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TRUMP AGENDA: It’s going to be a busy January

The AP sums up what Congress left on the table after passing the CR last night: “The wrap-up measure allows Republicans controlling Washington to savor their win on this week’s $1.5 trillion tax package — even as they kick a full lineup of leftover work into the new year. Congress will return in January facing enormous challenges on immigration, the federal budget, health care and national security along with legislation to increase the government’s authority to borrow money. Each of those items is sure to test the unity that Republicans are enjoying for the moment.”

Here’s Mitch McConnell to NPR: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants 2018 to be a year of bipartisanship, even if that means moving on from GOP dreams of cutting welfare and fully rolling back the Affordable Care Act. The Kentucky Republican on Thursday broke with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on the approach to paring back spending on programs like Medicaid and food stamps. In an interview with NPR, McConnell said he is "not interested" in using Senate budget rules to allow Republicans to cut entitlements without consultation with Democrats.”

The Senate leader also spoke to the Wall Street Journal: “Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he was unlikely to tackle changes to Social Security or Medicare next year, potentially extinguishing the hopes of House Speaker Paul Ryan to wring savings from the entitlement programs. ‘The only way I would be willing to go to entitlement reform—I assume that’s a euphemism for things like Social Security and Medicare—would be if there were Democratic support,’ Mr. McConnell said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. ‘I’ve not heard of any.’”

In POLITICO: “Speculation about additions to the cast of characters in Season 2 of Trump’s West Wing has ramped up as the administration braces itself for a wave of staff departures expected in the coming weeks, according to a dozen White House aides and outside advisers who have spoken with the president.”

“About 8.8 million people signed up for insurance on the federal health care exchange during Obamacare's latest open enrollment period, a senior health official announced on Thursday,” NBC’s Benjy Sarlin reports. “The number — which topped expectations — was down only modestly from last year's 9.2 million sign-ups despite an enrollment period that was half as long, a 90 percent cut by the Trump administration in advertising for the program, and a tumultuous year in which Congress repeatedly tried to replace the law and the president cut off cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) to insurers.”.

Hispanic Caucus members are not happy with Democratic leaders over DACA, writes the Washington Post. “In a vivid display of growing divisions in the party over how to fight Republicans on immigration policy, members of the Hispanic Caucus — a 31-member group of House and Senate Democrats — walked off the House floor Thursday afternoon and headed across the Capitol to Schumer’s office suite.”

The New York Times notes that the last-minute tax policy is making life very hectic for tax professionals.

Via Leigh Ann Caldwell: “Nearly $600,000 worth of taxpayer-funded settlements have been paid out for workplace misconduct in the Senate over the past 20 years, according to new data released by the Senate Rules Committee Thursday night. But the release lists just one claim for $14,260 for "sex discrimination and reprisal" — failing to include a $220,000 settlement for sexual harassment in 2014 that was recently made public.”

The New York Times: “More than 700 people have left the Environmental Protection Agency since President Trump took office, a wave of departures that puts the administration nearly a quarter of the way toward its goal of shrinking the agency to levels last seen during the Reagan administration.”

“Restaurant workers, a hotel event booker and a watchdog group who say President Donald Trump has business conflicts that violate the Constitution cannot sue him, a New York judge ruled Thursday. U.S. District Judge George Daniels said it was too soon for the lawsuit to be considered by the courts, particularly because Congress had not considered the issue,” the AP notes.

The Washington Post: “The Trump administration is considering measures to halt a surge of Central American families and unaccompanied minors coming across the Mexican border, including a proposal to separate parents from their children, according to officials with knowledge of the plans. These measures, described on the condition of anonymity because they have not been publicly disclosed, would also crack down on migrants living in the United States illegally who send for their children. That aspect of the effort would use data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to target parents for deportation after they attempt to regain custody of their children from government shelters.”

Mike Pence is in Afghanistan.

OFF TO THE RACES: “Tempers flare” in Trump gathering about 2018

“Within hours of celebrating President Trump’s biggest legislative achievement, at the South Portico of the White House on Wednesday, his aides and outside advisers had a spirited, and at times tense, discussion with him about the political outlook ahead of next year’s midterm elections,” writes the Washington Post. “The gathering saw tempers flare as aides vented their frustrations with electoral defeats this year and concerns about the 2018 political map, according to several people with knowledge of the discussion. Complaints about the president’s political operation and the Republican National Committee boiled over, playing out in front of the president as an inner-circle drama.”

And from the New York Times: “The sweeping tax overhaul approved by Congress this week hands Republicans a long-sought achievement they believe will bolster their defenses in next year’s midterm campaign, but party officials concede the measure may only mitigate their losses in what is shaping up to be a punishing election year.”

AL-SEN: “Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced yesterday there weren't enough overseas or provisional ballots to change the outcome of last week's Senate race. Democrat Doug Jones led Moore by just more than 20,000 votes before the overseas and provisional ballots were counted; Merrill said there were a total of 366 overseas ballots and 4,967 provisional ballots submitted… It's unclear if Alabama law permits Moore to request a recount if the margin is greater than 0.5 percent, something Merrill said his office would only determine after the votes are certified. Moore would have to pay for that recount and the tab could top $1 million.”

CA: “Californians could see two Democrat-on-Democrat contests in the state’s premier races in 2018, according to a new poll released Thursday.”