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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Schumer and Pelosi Cancel Meeting with Trump
      •  Senate Budget Committee Approves the Tax Bill
      •  Judge Allows Mulvaney to Run the CFPB
      •  Samochornov Testifies
      •  Trump Still "Doubts" Obama's Birth Certificate
      •  Heat is On Conyers
      •  Heat is On Moore, Too

Schumer and Pelosi Cancel Meeting with Trump

The Democratic leaders in Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) canceled their scheduled meeting with President Donald Trump yesterday after he attacked them in a tweet:

The tweet clearly contains a lie. Neither Democrat wants illegal immigrants flooding into the country. But the tweet wasn't aimed at them. It was aimed at Trump's base, which gobbles up that kind of stuff as though it were leftover Thanksgiving turkey. Schumer and Pelosi were furious and said that they couldn't work with Trump but would try to work with Congressional Republicans to avert a shutdown when the government's money runs out on Dec. 8.

As expected, Trump did not take the Democrats' boycott lying down. He accused the Democrats of being "all talk and no action." To make his point, he posed for a photo op next to two empty chairs. This saber rattling raised the fear among many in D.C. that a shutdown could happen.

What Trump may or may not realize is that the Republicans can't solve the funding problem alone. Senate Democrats could filibuster a funding bill, leading to a shutdown. Getting them on board is undoubtedly going to require major concessions from the Republicans and Trump. The Democrats are likely to be willing to risk a shutdown because they believe that most people will blame the Republicans, who, after all, control both chambers of Congress and the White House.

One of the concessions the Democrats are likely to insist on is that the dreamers are given legal status and a path to citizenship. This is anathema to conservative Republicans, but public opinion is very much with the Democrats on this one. One can already see Schumer saying: "The shutdown occurred because we want to protect people who came to the U.S. as children and the Republicans want to deport them all to some country they have never known." Schumer is pretty confident that he will win that battle for public opinion.

While the battle over the dreamers has nothing to do with the tax bill now pending in the Senate, if the tax bill is passed into law, Republicans may be in a good mood and might be willing to give in on the dreamers to avoid spoiling a good moment and having the news cycle change from "tax cut" to "government shutdown." If the tax bill fails, they will be in an extremely foul mood and will not want another "defeat." (V)

Senate Budget Committee Approves the Tax Bill

On a straight party-line vote, the Senate Budget Committee passed the tax-cut bill and sent it to the Senate floor for a vote, possibly later this week. Two Republicans on the committee who had been hold-outs, Bob Corker (TN) and Ron Johnson (WI), voted for it. However their votes on the final bill may depend on getting amendments that they like. One difficulty in giving them what they want is that their requests are diametrically opposed. Johnson wants bigger tax cuts for small businesses and Corker doesn't want the tax cuts to blow a hole in the budget. It is hard to do both of these at once. Also, several Republican senators who are not on the budget committee have yet to take a stance, including Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), John McCain (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK).

Jonathan Chait gives five arguments why the bill will probably pass in the end, once the sausage has been made. He specifically points out why the tax bill is different from the Obamacare repeal bill that failed:

  • There are fewer losers: Repealing Obamacare would have cost 30 million people their health insurance. That's a lot of unhappy voters. It would also have wreaked havoc with 1/6 of the economy and led to unhappy insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors. The tax bill has losers, but fewer and many not until 2026.

  • The losers lose much less: Having your taxes go up is no fun, but it isn't as serious as dying from lack of medical care. Consequently, the opposition to it from Democrats and activist groups has been far less than with the repeal bill. Members of Congress respond to pressure and there is much less of it this time around.

  • Tax cuts deliver massive gains to GOP megadonors: The upside on Obamacare was fulfilling a promise that big Republican donors didn't really care about that much. Giving them a huge tax cut is a very concrete return on their years of investing in Republican politicians. All of the megadonors understand the concept of "return on investment" extremely well. The reality is that disappointing donors (on tax cuts) is a much bigger problem than disappointing voters (on Obamacare repeal) and every Republican in Congress knows it.

  • Cutting taxes has been a core Republican belief for decades: No other issue unites all Republicans as much as cutting taxes (well, maybe cutting government spending, but the two are related). This is what the Republican Party really stands for and the big donors know it. Failure here would show everyone once and for all that even when Republicans control the whole show, they still can't govern. They simply can't let that happen.

  • Republicans believe it is do or die: Many, maybe most, Republicans believe that failure to pass the bill will antagonize the big donors, cause them to shut their wallets, and spell disaster next year. If the bill goes down, Republican funding next year could dry up completely, leading to massive losses in Congress. Hundreds of Republicans realize that failure to pass the tax bill may cost them their jobs. This is a pretty big motivator.

All that said, it will take only three Republican senators to sink the bill and there are three who will never need donors again (Corker, Flake, and McCain), so they are free men and can do what they think is best, ignoring all pressure. (V)

Judge Allows Mulvaney to Run the CFPB

Federal Judge Timothy Kelly, who was appointed to the D.C. District Court in September by Donald Trump, has sided with Trump in the dispute between him and Acting Deputy Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Leandra English. Just before he resigned last week, former director Richard Cordray appointed English to the #2 position at the CFPB and said that upon his resignation, she would lead the bureau until a new director had been appointed and confirmed, in accordance with the Dodd-Frank law that created the agency. Donald Trump didn't like that, so he appointed OMB Director Mick Mulvaney as acting director. English sued, but yesterday Judge Kelly ruled that Mulvaney could serve until the Senate has confirmed a new director. That could take months.

This matters because English wants the bureau to succeed and Mulvaney prefers to have it abolished. Since he can't repeal the law that created it, the next best option is to make sure it is completely paralyzed and can't do anything. It was created after the 2008 financial meltdown and is supposed to ride herd on the banks, something Mulvaney says is bad for the economy. The banks hate the agency because it has been able to collect $12 billion for consumers since its creation by going after banks that have cheated customers. One of the biggest cases it was involved in was one in which Wells Fargo created accounts for hundreds of thousands of customers without telling them about it, and then charged them penalties for these underfunded accounts. With Mulvaney running the show for a while, the banks will breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that no one is watching them. Unless English appeals and wins, though it is not yet clear she has plans to do so. (V)

Samochornov Testifies

Samochornov who, you might be asking? That's Anatoli Samochornov, the translator who was present at the Trump Tower meeting between Natalia Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort in July 2016. His services were needed because Veselnitskaya does not speak English very well. His testimony was before the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Clearly a translator had to pay extremely careful attention to everything everyone said since he had to repeat it back moments later in the other language. What was said is important because Junior says nothing important was discussed. The committee clearly wants a second opinion on that. It wouldn't be surprising if special counsel Robert Mueller also wanted to speak to Samochornov.

Samochronov's LinkedIn page lists him as project manager at a company that works for the State Dept. and also co-owner with two others of a company that does interpreting, with clients that include the UN, IMF, and World Bank. Samochornov has a Masters from an institute in Russia and an MBA from the University of Washington. (V)

Trump Still "Doubts" Obama's Birth Certificate

According to reporting from the New York Times, which spoke to an unnamed U.S. senator, Donald Trump has returned to his obsession with Barack Obama's birth certificate, and his oft-stated doubts that the 44th president was actually a natural-born citizen. Apparently, Trump has brought the matter up in a number of conversations in the past few weeks (when he wasn't busy reiterating claims that he actually won the popular vote last year).

Whether or not Trump actually doubts Obama's birth certificate is a very interesting question that will likely never be satisfactorily answered. On one hand, the whole theory is so clearly phony that anyone with an IQ above 90 (which presumably includes the President, regardless of what NSA Herbert McMaster says) can see through it. On the other hand, Trump badly needs to believe it's true, first because it makes the lie more believable when he repeats it to his followers, and second because it helps him feel better in his ongoing competition with #44. "At least I'm an actual American" Trump can tell himself.

In any event, there's no doubt this "leak" was deliberate; it's probable the unnamed senator is the one with whom Trump is closest. Which, these days, is...uh...maybe Tom Cotton (R-AR). Clearly, the President is running out of ideas for this reality show, and is back to his greatest hits. "Pocahontas" Monday, Obama's birth certificate Tuesday, and Wednesday the odds are excellent it will be "Rocket Man." Meanwhile, some of his newer material—the NFL, LaVar Ball, Al Franken(stien)—appears already to have lost much of its salience. The question is, if Trump is already struggling to maintain the base's interest and its outrage, what will he do 12 months from now when he needs them voting, or 36 months from now when he really needs them voting? (Z)

Heat is On Conyers

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is one of the true giants of Congressional history, having served longer than all but two members of the House (behind Jamie Whitten and John Dingell), and also having played a critical role in the formation of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). The evidence is also overwhelming that he's guilty of sexual misconduct. He's already stepped down from his powerful role as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and, as time passes, more and more of his colleagues are pressing him to resign. That now includes several members of the CBC, who have thus far been his staunchest defenders.

The likelihood is that, sooner or later, Conyers bows to his fellow Democrats' wishes. First, he's 88, which is a good age to dial it back a bit and accept a nice adjunct professorship at the University of Michigan. Second, while he might like the distinction of being the longest-serving member ever, he's still seven years and three re-elections away from Dingell. Third, Conyers is one of the most loyal members of the Democratic Party, and he knows he's hurting them right now at a critical juncture. Fourth, and finally, it's unlikely that he behaved badly just one time in his 52 years in Congress. The longer he lingers, the more risk that more accusers make themselves known, further besmirching his reputation. So, odds are that Conyers runs through a list like this, perhaps with a little help from his colleagues, and throws in the towel in time to give his party a chance to recruit a suitable replacement. If he resigns very quickly, there might be a special election, but if he hangs on for a while, the election will be in Nov. 2018. In any case, his district has a PVI of D+33, so there is no danger of the Democrats losing the seat. (Z)

Heat is On Moore, Too

Would-be Alabama senator Roy Moore is in quite a different place than John Conyers. Moore's guilt of sexual misbehavior is clearer, and his crimes are greater. Most of all, there's no chance he will drop out of the race, his party and his (potential) future colleagues be damned.

That doesn't mean that there's no pressure on Moore, though. No new accusers have presented themselves recently, but the first one—Leigh Corfman, who says she was molested at the age of 14—has decided to break her weeks-long silence. She wrote an open letter to Moore, which she delivered to on Tuesday. It's pretty rough; the key passage is probably this one:

But when you personally denounced me last night and called me slanderous names, I decided that I am done being silent. What you did to me when I was 14-years old should be revolting to every person of good morals. But now you are attacking my honesty and integrity. Where does your immorality end?

One wonders if she is aware of Joseph Welch's "no sense of decency" speech directed at Joe McCarthy, because there are some pretty strong similarities. And in addition to writing the letter, she also went on national TV to talk about what happened. If she's decided to spend the two weeks leading up to the election reminding Alabamians of her story, it's not good for Moore.

Moore did get some "good" news on Tuesday, too, namely that Steve Bannon will head to Alabama to campaign on Moore's behalf. It's unclear exactly how good this news is, however. Are there really a bunch of Bannon lovers/alt-right types/Breitbart readers who were on the fence, but will vote for Moore because of Bannon's stumping? Hard to believe. On the other hand, are there moderates and/or fence-sitting Republicans who will take this as further evidence that Moore is on the far-right fringes, and that even a Democrat is better than that? Or maybe write-in candidate Lee Busby? Or was that Buzbe or Buzzbee? We'll find out on December 12, presumably, although it would be oh-so-Alabama to have some sort of irregularities that do not allow a result to be announced the night of the election. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov28 Tax Bill Is Hanging by a Thread
Nov28 CBO Rescores Tax Bill; Not Good News for the GOP
Nov28 Flynn Is Exposed Six Ways to Sunday
Nov28 Retired Marine Colonel Is Launching a Write-in Campaign for Alabama Senator
Nov28 Woman Tried to Trap WaPo into Running False Story
Nov28 Sanders Is Acting More and More Like a Presidential Candidate
Nov28 Trump Accuses Warren of Faking Her Heritage Although He Faked His for Years
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