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On the roster: GOP tax win hammers home reality for Dems - Rough week ahead as shutdown looms - McCabe faces GOP criticism before testifying on Hill - Senate rejects Trump pick to run Export-Import Bank - Beware the ‘sprout officer’

It has belatedly occurred to Democrats that their resistance wasn’t nearly as formidable as they thought.

As House Speaker Paul Ryan brought the gavel down this afternoon heralding the passage of a major tax cut, he was also breaking the spell that had held many Democrats in its thrall since last November.

For too many Democrats “this can’t be happening” turned into “this isn’t happening.”

Convinced of the illegitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency and in firm belief that his and his party’s goals would founder amid inexperience, incompetence and cupidity, Democrats seem to imagine themselves still somehow in charge.

Though the president is sorely mistaken when he dismisses evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election as phony, he is right about the way Democrats have clung to the idea as a life preserver in the choppy seas of minority.

It was easy for members of the Blue Team to dismiss the moment as when the White House was in constant chaos and Congress could hardly pass an eye exam, let alone major legislation.

But with final passage of Republican tax cuts just one more vote away from reality, Democrats are being forced to confront reality. Looking back at 2017 there is, yes, the notable failure on health insurance, but a record-setting pace for judicial appointments, major regulatory rollbacks, the demise of Obama doctrine for foreign policy and now, this.

When think back about federal employees resisting the Trump administration, some even with Harry Potter-inspired names, it seems quaint and more than a little bit sad. These actions, like much of the Democratic response since January tends to seem more like seeking an alternate reality than confronting the challenging one in which they found themselves.

In order to effectively challenge Republicans in 2018, Democrats will first have to admit the low condition to which the party has fallen. And if the Republican’s ability to pass this tax legislation doesn’t convince Democrats of their current station, nothing will.

What’s in the daggone thing? - Policy analyst Robert VerBruggen helpfully breaks down the major components of the tax plan. National Review: “The legislation is a mixed bag. It adds to the deficit at a time when we’re already drowning in debt, and it doesn’t simplify the tax code as much as many had hoped it would. Nonetheless, there are some serious reforms here that should endure even if Democrats retake the government soon. Let’s take a tour of the major high and low points. 1. There are about $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over ten years. No, they won’t pay for themselves…. 2. The individual tax code is reworked and simplified, to the benefit of most…. 3. Business taxes get a much-needed overhaul too…. 4. No more individual mandate, starting in 2019….”

A plan that will raise taxes on the wealthy but aid the super-rich - NYT: “If you read the headlines, the spoils of the Republican tax plan will disproportionately benefit the wealthy. It’s been called a ‘tax cut for the rich,’ ‘a Christmas gift for the wealthy’ and more. And that’s true: Any back-of-the-envelope math shows that in both dollar terms and in percentage terms, the largest tax cuts clearly benefit the rich. And yet virtually every private conversation taking place on Wall Street and in corporate America among the wealthy these days seemingly comes to a different conclusion. … You’re probably asking how a tax plan that seems riddled with loopholes to benefit those who are well off – and the Trump family – can be raising the tax bill of the wealthy when we’ve been told the opposite. Here’s the nuance: The tax bill soaks some of rich Americans – but it does not soak the richest.”

Pence nixes Israel trip to stay handy for tie-breaker - 
The Hill: “Vice President [Mike Pence] is delaying his planned trip to the Middle East until January as Congress prepares to vote on the GOP’s tax bill. … The decision to postpone the trip comes after widespread outrage over President Trumps decision earlier this month to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A spokeswoman for Pence’s office said the decision was made to ensure that the GOP tax-cut bill is passed successfully.”

Corker pushes back hard on kickback claims -
Politico: “The final House-Senate tax compromise did nothing to reduce the measure’s trillion-dollar-plus increase of the federal deficit, which [Sen. Bob Corker] cited as a chief reason for rejecting an earlier version of the bill. … ‘On one hand, you had the deficit issue. On the other hand, you had the economic growth issue,’ Corker said. ‘I took a long walk on Friday morning and just decided that from the standpoint of … is our country better with this or not better with it? And I feel that we are.’ … Corker has accumulated significant wealth through his real estate investments, and he immediately came under fire from the left, which accused him of flipping his vote in favor of the tax bill solely because of the real estate language.”

Manchin says he would have been ‘an easy pickup’ on taxes - Politico: “[Joe Manchin] should be the most endangered politician in America, followed closely by the nine other Senate Democrats running in states Trump carried last year, many by wide margins. And they all should have been poachable votes for the White House, if the president’s outreach to red-state Democrats had worked, and if the agenda Republicans have chased in search of something to call a win hasn’t consistently proved so unpopular with voters… ‘I was an easy pickup. Very easy pickup,’ Manchin said. ‘And a couple, two, three other Democrats would have been easy pickups, if they had just made an effort.’ Not one of those Trump-state Democrats has budged on Obamacare repeal or taxes, to the surprise of Democrats themselves, who entered the year with their brains and confidence scrambled by Trump’s win.”

Reuters: “The U.S. Congress is in for a tough week as infighting over defense spending, healthcare and other contentious matters complicates the drive to pass a temporary spending bill by midnight on Friday to avert a partial government shutdown. Veteran House of Representatives Republicans on Tuesday expressed optimism that a funding bill, coupled with a large new disaster aid package, ultimately would be worked out with the Senate. But some are predicting that lawmakers will bump right up against Friday’s midnight deadline. The House could vote as soon as Wednesday on legislation that extends most funding for domestic programs through Jan. 19. Democrats are likely to mainly oppose the bill, arguing that their priorities were being ignored. Conservative Republicans are insisting on higher military funding that would extend through the rest of the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30 as part of the House bill.”

Schumer, McConnell push for different ‘wish lists’ attached to spending bill - AP: “The Senate’s top Republican Monday announced a lengthy wish list that he hopes to attach to a must-do spending bill this week, but there’s no agreement with the chamber’s Democrats and little time to waste. The government would partially shut down if Washington can’t pass another stopgap spending bill by midnight Friday. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is eyeing the measure as a shortcut to power several other items into law, including hurricane relief, a renewal of a children’s health insurance program and funding to stabilize ‘Obamacare’ insurance markets. But top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has other priorities, chiefly protection from deportation of immigrants commonly referred to as ‘Dreamers’ and securing spending increases for domestic agencies to match huge budget increases sought by defense hawks for the Pentagon.”

GOP readies $81 billion in disaster relief - LAT: “Congress is set to consider an $81-billion disaster aid package that includes wildfire recovery money for California and other Western states as well as hurricane relief with a price tag reflecting a year of record-setting natural calamities. The legislation, the text of which was released late Monday, would provide almost twice as much as the $44 billion the White House sought last month to cover relief efforts along the Gulf Coast and in the Caribbean.”

Pergramatic: Plan to prevent shutdown ‘all up in the air’ - Fox News senior Capitol Hill producer Chad Pergram has the latest. Fox News: “When asked about the plan to avoid a government shutdown, one senior House Republican source conceded ‘I really wish I knew. It’s all up in the air.’ This is why a Christmastime shutdown remains a possibility. They’re running out of track. … House Republicans are preparing a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. It would fund all areas of the federal government at current levels through mid-January. The plan would bust mandatory spending caps imposed on the Pentagon called ‘sequestration.’ The House Republican gambit would fund the military through Sept. 30. Bolstering defense spending would court defense hawks to vote yes on the measure. But there are a lot of skeptics on the other side of Capitol Hill. ‘That dog isn’t going to hunt in the Senate,’ observed Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.”

“Because when once an efficient national government is established, the best men in the country will not only consent to serve, but also will generally be appointed to manage it…” – John Jay, Federalist No. 3

Philip Terzian
 reviews the acclaimed new biography of Ulysses Grant by Ron ChernowCommentary: “What makes Grant interesting, as a human, military commander, and statesman, is subsumed by an effort to make him appealing to contemporaries. The issue of race pervades Grant – as well it might, but largely as special pleading and, in my view, at the expense of reality. … In a post-Napoleonic age of military posturing, it is easy to see how Grant’s shrewd battlefield insights and purposeful will to get the job done appealed to Lincoln and inspired confidence throughout the North. The stern commander in combat who couldn’t bear cruelty to animals; the sharp, unsentimental judge of men in war easily misled by subordinates in peace; the generous victor at Appomattox; the writer of eloquent prose whose Memoirs were written to spare his family disgrace – Ulysses S. Grant is entitled to rehabilitation, and appreciation as well.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -21 points
Change from one week ago: up 1 point

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

Fox News: “Top Republicans are stepping up their criticism of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, even suggesting he should be ousted amid allegations conflicts of interest and anti-Trump political prejudice at the agency. ‘Andrew McCabe cuts across every facet of every investigation in 2016…’ Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. … told Fox News' ‘America's Newsroom’ on Tuesday. A day earlier, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley told reporters that McCabe should be fired. ‘And I’ve said that before and I’ve said it to people who can do it,’ he said. But Grassley, R-Iowa, added that doesn’t mean President Trump should get involved. … McCabe is testifying Tuesday afternoon in a closed-door hearing before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. McCabe’s Tuesday appearance follows tough talk and accusations from the White House and Republican allies of political bias involving him, the FBI, the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team.”

Third party campaign investigated for Russian collusion - WaPo: “The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking at the presidential campaign of the Green Party’s Jill Stein for potential ‘collusion with the Russians,’ a sign that the panel’s probe is far from over, even as allegations swirl that the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation is racing to a close. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told reporters Monday that the Senate Intelligence Committee has ‘two other campaigns that we’re just starting on,’ in addition to the panel’s ongoing probe of alleged ties between the Trump administration and Kremlin officials. One of those he identified as Stein’s; Burr has indicated previously that the committee is also looking into reports that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign paid for research that went into a dossier detailing allegations of Donald Trump’s 2013 exploits in Moscow.”

Trump’s team to meet with Mueller’s office in hopes the end is near - WaPo: “White House lawyers are expected to meet with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office late this week seeking good news: that his sprawling investigation’s focus on President Trump will soon end and their client will be cleared. But people familiar with the probe say that such assurances are unlikely and that the meeting could trigger a new, more contentious phase between the special counsel and a frustrated president, according to administration officials and advisers close to Trump. … The special counsel’s office has continued to request new documents related to the campaign, and members of Mueller’s team have told others they expect to be working through much of 2018, at a minimum.”

Mueller’s team says no chance - Axios: “Members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team say the Russia probe will at least continue through 2018, the Washington Post reports. Why it matters: White House lawyers had said the probe would be complete this year. When they meet with Mueller's team this week, the Post reports they hope to hear that the probe is wrapping up and shifting focus away from President Trump. As the investigation continues into the new year, tensions are building between the administration and Mueller's office.”

WashTimes: “With two Republicans breaking ranks, the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday morning rejected President Trump’s nominee to head the Export-Import Bank, amid fears that former Rep. Scott Garrett did not support the mission of the agency designed to aid U.S. exporters seeking financing. The panel voted 13-10 not to support Mr. Garrett, a New Jersey Republican who served seven terms in the House before retiring in 2017. Conservatives have long targeted the Ex-Im Bank, saying it amounts to corporate welfare for large corporations such as Boeing. The agency provides guarantees for U.S.-based companies seek to finance export deals where conventional private-sector funding is not available. Mr. Garrett’s nomination was already considered to be in trouble when Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican who serves on the banking committee, announced last week he would vote against Mr. Trump’s nominee.”

House Republicans want answer into reported Obama Hezbollah leniency - Fox News

Trump errs in effort to use deadly train crash to push domestic spending - ABC News

Yuval Levin punctures claims about “banned” words at Centers for Disease Control - National Review

Q Poll: Voters’ confidence in the economy is masked by doubts in foreign policy - Quinnipiac University

Philip Wegmann: ‘Heritage announces Kay Coles James will serve as new president’ - WashEx

N.J. Gov.-elect Phil Murphy poses with cardboard Gov. Chris Christie at the beach - AP


“Corry has no bedside manner, but you don’t really care if you need CPR.” – A senior Republican talking to Time about Corry Bliss, the famously hard-nosed master of political disaster tasked by the GOP with running the campaign to save the House majority.  

“Seems to me the GOP can screw up a 2 car funeral. Their messaging is just awful. How can it be so awful for people to keep more of the money that they earn? Can the government spend their hard earned wages better than they can? It's amazing to me that a tax cut bill is being attacked by the Democrats who have never ever cared about the size of the deficit.” – Peter Kann, Greensboro Ga.

[Ed. note: What you say may be true, Mr. Kann but, let me submit, that whatever Republicans would have said or done, there would still be substantial opposition – a plurality if not a majority to this legislation at the time of passage. Absolutely ANYTHING that President Trump supports is bound to be opposed by at least 40 percent of the electorate. If Donald Trump came out in favor of the Paris global warming accords, support for the measure among Democrats would probably drop ten points. This is not to excuse the Republicans from the work of actually selling their legislation and crafting it in such a way as to broaden its acceptance. The fact that only a quarter or so of the electorate seems excited about the plan suggests there is something wrong with the messaging, details or both. And as for the deficit, the sad news for future generations is that nobody cares too much about spending money the government doesn’t have anymore. I doubt either party will take fiscal restraint easily until some seriously bad consequences pile up.]

“I have enjoyed your column for some time, and will continue to enjoy your writing for a long time to come. My personal politics slant to the left, but I make it a point to read news and opinions from a variety of sources. I have long appreciated your perspective on all things political, as you demonstrate a conviction for truth, even when it is inconvenient. I was disappointed to see you reiterate an at best misleading quote from Nancy Pelosi in your latest column. The full sentence that is so often truncated was, ‘But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.’ The point being made was that all of the talk of ‘death panels’ and the like was obscuring the benefits that the legislation provides. The contents of the Affordable Care Act were made public and debated for months before a vote took place. This is a far cry from the complete lack of public debate on the tax bill, with its last minute hand-written additions. To repeat that single sound bite out of context and hold that as a demonstration of hypocrisy on the part of Pelosi is nothing short of a distortion of the truth. While this is sadly far from uncommon, I would respectfully hold you to a higher standard.” – Aaron Lade, San Diego, Calif.

[Ed. note: But wait, Mr. Lade, let me rise in my own defense to say that I was making, at least in part, the same argument. Here’s what we wrote Monday: “Republicans now would not dare make the same mistake with their legislation that soon-to-be-former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made when she famously declared in 2010, ‘We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.’ But they’re making essentially the same argument – we’re passing something complicated and scary, but you’ll see how much you like it.” The mistake to which I was referring was only the gaff. Republicans are doing more or less the same thing that Democrats did: Passing something unpopular in hopes that as voters come to see its benefits, they will change their opinion. I will grant you that the beginning of the process on ObamaCare was much more open than what the Republicans did with their tax plan. We should acknowledge that the nation’s first universal health insurance regime is more complicated and far-reaching than changing tax rates and deductions, so the comparison is imprecise. But, certainly, the procedural foibles of Democrats in the final three months of the ordeal were as rank as any I have seen. Much as with the election of Scott Brown in 2010, the election of Doug Jones in Alabama added extra fuel to Republicans fire for passing tax cuts. And in both cases, neither party can say that they affected large-scale changes to domestic policy in ways that would encourage voters that we are well and fairly governed. One of the reasons Washington stinks so much is that both parties have become so forgiving of themselves when it comes to cutting corners. You are right, Pelosi was no hypocrite, I am only suggesting that Republicans find themselves in a similar situation as she was seven years ago.]

“The economy is already reacting better that at any time under Obama. Tax cuts are real where Obamacare was a lie from the beginning. I believe the polls that say the majority want Democrats in charge of Congress as much as I did the polls that said Clinton would win. The Democrats sudden attack of conscience and ethics is laughable.” – Michael Johnson, Fairfield Glade, Tenn.

[Ed. note: You sound like a Republican, Mr. Johnson, so I will caution you to disbelieve these polls at your party’s own peril. As we have mentioned many times before, the national polls in 2016 were actually better, in the sense of being closer to the final result than they were four years before. Hillary Clinton did win the national popular vote by a hair more than two percentage points. The final average of methodologically sound five polls before the election gave her an advantage of about three points. Where pollsters, ourselves included, failed was in closely enough examining typically Democratic states in the Upper Midwest – Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. There are problems in the field of public opinion research, but that is not the same as saying that the polls should be disregarded. My advice for what I presume to be your party is to be aware of popular sentiment, but not ruled by it moment by moment. It is important for Republicans to understand the deep misgivings the broad electorate has about the 2016 results and work to accommodate and address those concerns whenever possible without becoming slaves to the normal fluctuations in popular sentiment. Polls are like weather forecasts: Their powers of prediction may vary, but if you’re planning a picnic you still ought to check.]

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[UK] Independent: “Brussels sprouts might be the most divisive item on a Christmas dinner plate but this has not stopped local residents voicing their outrage for being told how many of the humble miniature cabbages to eat on Christmas day. Leicestershire council has been savagely mocked for telling residents not to eat more than six sprouts with their Christmas dinner. In the attempt to cut down on the amount of waste people are producing, Leicestershire County Council tweeted: ‘Six sprouts = one portion. Don’t overbuy and they don’t go to waste.’ The English Midlands council accompanied the warning with the two hashtags ‘Christmas tip’ and ‘waste free Xmas.’ But the council has prompted outrage on social media for their advice and residents argued it was officious and overbearing. … Natasha Rossiya, a Twitter user, asked: ‘Are you going to prosecute Leicestershire residents if they have seven or, heaven forbid, eight sprouts? Will [there] be a ‘Sprout Officer’?’”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.