**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Trump’s taxing effort to revive his presidency - Trump, health insurers face ObamaCare deadline today - Moore heavy favorite, but Dems have a shot - Trump on cashiering Price: ‘We’ll see’ - Denver gonna Denver
TRUMP’S TAXING EFFORT TO REVIVE HIS PRESIDENCY
President Trump launching an ambitious overhaul of the tax code the day after being handed a bouquet of political defeats seems either doggedly determined or disconnected from reality.
Which it is will depend almost entirely on how Trump and his fellow Republicans proceed from here. After all, if the lightbulb never lit up, Thomas Edison would be just some old kook with a whole lot of broken glass on his garage floor.
The timing of the announcement doesn’t really have anything to do with Alabama voters’ rebuke of Trump’s preferred candidate in a Senate primary there nor the ignominious failure of a final effort to repeal ObamaCare. The date that does matter is Sept. 30, the end of the current federal fiscal year, which had long been seen as the make-or-break deadline for Trump and the GOP controlled Congress.
We will not bore you with a primer on Senate procedural rules (again), but fiscal legislation can pass the Senate with a simple 51-vote majority once a year if it is attached to the annual budget. We had previously been rather bullish on the idea of Republicans jamming through some sort of tax cut this fiscal year, but other failures and divisions rendered that snatch-and-grab approach unworkable.
They got caught on the first caper before they could ever start the next one.
What the president is rolling out today in Indiana is a first step in what could be a year-long effort on taxes, and that’s if he’s lucky. Projections from the White House and Congress that this legislation could be completed this year should be greeted with due skepticism, i.e. a ton.
Trump is obviously aware that he will need Democrats to make it happen, if it ever does. That’s why he is rolling out the plan alongside a Democratic senator, and an embattled one at that. Trump may not have been able to help Republican Luther Strange but he and fellow Hoosier Vice President Mike Pence could sure save Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly.
Trump has learned a great deal about the political value of bipartisanship from the bounce he got from his surprise deals with top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi and her Senate counterpart, Chuck Schumer, on spending, debt and, prospectively, amnesty for young adults who came to the United States illegally as children.
But the fiscal deal Trump struck with Schumer and Pelosi will also complicate the president’s ambitions.
When Trump reached around congressional Republican leaders to keep the government open and lift the debt ceiling, he only delayed the shutdown misery that was supposed to come this week. Rather than an early-fall fiscal cliff, Congress is now looking at a wild week between Christmas and New Year’s. By then, we have reason to believe that tensions will be even worse between Trump and his own party.
The pliant giant Sen. Luther Strange will be gone, replaced either by a Democrat or, more likely, the pistol-packing populist Roy Moore, who has promised no compromise in Washington.
We also tend to believe that Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee will not be the last GOP retirement of the year. Lame-duck presidents see their power diminished. Lame-duck senators actually gain power knowing that they will not have to face voters again.
And with the procedural prestidigitation of budget reconciliation gone for the year, Trump seems likely to keep up his push for a change in Senate rules to allow big legislation with simple majorities. This will irritate Senate Republicans and frustrate the president.
Cramming through deals on borrowing, funding the government for the remaining nine months of the fiscal year, addressing major deficiencies in ObamaCare and, most awkwardly, helping the aforementioned favored class of illegal immigrants will push to the limit a Republican leadership team that is already substantially weakened by the battles of 2017 so far. And they will face these struggles with low levels of trust and respect between themselves and the president.
Plus, Special Counsel Robert Mueller looks likely to be setting off some pretty heavy ordnance in the weeks to come.
As Trump trudges through this battlefield, Schumer and Pelosi will be waving from afar, constantly offering Trump the hope of a grand bargain on taxes. As the legislation grinds through committees and faces various Democratic delays, that party’s leaders will be sure to always encourage Trump to keep hope alive.
You may remember how Schumer successfully rolled Sen. Marco Rubio and others on a grand bargain on immigration. He got them to walk far enough out on the limb before sawing it off. Democrats, after all, have a 2018 strategy predicated on running against a failing president and his party, not as co-authors of a huge tax cut.
So, suffice it to say this will be in no way easy. And, given Trump’s recent fixation on professional football players, there is ample reason to believe that he will struggle to maintain focus on his tax plan through these greater storms to come.
But, desperation does have a way of focusing the human mind, and he and his administration seem to understand that this is the last play in their playbook.
What’s inside - Here’s what the White House tax package would do:
-Cut corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.
-Cut small business tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent.
-Eliminate estate tax.
-Reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three; 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent, with a surcharge for the very wealthy.
-Double the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families.
-End itemized deductions for individuals except for mortgage interest and charitable giving.
-Increase child tax credit and opens it to families with higher incomes.
-Create a tax credit of $500 for the care of the elderly and the sick dependents.
[Read more from Fox News]
THE RULEBOOK: MORE CHOICES, BETTER OUTCOMES
“Various reasons have been suggested, in the course of these papers, to induce a probability that the general government will be better administered than the particular governments; the principal of which reasons are that the extension of the spheres of election will present a greater option, or latitude of choice, to the people…” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 27
TIME OUT: FROM SOMETHING TO SOMEWHERE
Atlantic: “… Leaders regularly stress that the best way to rise up the income ladder is to go to school… [Jesse Rothstein], however, found little evidence to support that premise. Instead, he found that differences in local labor markets … and marriage patterns, such as higher concentrations of single-parent households, seemed to make much more of a difference than school quality. He concludes that factors like higher minimum wages, the presence and strength of labor unions, and clear career pathways within local industries are likely to play more important roles in facilitating a poor child’s ability to rise up the economic ladder when they reach adulthood. … His work, like [Raj Chetty’s], is not causal—meaning Rothstein is not able to identify exactly what explains the underlying variation in his economic model. Nevertheless, his work helps to provide researchers and policymakers with a new set of background facts to investigate…”
Flag on the play? - Email us at
your tips, comments or questions.
Trump net job-approval rating: -13.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.2 points
[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.]
TRUMP, HEALTH INSURERS FACE OBAMACARE DEADLINE TODAY
WashEx: “Insurers face a key deadline [today] to finalize contracts with states about how much they will charge customers who buy Obamacare plans. Many of the largest insurers have decided not to sell plans on Obamacare’s exchanges at all, and many of those that are staying have filed rate increase proposals in the double digits. Those increases could go higher without payments the insurers expect to receive from the federal government, called cost-sharing reduction subsidies. Insurers say the pullouts and premium hikes are a result of uncertainty about the future of the healthcare law and financial losses. The Trump administration has the authority to move the Sept. 27 deadline back, but it has not changed, according to a spokesman from the Department of Health and Human Services. In some states, insurers have filed several rate requests to account for various sets of assumptions, including whether they can expect funding from the federal government…”
White House looks to shift burden on infrastructure to local taxpayers - WaPo: “President Trump told lawmakers Tuesday that he was abandoning a key element of his planned $1 trillion infrastructure package, complaining that certain partnerships between the private sector and federal government simply don’t work. Trump’s comments, described by a House Democrat who met with Trump and confirmed by a White House official, reveal an infrastructure plan that appears to be up in the air as White House officials have struggled to decide how to finance many of the projects they envision to rebuild America’s roads, bridges and tunnels. Now the administration wants to force states and localities to foot most of the bill. The previous strategy – a push that has taken a back seat to other Republican priorities in Washington – was aimed at luring private investors with promises of federal backing. Some of that thinking appears to be changing.”
Administration readies long list of demands for DREAMer amnesty - McClatchy: “The White House is expected to ask Congress to approve a Republican wish list of immigration policies as part of a deal to protect hundreds of thousands of young people brought into the country illegally as children, known as Dreamers, according to a preliminary document obtained by McClatchy. Talking points written by the president’s Domestic Policy Council and given to some members of the conservative Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill include a dozen proposals grouped into three broad areas — border security, interior enforcement and merit-based immigration.”
MOORE HEAVY FAVORITE, BUT DEMS HAVE A SHOT
Weekly Standard: [Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore] starts out as the heavy favorite to win the general election on December 12 and serve out the remaining three years of [Attorney General Jeff Sessions’] Senate term. … But… [one] poll found Moore and Strange each running only about four points ahead of Democrat Doug Jones, and the extremely controversial Moore won his last race for state supreme court justice with only 51.8 percent of the vote, running about 9 points behind Mitt Romney on the 2012 ballot. If a Republican could win Ted Kennedy’s seat a year after Obama was inaugurated, could a Democrat win Jeff Sessions’ seat a year after Trump was inaugurated? ‘It would certainly be on the magnitude of Massachusetts 2010,’ elections analyst Sean Trende of RealClear Politics told me in an email. ‘Alabama may be marginally less competitive than Massachusetts, but it is heavily racially polarized, meaning it doesn’t swing much.’”
Trump gave Strange the Coakley treatment - Politico: “President Donald Trump began distancing himself from Sen. Luther Strange before ballots were even cast in Alabama’s GOP Senate primary, saying at a dinner on Monday night that the candidate he backed was likely to lose – and suggesting he’d done everything he could do given the circumstances.”
Luther who? Trump scrubbed his Twitter - The Hill: “President Trump on Tuesday apparently began deleting his tweets supporting Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) in Alabama’s Senate primary after Strange lost the race to former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. Trump had tweeted about Strange several times in the days leading up to the primary, including the day of, but those tweets had disappeared as of Tuesday night. The deleted tweets included those he sent the night before the election and the day of the race.”
CORKER RETIREMENT SETS OFF A SCRAMBLE
Tennessean: “Sen. Bob Corker announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election next year, bringing to a close the Senate career of an influential Republican who has been a key player on foreign policy and both a staunch defender and critic of President Donald Trump. ‘After much thought, consideration and family discussion over the past year, Elizabeth and I have decided that I will leave the United States Senate when my term expires at the end of 2018,’ Corker said in a statement. … Corker, a two-term senator and former Chattanooga mayor, had agonized for weeks over whether he should run for another term amid speculation that he would likely face a challenge from the GOP’s right flank.”
Will Manning volunteer? - WashEx: Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning is already being talked about as a possible Republican contender to compete for Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker’s U.S. Senate seat after Corker revealed Tuesday that he will not run for re-election in 2018. A Tennessee Republican source told the Washington Examiner that Manning was one of three names that came to mind as potential GOP candidates, along with Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Gov. Bill Haslam. Meanwhile, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., also floated Manning as a possibility, but for 2020 if Sen. Lamar Alexander decides against seeking re-election.”
TRUMP ON CASHIERING PRICE: ‘WE’LL SEE’
The Hill: “President Trump refused to rule out the possibility of firing Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, saying he’s ‘not happy’ with his use of a private plane. ’I am not happy about it. I’m going to look at it. I am not happy about it and I let him know it,’ Trump said at the White House. ‘We’ll see,’ Trump said in response to questions about whether he planned to fire Price. Trump spoke to reporters Wednesday on the South Lawn ahead of his trip to Indiana to tout his plan to overhaul the tax code.
Private jet trips deemed ‘ethically dubious’ - Politico: “Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took a government-funded private jet in August to get to St. Simons Island, an exclusive Georgia resort where he and his wife own land, a day and a half before he addressed a group of local doctors at a medical conference that he and his wife have long attended. The St. Simons Island trip was one of two taxpayer-funded flights on private jets in which Price traveled to places where he owns property, and paired official visits with meetings... On June 6, HHS chartered a jet to fly Price to Nashville, Tennessee… Price toured a medicine dispensary and spoke to a local health summit organized by a longtime friend. He also had lunch with his son, an HHS official confirmed. … Richard Painter, who served as the top ethics official for President George W. Bush, said Price’s trips may have been legal but were ethically dubious.”
IRS AIDING MUELLER IN RUSSIA INVESTIGATION
Free Beacon: “The Internal Revenue Service has begun to share information on key Trump campaign officials with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The sharing comes after months of stand-off between the two entities, CNN reports. That clash was prompted by concerns about how far-reaching and broad Mueller’s requests to the IRS were. But, one source told CNN, the IRS’s criminal division is now sharing information with Mueller’s investigation. A number of Trump campaign staff have been the focus of the records requests, most notably former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The information shared would include anything tax-related, including real estate and bank records. Normally, a Department of Justice official told CNN, the IRS would need a specific grand jury subpoena to share this kind of information with another agency.”
Spice gets his own representation - Daily Beast: “Sean Spicer has lawyered up. The president’s former press secretary has tapped Chris Mead, a high-powered criminal defense attorney based, to handle issues related to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, The Daily Beast has learned.”
Trump to cap refugee admittance at lowest-ever level of 45,000 - NYT
“... I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron [Paul] and me in these primaries, they weren’t voting for libertarian ideas. They were voting for the craziest son of a b**ch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class.” – Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., talking to the WashEx.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I admire your work at the Half-Time report. You have a faith in the American People and an optimism about the Republic that are truly admirable but I am having a tough time sustaining myself. God bless you for projecting hope in a hard time. Since the murders of South Carolina church goers by a truly evil man, we have been assured that all symbols and memorials of the old Confederate Cause are little better than Nazi relics. … Now that various athletes have decided to express their negative view of the nation by ‘taking the knee’, many others are offended, but they are told in this case that the perceptions of the offenders are all that matter. How can I be told that any positive take on the Confederacy is wrong, but any negative take on sporting demonstrations aimed at the American flag and anthem are also wrong? This sort of ‘depends on who you are’ intellectual dishonesty is depressing. … Southern Pride is a real thing and so is a serious criticism of American faults. Why can’t we have both?” – Bill Rhoades, Tierra Amarilla, N.M.
[Ed. note: Thank you so much, Mr. Rhoades, for your kind words. You can have both, but that’s about as far as your sphere of influence goes. There is much to love and much to commend about the South, and a great deal for its sons and daughters of all backgrounds to be proud about. Though I am a West Virginian and descend from a long line of Union men, I do have relatives who were on the other side of what you might call the War of Northern Aggression, so I know that there is also much to commend the troops who fought for the Confederacy with valor and endurance. But because the C.S.A. was wholly committed to the principle of the enslavement of black human beings, I can find no way to commend that nation. I abhor the late excesses of historical relativism, but we cannot pretend that the people of 1861 did not have more information and a better opportunity to render a moral judgment than the Framers did 75 years before. The fight for the rights of states in a federal system was fatally compromised by the underlying issue over which that struggle was fought. So I can see how people would want to venerate the dead soldiers of that war but reject monuments that honor the cause itself. Communities will have to render their own judgments over which memorials merit continuing in places of honor, historic preservation or destruction, and it’s really none of the rest of the country’s business what they do. (Federalism strikes again!) Respect for the flag, however, is a national issue, but unfortunately the national government can provide no solution. The best patriotic Americans can do is live out the principles upon which the nation is built, hoping to serve as examples for others. No one can be forced to love or respect their homeland, and any effort to do so by any government would only deepen hatreds and resentments. It is imperative for Americans and institutions that believe in this “last best hope of earth” to stand up for it, even in the face of scorn. But all we can do is let our love for our nation be reflected in the way we treat our fellow citizens and hope that the current fever passes more swiftly than the one that plagued the nation 50 years ago.]
“Chris, I’m confused – from your 9/26 Halftime Report [article from The Hill] … If Republicans hold the majority in the House, 26 Dems voted with them versus only 8 Rep NO votes, why did the measure fail? My understanding is that, without any filibuster mechanism in place in the House, it should have been a routine effort. What am I missing?” – Dave Wittnebert, Seneca, S.C.
[Ed. note: Good question, Mr. Wittnebert! You are quite right that normal legislation needs only a simple majority in the House, but in this case Republicans were looking to skip the regular rules and committee process and pass the legislation with a single floor vote. And that requires a two-thirds majority. The GOP will presumably bring the legislation back through the regular procedure and pass it eventually.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COMand please make sure to include your name and hometown.
DENVER GONNA DENVER
KUSA: “An apology note, two $20 bills, and half a joint. It’s what Mandi Shepard says she found in an envelope stuck on her car’s left side mirror as she was driving home. Shepard left work at 5 p.m. on Sunday when she noticed a scratch on her back bumper. There wasn’t a note in sight, so she started to drive home when she noticed her left side mirror unadjusted. That’s where she found an envelope rolled up in a baggie. ‘I was laughing so hard on the way home that somebody took the time to leave me a note and leave me money and half a joint,’ Shepard said. Shepard said she will use the $40 to see if she can buff out the scratch. And the half a joint? ‘I’m not a smoker. I’m a runner,’ she said. ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with it.’”
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.