GOP senators lobby Trump on Obamacare mandate, markets

Senate Republicans on Thursday personally lobbied President Donald Trump to support a bill to shore up Obamacare markets while simultaneously repealing the law’s individual mandate as part of tax reform, according to GOP sources.

There is growing concern among Senate Republicans that repealing the requirement that most Americans have insurance without funding a separate Obamacare cost-sharing program would cause too much havoc in already shaky insurance markets. But they need to repeal the mandate in order to have enough money to cover new tax cuts.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana attended the White House meeting, which was arranged by Graham, according to GOP sources.

Senate Republicans want Trump to get behind a bipartisan deal Alexander crafted with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to fund Obamacare’s cost-sharing program. They argue that enacting Alexander-Murray as part of Continue reading “GOP senators lobby Trump on Obamacare mandate, markets”

Ryan gets big — and much-needed — win on tax cuts

President Donald Trump got a boost Thursday with passage of the House tax bill, but the biggest winner may be Speaker Paul Ryan.

Loathed by the Breitbart wing of the Republican Party — which sees Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as Trump’s biggest obstacle to making America great again — the Wisconsin Republican scored a major victory in Thursday’s 227-205 vote to pass a massive tax-cut package that dramatically alters the U.S. tax code.

While the Senate still has to pass its own version of the bill, and the two chambers then have to cut a deal to resolve key differences, it’s a win for Ryan. Like repealing and replacing Obamacare, Ryan can claim the House has done its job, and it’s over to you, Mitch McConnell.

And it’s worth pointing out that even in the Trump era, the biggest legislative win so far for Trump is Continue reading “Ryan gets big — and much-needed — win on tax cuts”

McConnell calls for ethics investigation of Menendez

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called for an ethics investigation of Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez hours after a jury deadlocked in his corruption trial.

Menendez "is one of only twelve U.S. Senators to have been indicted in our history. His trial shed light on serious accusations of violating the public’s trust as an elected official, as well as potential violations of the Senate’s Code of Conduct," McConnell said in a statement. “Because of the seriousness of these charges, I am calling on the Senate Ethics committee to immediately investigate Senator Menendez’s actions which led to his indictment.”

Republicans stall budget talks for tax reform

Hill Republican leaders are slow-walking negotiations for a year-end budget deal with Democrats, adamant that tax reform must come first — even if the spending battle drags out until year’s end.

Top aides to the "Big Four" — Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — have been engaged in tightly held discussions for weeks, but they remain unable to reach an agreement on a "topline" number for government funding bills for the next year.

Democrats insist on "parity" in any spending deal; they won’t agree to raise strict budget caps for defense spending without an equal boost to domestic funding. Republicans, so far, refuse to cave on the issue.

Pelosi accused Republican leaders of dragging their heels on the matter, suggesting they were trying to push a $5 trillion-plus tax cut package through Congress before they reach Continue reading “Republicans stall budget talks for tax reform”

Senate Republicans poised to expel Moore if he wins

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans say that Alabama Senate GOP candidate Roy Moore is virtually certain to face a formal ethics complaint — which would lead to expulsion proceedings — should he get elected next month.

It’s an outcome that senior Republicans say privately is all but unavoidable after the embattled Senate hopeful was accused of sexual misconduct, including with a 14-year-old girl. The former Alabama Supreme Court justice is refusing to leave the race.

McConnell initially outlined his thinking at his weekly leadership meeting earlier this week: The majority leader said if Moore is elected next month, he expects a senator to file an ethics complaint against Moore, according to multiple sources. That process would eventually lead to a vote on expelling him.

One option that McConnell floated during the meeting was for a Democrat, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to Continue reading “Senate Republicans poised to expel Moore if he wins”

House Republicans still bullish on tax bill after whip effort

House Republicans are stepping up their whip effort behind major tax legislation poised for a floor vote Thursday and expressing confidence they’ll have the votes to pass it.

With many Republicans calling it a “make-or-break” moment for their majority, House GOP leaders and Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady are sounding decidedly bullish.

"We do and will have the votes for passage," Brady (R-Texas) said, heading into a whip meeting on Monday night.

Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said he felt “very good” about the whip check. And a half-dozen deputy whips echoed those comments after huddling with White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn in the basement of the Capitol, where there was no talk of delaying the vote.

Indeed, leadership sources say the process has gone surprisingly well — a sign of how desperate Republicans are to notch a legislative victory after their failure to Continue reading “House Republicans still bullish on tax bill after whip effort”

Menendez corruption trial goes to jury

NEWARK, N.J. — The fate of Sen. Bob Menendez is now in the jury’s hands.

With the New Jersey Democrat’s career and freedom hanging in the balance, his defense lawyer said Menendez’s relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida doctor, was a longstanding friendship — not a corrupt connection as claimed by the Justice Department.

“This case is not about what was done, it’s about why it was done,” Abbe Lowell said in his closing argument of the bribery trial, the first involving a sitting senator in a generation. “Friendship explains that.”

A federal prosecutor countered that Menendez did Melgen’s bidding in return for bribes, saying Melgen “paid Bob Menendez to be his personal U. S senator.”

“Your common sense tells you this is corruption,” Peter Koski, a top Justice Department prosecutor, told jurors. “Their strategy comes down to strategy and misdirection. Spend enough time talking Continue reading “Menendez corruption trial goes to jury”