First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
WASHINGTON — Republican senators last night hit a snag on their tax plan (more on that below), and so the votes will resume at 11:00 am ET with no one knowing what the next steps will be to pass the legislation.
But here’s what we do know — at least so far — about the Senate bill: It breaks four key promises that Republicans have made about their entire tax reform effort.
Claim #1: The tax legislation won’t increase the debt. “I believe tax reform will lead us back to a balanced budget,” House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady said.
The facts: The Joint Committee on Taxation said Thursday that the Senate bill would add $1 trillion to the debt, even after accounting for economic growth, the Washington Post reports. (Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch said the JCT analysis isn’t correct, because Republicans are still writing the bill.)
Claim #2: The tax plan was designed to benefit the middle class. “This is designed to be a middle-class tax cut,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told NPR.
The facts: Under the Senate bill, the corporate tax cuts are permanent, while those for individuals are temporary. So by 2027, even if you exclude the elimination of the individual health-care mandate from the analysis, the Congressional Budget Office says the wealthiest will get a tax cut, while those making less than $75,000 will get a tax increase. (Republicans have said that future Congresses will extend those temporary tax cuts.)
Claim #3: Wealthy people like Trump won’t benefit. “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing -- believe me. Believe me, this is not good for me,” Trump said earlier this week.
The facts: The wealthiest, including Trump, are the biggest beneficiaries under the Senate bill. According to the Tax Policy Center, by 2027, the wealthiest get nearly 62 percent of all benefits under the Senate bill (while two-thirds of middle-class Americans would face a tax increase). What’s more, per NBC’s own analysis, Trump and his family could save more than $1 billion under the House bill.
Claim #4: The tax cuts would significantly grow the economy. “These massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel ... for the American economy,” Trump said this week.
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The facts: The Joint Committee on Taxation said the Senate bill would grow the economy by 0.8 percent more over the next decade. That’s growth, but it’s not rocket fuel.
Senate tax bill hits a snag
NBC’s Frank Thorp reported last night that Senate stopped voting on anything related to the GOP tax bill. What derailed the process?
- The JCT score showed that while they projected the economy to grow slightly as a result of the bill, it would still add $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.
- The Senate Parliamentarian told Republicans that the so-called “trigger” that some senators wanted to kick in to raise revenues if growth was not good enough was not in line with Senate rules, so it needed to be taken out. That lost them the votes of Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
Per Thorp, there’s now a Rubik’s Cube of four Senate Republicans who have concerns that need to be addressed:
Sen. Corker: Worried about deficits – wanted a trigger
Sen. Flake: Worried about deficits – wanted a trigger
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.: Worried about provisions related to deductions for pass-through businesses (he wants them higher) (Johnson's office confirmed to NBC's Garrett Haake on Friday morning that he is now a yes on the bill.)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine: Wants protections for a deduction for state and local taxes. (She also has health care concerns)
Thorp adds: Leadership is trying to figure out a way to move around the money in a way that will lock in at least two of the above Republicans, as they can only lose two votes to pass the bill One or two of these Republicans could be left behind. There is a discussion about whether they could just include an automatic tax increase (likely on the corporate side) to help raise the revenue needed to get Corker and Flake on board. That’s a work in progress.
Trump pressed Senate Republicans to end Russia investigation
“President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides. Mr. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides,” the New York Times reports.
“Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end. ‘It was something along the lines of, “I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,”’ Mr. Burr said. He said he replied to Mr. Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”
Red State:The Kate Steinle case wasn’t as clear-cut as Trump’s rhetoric in 2015-2016 suggested
Last night and this morning, President Trump has criticized the not-guilty verdict in the death of Kate Steinle. “A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration,” Trump tweeted.
But as Red State’s Sarah Rumpf notes, the case wasn’t as clear-cut as Trump’s rhetoric during the 2016 election suggested.
The San Francisco Chronicle: “A jury handed a stunning acquittal on murder and manslaughter charges to a homeless undocumented immigrant whose arrest in the killing of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco Bay pier intensified a national debate over sanctuary laws.”
More: “In returning its verdict Thursday afternoon on the sixth day of deliberations, the Superior Court jury also pronounced Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of assault with a firearm, finding credence in defense attorneys’ argument that the shot that ricocheted off the concrete ground before piercing Steinle’s heart was an accident, with the gun discharging after the defendant stumbled upon it on the waterfront on July 1, 2015.”
“Prosecutors told the jury that Garcia Zarate brought the gun to the pier that day to do harm, aimed it toward Steinle and pulled the trigger... Defense lawyers said the shooting was an accident that happened when Garcia Zarate, who had a history of nonviolent drug crimes, found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt or cloth under his seat on the pier just seconds before it discharged in his hands.”