Threat of gov’t shut­down looms

GOP pushes its tax over­haul ahead

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALAN FRAM AND ANDREW TAY­LOR

WASH­ING­TON— Repub­li­cans held to­gether and shoved their sig­na­ture tax over haul a cru­cial step ahead Tues­day as wa­ver­ing GOP sen­a­tors showed a grow­ing open­ness.

But its f ate re­mained un­cer­tain, and a planned White House sum­mit aimed at avert­ing a gov­ern­ment shut­down was de­railed when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trumps av­aged top Democrats and de­clared on Twit­ter, “I don’t see a deal!”

“It’s time to stop tweet­ing and start lead­ing,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer re­torted af­ter he and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy P el os ire buffed the bud­get meet­ing with Trump and top Repub­li­cans.

Trump lunched with GOP sen­a­tors at the Capi­tol and de­clared it a “love fest,” as he had his pre­vi­ous closed­doors visit. But the day un­der­scored the party’s year­long prob­lem of uni­fy­ing be­hind key leg­is­la­tion— even a bill slash­ing cor­po­rate taxes and cut­ting per­sonal taxes that’s a para­mount party goal.

Tues­day’s de­vel­op­ments also em­pha­sized the lever­age Democrats have as Congress faces a dead­line a week from Fri­day for pass­ing leg­is­la­tion to keep fed­eral agen­cies open while lead­ers seek a longert­erm bud­get deal. Repub­li­cans lack the votes to pass the shor t-ter m le gis­la­tion with­out Demo­cratic sup­port.

In a party-line 12-11 vote, the Se­nate Bud­get Com­mit­tee man­aged to ad­vance the tax mea­sure to the full Se­nate as a pair of wa­ver­ing Repub­li­cans — Wis­con­sin’s Ron John­son and Ten­nessee’s Bob Corker — fell into line, at least for the mo­ment. In more good news for the GOP, mod­er­ate Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine said it was

a“fair as­sump­tion” that she was like­lier to sup­port the bill af­ter say­ing Trump agreed to make prop­erty taxes up to $10,000 de­ductible in­stead of elim­i­nat­ing that break en­tirely.

But the fate of the leg­is­la­tion re­mained un­cer­tain as it headed to­ward de­bate by the full Se­nate, which Repub­li­cans con­trol by a slen­der 52-48. GOP lead­ers can af­ford just two de­fect ors, and a half dozen or more in their party have been un­com­mit­ted. They in­clude some want­ing big­ger tax breaks for many busi­nesses but oth­ers cring­ing over the $1.4 tril­lion — or more — that the mea­sure is pro­jected to add to bud­get deficits over the next decade.

“It’s a chal­leng­ing ex­er­cise ,” con­ceded Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky. He com­pared it to “sit­ting there with a Ru­bik’s Cube and try­ing to get to 50” votes, a tie that Vice Presi- dent Mike Pen ce would break.

Corker, who’s all but bro­ken with Trump over the pres­i­dent’ s be­hav­ior in of­fice, is among a hand­ful of Repub­li­cans un­easy over the moun­tains of red ink the tax mea­sure is ex­pected to pro­duce. He said he was en­cour­aged by dis­cus­sions with the White House and party lead­ers to in­clude a mech­a­nism — de­tails still un­known — to au­to­mat­i­cally trig­ger tax in­creases if spec­i­fied, an­nual eco­nomic growth tar­gets aren’t met.

“I think we’re get­ting to a very good place on the deficit is­sue,” Corker said.

But other Repub­li­cans are wary of back­ing leg­is­la­tion that would hold the ham­mer of po­ten­tial fu­ture tax in­creases over vot­ers’ heads.

“I am not go­ing to vote to au­to­mat­i­cally im­ple­ment tax in­crease son the Amer­i­can peo­ple. If I do that, con­sider me drunk ,” said Sen. John Kennedy of Lou- isiana.

Collins said she’ d also won agree­ment that be­fore com­plet­ing the tax mea­sure, Congress would ap­prove leg­is­la­tion restor­ing fed­eral pay­ments to health in­sur­ers that Trump scut­tled last month. That bill has had bi par­ti­san sup­port, but it’s un­clear if Democrats would back it amid par­ti­san bat­tling over the tax bill.

McCon­nell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., met with Trump at the White House de­spite the top Democrats’ no-shows. Trump high­lighted their ab­sence by ap­pear­ing be­fore re­porters flanked by two empty chairs bear­ing Sc hume r’ s and P el os i’ s names.

Trump said Democrats would be to blame for any shut­down, de­spite GOP dom­i­na­tion of gov­ern­ment.

“If it hap­pens it’s go­ing to be over il­le­gals pour­ing into the coun­try, crime pour­ing into the coun­try, no bor­der wall, which ev­ery­one wants,” he said. He also said North Korea’s launch of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile on Wed­nes­day should prompt Democrats to re­new ne­go­ti­a­tions over the spend­ing leg­is­la­tion, which in­cludes Pen­tagon fund­ing.

“But prob­a­bly they won’t be­cause noth­ing to them is im­por­tant other than rais­ing taxes,” Trump said.

empty chairs

Democrats noted that in May, Trump tweeted the coun­try “needs a good ‘shut­down’ in Septem­ber to fix mess!” In a tweet of her own Tues­day, P el os is aid Trump’s “ver­bal abuse will no long er be tol­er­ated,” adding in ref­er­ence to the empty-chairs show, “Poor Ryan and McCon­nell rel­e­gated to props. Sad!”

A tem­po­rary spend­ing bill ex­pires Dec .8 and an­other is needed top revent a gov­ern­ment shut­down. Hur­ri­cane aid to help Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Vir­gin Is­lands is also ex­pected to be in­cluded in that mea­sure, as well as re­newed fi­nanc­ing for a chil­dren’s health pro­gram that serves more than 8 mil­lion low-in­come chil­dren.

Democrats are also press­ing for leg­isla­tive pro­tec­tions for im­mi­grants known as “Dream­ers.” Con­ser­va­tive Re pub­li­cans ob­ject to in­clud­ing that is­sue in the crush of yearend busi­ness. But GOP Rep. Car­los Cur be lo of Florida joined Democrats in say­ing he won’t vote for the spend­ing bill un­less the im­mi­grant is­sue is re­solved.



Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pauses as the me­dia depar ts af­ter he spoke in the Roo­sevelt Room of the White House in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day, dur­ing a meet­ing with Repub­li­can con­gres­sional lead­ers.

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