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Corker Kickback.

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Two weeks ago, Senator Bob Corker was the only Republican Senator to vote against the GOP’s sweeping tax legislation, which would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit and rip healthcare from 13 million people. After the bill went to a Conference Committee to reconcile its differences with that of House, the new bill did nothing to alleviate Corker’s expressed concerns over the ballooning deficit. But last Friday, the Senator announced that he will be supporting the new tax bill, all but ensuring its passage.

Why the sudden change? His statement of support did not mention any changes to the bill that lessened the impact on the deficit. Many are positing that Corker’s decision has something to do with a small added provision now being dubbed the “Corker Kickback.” This provision, hidden deep within the 503-page bill, provides a tax break for “pass-through” corporations (corporations where the income is passed to the owners who pay personal income taxes on the money), such as those operated by Donald Trump. But Trump isn’t the only one who will benefit from this tax break. Bob Corker, who “has millions of dollars of ownership stakes in real-estate related LLCs,” could also benefit from the provision.

Now, Corker is feeling the heat from his constituents and the rest of the country. He claims he hasn’t read the bill yet and is now demanding an explanation as to how the provision ended up in the final bill, a decision he claims to have had no part in. Regardless of how it got in there, it most certainly originated from the Republican side of the aisle, as the bill was crafted in a partisan manner behind closed doors. This provision, while disturbing, is in line with all of the other major legislative attempts of this Congress to give tax breaks to the wealthy and disadvantage the rest of the country.

ACTION OF THE DAY

#GOPTaxScam. It’s crunch time again, folks. In the next couple of days, the House and Senate will vote on the current version of the GOP tax bill. A quick recap on what this bill will do:

  • Increase the deficit by over $1.4 trillion. Republicans like Paul Ryan are already planning to slash Medicare and Medicaid to pay for this deficit explosion.

Call your members of Congress today at 202-224-3121, then go to TrumpTaxToolkit.org and demand key leaders vote against this greedy, detestable bill.

WHAT’S TRENDING

Trump Muelling His Options. Recent criticism of Special Council Robert Mueller’s investigation from the president’s allies has stoked fears that President Trump may fire the man investigating him over the holiday break. This weekend, one of Trump’s lawyers claimed that Mueller obtained thousands of emails “illegally” by disregarding the president’s executive privilege (which does not apply in this scenario, since the emails obtained were from the transition period before Trump was president). Reps. Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis of Florida joined Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Fox News host Jeanine Pirro in lambasting the investigation as “partisan.” Keep in mind that Robert Mueller was confirmed by a vote of 98-0 to become the FBI Director under the George W. Bush administration, and several GOP lawmakers have previously defended his integrity. It doesn’t get more bipartisan than that. Though Trump recently said that he has no plans to fire Mueller, the smear campaign continues. Prepare for the worst by locating your nearest event and fighting back if Mueller is fired.

Like a Dystopic Novel. Last Friday, news broke that policy analysts at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) received a list of “banned words” which they are no longer permitted to use in budget-related documents. The list includes the words “diversity,” “fetus,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “science-based,” and “evidence-based.” In some instances, analysts were given alternative words or phrases to use. Though Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the CDC director appointed by former embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, said that the list of banned words does not exist, a CDC analyst present at the meeting about the banned words has claimed that it does. This is not the first time the Department of Health and Human Services has scrubbed information about issues that the administration does not like. In March, the department deleted questions that identified LGBTQ people from two surveys, reinstating only one of them after a major public response. It’s clear that the current administration is engaging in a large-scale effort to expunge all public information that does not fit their narrative.

Puerto Rico Death Recount. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico almost three months ago. In the aftermath of the disaster, many have repeatedly questioned the official death toll of 64, especially in light of the U.S. government’s slow and shamefully inadequate response to the storm. Multiple sources, including The New York Times and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, found that upwards of 1,000 more people than usual died during the months of September and October. Today, Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló ordered a review of all storm-related deaths, even after his government “spent months stubbornly defending its counting method, even as it became obvious that it did not reflect the unusually high death rate in Puerto Rico after the storm.” It seems as though the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria wasn’t as “incredible” as President Trump said it was.

OFF-KILTER

#BlackVotesMatter. When Senator-elect Doug Jones addressed his supporters Tuesday night in Alabama, one of his first shout-outs went to his African-American supporters. As well it should have been — with exit polls showing that 30% of the voters in Tuesday’s special election were black, even beating the record-high black turnout in the 2012 presidential election. To unpack what was behind the wave of black turnout despite widespread voter suppression — and what Democrats can learn from it—Rebecca talks with Michele Jawando of the Center for American Progress and host of Thinking CAP, Off-Kilter’s sister podcast, in this week’s episode.

CUTTING REGULATIONS

Cutting Regulations. Last Thursday, President Trump literally cut through red tape (it was more like a red ribbon) to announce his massive plan to trim federal regulations. While the gimmick might be seen as entertaining, the effort behind it is anything but. Beside the president was a stack of papers labelled “1960” and another labelled “TODAY.” He expressed his desire to return to pre-1960 level regulations, which is why he is cutting 22 regulations for every new one implemented. What are some of the regulations that have been implemented since 1960? The Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and Safe Drinking Water Act are just a few. Others include regulations that prevent school discrimination based on race, sex, or ability. So if you care about public health and safety and educational equality, this is extremely frightening news.