist Democrats, but also from a well-known and powerful progressive. (V)

Trump Accuses Warren of Faking Her Heritage Although He Faked His for Years

At an event honoring the Navajo code talkers for their achievements during World War II, Donald Trump referred to Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahantas," a reference to her (undocumented) claim that she is 1/32 Cherokee. She was born and raised in Oklahoma, where many Cherokee live and where intermarriage with whites is common, so the claim is at least plausible. Warren shot back that it is deeply unfortunate that Trump can't make it through a ceremony honoring Native Americans without throwing in a racial slur.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to defend Trump's remark by saying that she didn't see "Pocahontas" as a racial slur and the offensive thing was Warren's lying about being a minority in order to get advantages over white people. Sanders clearly understands where her bread is buttered. A defense like this makes sense only to people—Trump's base—who think that the Harvard Law School hires people based on a claimed 1/32 Native American status. Various polls have shown that among Republicans, there is a widespread belief that one of the biggest problems the country faces is discrimination against white people. This whole incident reminds the base that Trump is on their side and wants nothing to do with affirmative action, which they regard as unfairly targeting people like themselves.

Faking your heritage is a subject Trump knows well, since he did it himself for years. His father began the lie by claiming he was Swedish, not German, following World War II to avoid problems selling apartments to Jewish buyers. Son Donald continued the practice for years, even as late as his 1987 book The Art of the Deal, in which he (falsely) wrote that his grandfather migrated from Sweden to the United States. Note that Grandpa Friedrich never told this lie himself, preferring instead to just keep a low profile during times of anti-German fervor, like during World War I. He perfected this particular skill during his time running saloons and bawdy houses in the Yukon.

As an aside, the Navajo did not have a written language until the mid-20th century and their spoken language is tonal, has a complex grammar, and is not related to any non-American language. During World War II, there was not a single Japanese person who could understand Navajo (or even come close), so the Marines employed Navajo speakers to communicate over open radio channels in the Pacific, using a blend of (1) 200 or so Navajo words and (2) ciphers lightly encrypted in a Navajo-based phonetic alphabet, without any fear that the Japanese would be able to decipher what they were hearing. In the end, they were right; the Japanese never managed to solve the puzzle and the Navajo helped the U.S. enormously during the war, which is why they were honored yesterday. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov27 Conyers Steps Down from House Judiciary Committee
Nov27 Now Batting: Hope Hicks
Nov27 Tax Bill May Still Not Have the Votes
Nov27 Tax Bill May Kill a Future Infrastructure Bill
Nov27 Verdict: It's a Lawsuit over CFPB Leadership
Nov27 Surveillance Measure Is Up for Renewal
Nov27 Hoyer: House Yes, Impeachment No
Nov26 Showdown Over Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Leadership
Nov26 GOP Tax Bill is Very Unpopular
Nov26 Republicans Have Much to Worry About in 2018
Nov26 Mueller is Leaving No Stone Unturned
Nov26 Trump: Fox "Much More Important" than CNN
Nov26 "Persons of the Year" Troll Trump
Nov26 Bush Oldest President Ever
Nov25 Trump Should Be Nervous Now
Nov25 Budget Hawks Are Afraid All the Tax Cuts Will Be Made Permanent
Nov25 Latest White House Squabble: Tillerson vs. Ivanka
Nov25 Cordray Resigns as Head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Nov25 Trump Says He Turned Down "Person of the Year"
Nov25 Will 2020 Be the Year of the Woman?
Nov25 Facebook Will Let People Check if They Fell for Russian Propaganda
Nov24 Manafort Has Been to Moscow at Least 18 Times
Nov24 Team Flynn No Longer Cooperating with Team Trump
Nov24 Donald Trump Jr. Reacts to Russiagate with Defiance
Nov24 Trump's Approach to Sexual Harassment Is Entirely Political
Nov24 Israeli Intelligence Was Warned that the Russians Have Leverage over Trump
Nov24 Obamacare Enrollments on the Upswing
Nov24 Ball Wins Feud with Trump
Nov23 Moore Developments in Alabama
Nov23 Half of All Voters Think Franken Should Resign
Nov23 Calls for Conyers to Step Down or Resign Are Starting
Nov23 Trumps Cut Ties with SoHo Building
Nov23 Trump-Ball Feud Continues
Nov23 One Megadonor Funded a Huge Campaign to Support Making the Courts Conservative
Nov23 DNC Having Trouble Raising Money
Nov23 Schneiderman Is Probing Fake Net Neutrality Comments
Nov23 The Shortest Thanksgiving...Ever?
Nov22 Trump Supports Moore
Nov22 New Poll Shows Moore Slightly Ahead of Jones
Nov22 House Moves to Investigate Conyers
Nov22 Murkowski Says She's Open to Killing Obamacare Mandate
Nov22 Say Farewell to Net Neutrality...Maybe
Nov22 Trump's Likely Pick to Oversee the Census is Dubious
Nov22 Democrats Have a Fighting Chance in PA-18 Special Election
Nov22 The Russians Love Rohrabacher
Nov21 Leigh Corfman Gives Her First Television Interview
Nov21 Kellyanne Conway Wants Moore's Vote on Taxes
Nov21 GOP Tax Plan Gets Another Bad Review
Nov21 Another Woman Accuses Franken
Nov21 Two Journalists Accused of Harassment