Big House victory for GOP tax plan, but Senate fate unclear
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans rammed a $1.5 trillion overhaul of business and personal income taxes through the House Thursday, edging toward the code’s biggest rewrite in three decades and the first major legislative triumph for President Donald Trump and the GOP after 10 bumpy months of controlling government.
The mostly party-line 227-205 vote masked more ominous problems in the Senate. There, a similar package received a politically awkward verdict from nonpartisan congressional analysts showing it would eventually produce higher taxes for low- and middle-income earners but deliver deep reductions for those better off.
The Senate bill was approved late Thursday by the Finance Committee and sent to the full Senate on a party-line 14-12 vote. Like the House measure, it would slash the corporate tax rate and reduce personal income tax rates for many.
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But it adds a key feature not in the House version: repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that everyone in the U.S. have health insurance. Elimination of the so-called individual mandate would add an estimated $338 billion in revenue over 10 years that the Senate tax-writers used for other tax cuts.
The Senate panel’s vote came at the end of four days of often fierce partisan debate. It turned angrily personal for Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as he railed against Democrats’ accusations that the legislation was crafted to favor big corporations and the wealthy.
Franken faces ethics probe after woman says he groped her
WASHINGTON (AP) — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken faces a storm of criticism and a likely ethics investigation after a Los Angeles radio anchor accused him Thursday of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour. He is the first member of Congress caught up in the recent wave of allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior.
Franken apologized, but the criticism only grew through the day. Fellow Democrats swiftly condemned his actions, mindful of the current climate as well as the prospect of political blowback.
Republicans, still forced to answer for the multiple allegations facing Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, joined in pressing for an investigation. Franken said he would welcome it.
Leeann Tweeden posted her allegations, including a photo of Franken and her, on the website of KABC, where she works as a news anchor for a morning radio show. The photo shows Franken posing in a joking manner, smiling at the camera with his hands on her chest as she naps wearing a flak vest aboard a military plane. Both had been performing for military personnel in Afghanistan two years before the one-time “Saturday Night Live” comedian was elected to the Senate.
Tweeden said Thursday that before an earlier show Franken had persisted in rehearsing a kiss and “aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.” Now, she said, “every time I hear his voice or see his face, I am angry.” She’s angry with herself, too, she said, for not speaking out at the time “but I didn’t want to rock the boat.”
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. GOP TAX OVERHAUL MAKES HEADWAY
Republicans ram a $1.5 trillion overhaul of Americans’ business and personal income taxes through the House, edging the nation toward its biggest tax rewrite in three decades,
2. WHO’S LATEST NAME ENSNARED IN HARASSMENT SCANDAL
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken apologizes and faces a likely Senate ethics investigation after a Los Angeles radio anchor accuses him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour.
Moore targets female accusers as critics decry intimidation
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Ever defiant, Republican Roy Moore’s campaign on Thursday lashed out at the women accusing him of sexual misconduct, declaring “let the battle begin.” Women’s advocates decried the talk as worn intimidation tactics in a desperate attempt to keep his imperiled Senate bid alive.
Moore ignored mounting calls from Washington Republicans concerned that Moore may not only lose a seat they were sure to win but also may do significant damage to the party’s brand among women nationwide as they prepared for a difficult midterm election season.
Moore’s team showed no such concerns.
“You ask me if I believe the girls. No, I don’t believe the girls. I believe Judge Moore,” Moore strategist Dean Young said. “Let the battle begin. … Get ready to fight Mitch McConnell. We’re going to fight you to the death on this.”
President Donald Trump, through a spokeswoman, called the allegations of sexual misconduct against the former judge “very troubling.” The Republican president stopped short of calling on Moore to quit the race, however, breaking with most Republican leaders in Washington, including McConnell, the Senate majority leader.
Congress debates oil drilling in largest US wildlife refuge
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Sometime next April, pregnant cows in the Porcupine Caribou Herd in Canada will take the lead in an annual migration of nearly 200,000 animals north to Alaska.
From winter grounds in Canada’s Yukon Territory, the caribou traveling in small and large groups will cross rivers and gaps in the mighty Brooks Range on the 400-mile (643-kilometer) journey. Their destination is the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a strip of flat tundra between the mountains and Arctic Ocean.
The plain provides food and a vantage point from which caribou can spot predators from far away. But beneath the lichens and cotton grass, there’s a hidden resource: crude oil.
Opening the coastal plain to petroleum drilling, with the hope for jobs and new oil for the trans-Alaska pipeline, has stood as a goal of every Alaska governor and the state’s members of Congress for three decades. And the opportunity is rising again in federal budget discussions.
Congressional Republicans are pushing for refuge drilling with a projected $1 billion from lease sales to help pay for President Donald Trump’s proposed tax cut. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday advanced the drilling measure. Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, a Republican U.S. senator, says oil production later would bring in much more revenue.
Rival US and Russian resolutions defeated on Syria weapons
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Rival U.S. and Russian resolutions to extend the mandate of experts trying to determine who was responsible for chemical attacks in Syria were defeated Thursday at a heated Security Council meeting that reflected the deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow.
The result of the two votes means that the expert body — the Joint Investigative Mechanism known as the JIM — will cease operations when its current mandate expires at midnight Thursday.
The U.S., its allies and human rights groups called it a serious blow to efforts to hold accountable those responsible for carrying out chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
During a three-hour drama, Russia first vetoed the U.S. draft resolution which was supported by 11 of the 15 Security Council members. Bolivia joined Russia in voting “no” and China and Egypt abstained.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia withdrew the Russian resolution over Moscow’s insistence that it be voted on second not first as required under council rules. But using another council rule, Bolivia then resubmitted and called for a vote on that resolution.
Killer Charles Manson alive as reports swirl of ill health
LOS ANGELES (AP) — For nearly 50 years Charles Manson has been the living personification of evil, a demonic presence captured in scores of photos, each of them marked by his piercing dark eyes and the crude Nazi swastika he carved into his forehead.
That personification returned to the public consciousness again this week, complete with a prison mug shot of a now-elderly but still evil-looking Manson, after a report by TMZ.com that the killer of glamorous actress Sharon Tate and six others is seriously ill and hospitalized in Bakersfield, California.
The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation declined to confirm that Thursday, saying only that Manson, who turned 83 on Sunday, is still alive. To reveal more, spokeswoman Vicky Waters told The Associated Press, would violate federal and state privacy laws.
Serial murderers before and after have killed far more than Manson. Fifty-one years ago a former Marine named Charles Whitman climbed to the observation deck of a tower at the University of Texas and opened fire on dozens of people, killing 11, after killing five before reaching the deck. Just last month, Stephen Paddock fired down from a hotel window on a Las Vegas concert, killing 58.
But like Whitman’s, Paddock’s name if not his deed seems destined to be largely forgotten. Not so with Manson.
Menendez avoids ‘political grave,’ but cloud still looms
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez exited his federal bribery trial after a mistrial Thursday with an eye on a 2018 re-election effort, but with him neither acquitted nor convicted, the cloud from the investigation remains.
The mistrial gave Democrats hoping to hold onto the seat in next year’s midterm elections cause for some optimism, but spurred Republicans to keep the pressure up ahead of a campaign season that could feature plenty of attack ads against Menendez based on the allegations that he helped a wealthy friend in exchange for luxury trips and campaign donations.
Menendez, himself, was buoyed by the decision.
“To those who were digging my political grave so they could jump into my seat, I know who you are and I won’t forget you,” Menendez said.
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers on the Senate’s Ethics Committee said Thursday it would resume an inquiry into Menendez that started in 2012 and was deferred a year later because of the criminal investigation.
Meryl Streep says violent experiences changed her profoundly
NEW YORK (AP) — Meryl Streep says the two times in her life she dealt with violence were so profound it changed her “on a cellular level.”
Streep made the remarks Wednesday at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 27th annual International Press Freedom Awards in New York. The Oscar-winner told the audience she did “know something about real terror.”
She recounted two incidents, one in which she said she was attacked and “played dead and waited until the blows stopped.”
Streep then described another incident when someone else was being abused.
She said in that case, she “went completely nuts” and chased the man off. It was after telling the stories that Streep said the experiences changed her permanently.
Lin-Manuel Miranda accepts special prize at Latin Grammys
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Lin-Manuel Miranda received the President’s Merit Award at the Latin Grammys Thursday, and he dedicated it again and again to Puerto Rico.
Miranda gave his acceptance speech in both Spanish and English, describing himself as “the weird theater kid here (with the half-gringo accent).”
He thanked his wife, parents and many collaborators, and paid homage to his Puerto Rican roots. Miranda said he intended to remind the U.S. government that the residents of its island territory “are human beings, too.”
Miranda wasn’t the first winner of the night to dedicate an award to Puerto Rico. The island devastated by Hurricane Maria in September was a theme throughout the night.
The ceremony, broadcast live on Univision from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, opened with a moment of silence for Puerto Rico, followed by a performance by one of its native sons.