TenCount -> House and Senate Tax Reform

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TenCount -> House and Senate Tax Reform

A highly selective view of events in the week ahead with important financial, legislative and political implications, put together by your friends at Sphere Consulting.

  • Good Morning! The House passed its version of the tax bill by its self-imposed Thanksgiving deadline, then skedaddled out of town for the holiday, followed by the Senate, which managed to get its version of tax reform through the Senate Finance Committee. The latter occasion was marked by a pointed exchange between Senators Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, and Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, who characterized as “bullcrap” Brown’s assertion that Republicans only favor tax breaks for the rich.
  • The Senate Finance Committee vote was along party lines, meaning that Republicans don’t have much wiggle room if they hope to get their plan out of the Senate with no Democratic support. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has already said he opposes the bill as it stands, because it favors big corporations over small businesses, and Susan Collins of Maine has expressed doubts. Senate Republican leaders now must decide whether to satisfy like objections or dare Republicans to sink their own bill.
  • One sticking point could be the hope of some Republicans in the Senate to include a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate in the tax bill. President Trump’s budget director, however, all but throttled the idea when he said on Sunday that the White House would accept removing the provision if it was getting in the way of the tax bill’s approval. “If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can,” said Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, “then we are okay with taking it out.”
  • It’s a myth, of course, that members of Congress aren’t at work when the House and the Senate aren’t in session. They usually are back home with the people they represent, conducting town halls and participating in democracy. This week, that participation includes a couple of field hearings: The Senate Finance Committee will consider “Modernization of the NAFTA” from San Antonio on Monday and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday will consider “The State of VA Services in Ohio” from Columbus.
  • One of the Trump Administration’s signature initiatives has been infrastructure projects, which it has tried to get jump-started in various ways, including by shortening the time required to get regulatory approvals for new ventures. It hasn’t always worked, however, and the New York Times reports on five examples where the power of the bureaucracy to slow down projects has been all but invincible.
  • Not everyone blames the executive branch for the regulatory tangle that bogs down infrastructure projects. Some scholars point out that Congress bears some of the fault, for writing laws that impose burdens and which shift the liability for delays from itself to regulatory agencies. On Monday, the Federalist Society conducts a teleforum on “Congress Can Fix the ‘Regulatory Mess’ It Created.”
  • The Fourth Estate never takes a vacation, so it’s perhaps not surprising that one of the few events on this week’s calendar takes place at the National Press Club. There, on MondayWorld Bank President Jim Yong Kim will address recent trends in the economy, with an emphasis on new ways to help women entrepreneurs and on the role of the private sector in maximizing development finance. The event is sold out but can be watched via livestream here.
  • Saudi Arabia is in turmoil, a situation that has put the entire Middle East on edge. Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has concentrated enormous power in his own hands, carrying out a broad purge of the royal family and government, while the Kingdom is bogged down in a war in Yemen and the economy proves listless. On Tuesday, the Brookings Institution looks at “Kings and Presidents: Whither the Special Relationship with Saudi Arabia?”
  • “Good morning, are you wired?” That has become a standard (and facetious) greeting inside the White House, which according to the Washington Post feels increasingly under siege from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election. Meanwhile, ABC News reports that Mueller’s team has directed the Justice Department, which oversees the Special Counsel, to turn over a broad array of documents.
  • It’s fake news that President Trump has ordered the execution of all the turkeyspardoned by President Obama. Turkey pardoning, of course, is a favorite pastime of presidents during Thanksgiving Week, when there is so little other news happening that the spectacle always attracts full coverage. This year’s pardons will be dispensed on Tuesday by the president, who will reflect on the nation’s Thanksgiving traditions and wish Americans a safe and happy holiday before departing for Mar-a-Lago.

    Founded in 2006, Sphere Consulting is an international public affairs firm providing clients with creative, effective, and timely solutions.  Our work spans the globe and all industry sectors with a focus on the implementation of strategic campaigns to deliver your media and government relations needs.

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