Congress

Kustoff invited to White House Hanukkah Party; Cohen (and other Jewish Democrats) snubbed

President Donald Trump invited the two Republicans members of Congress who are Jewish – Tennessee’s Rep.  David Kustoff and New York Rep. Lee Zeldin – to the White House Hanukkah Party but excluded Jewish Democrats including Tennessee’s Rep. Steve Cohen, reports the New York Times. That was break with tradition, which under past presidents has made the gathering non-partisan.

Continue reading

Haslam: GOP tax bill will bring more immigration to TN from other states

Gov. Bill Haslam says more people from states such as New York,  New Jersey and California are likely to move to Tennessee with enactment of a Republican federal tax package that eliminates current deductions for payment of state and local taxes, reports the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal.

As Haslam explains it, those living in states with higher tax rates currently see a greater federal tax deduction. Residents in Tennessee, a low-tax state, don’t benefit as much from the state and local tax deduction.

“That changes now,” Haslam said, speaking Monday at Nissan’s Smyrna plant. “A lot of people who live in states with income tax of 10 or 12 percent start going, ‘Huh, well, only having to pay half is not such a bad deal, but if I’m having to pay all of it, maybe I’d be better off in Tennessee.’ We think it actually will encourage both investment growth and population growth in Tennessee.”

William Fox, an economist at University of Tennessee Knoxville, said research shows  tax rates can affect where people leave, but the impact is small. And there are several caveats to keep in mind with that calculation. Taxes pay for services, so when changing residences, an individual may also be giving up tax-funded services they enjoy.

“There is a small impact of taxes on where people live,” Fox said. “With the elimination of the deductibility, you make it more expensive to live in high-tax states.”

Another point to keep in mind, Fox said, is that the elimination of state and local tax deductions only affects those who itemize tax returns. Thirty percent of taxpayers itemized deductions in 2014, according to the Tax Policy Center. For those individuals, ending the state and local tax deduction would make Tennessee more attractive, he said.

Black appointed to House-Senate conference committee on tax legislation

Press release from U.S. House Budget Committee

Washington, D.C. – House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a motion to go to conference with the Senate in order to deliver tax reform for the first time in more than three decades. Chairman Black has been appointed by Speaker Paul Ryan to serve on the conference committee.

Continue reading

Corker casts sole GOP no vote on Senate tax bill

Tennessee’s Sen. Bob Corker cast the only Republican no vote on federal tax overhaul legislation that passed the U.S. 51-49 early Saturday. The next step is for House and Senate Republicans to iron out their differences over the bill.

Insofar as Corker, goes, here is an excerpt from a CNN story:

Corker had made his support contingent on leaders including a trigger in the bill that would generate automatic tax cuts in the event the tax bill didn’t get the anticipated growth. But after reworking the proposal several times, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the trigger wouldn’t pass Senate rules that allowed Republicans to pass their tax bill along a party-line vote. Corker then demanded $350 billion in additional cuts his colleagues weren’t ready to give him.

But even Corker, who had left aides and colleagues fuming Thursday night with a dramatic showing on the Senate floor that included him huddled around the Senate’s parliamentarian and GOP leaders for more than hour, offered conciliatory remarks Friday morning at a closed-door GOP conference meeting.

According to two GOP sources, Corker moved to de-escalate the situation that angered his colleagues Thursday night, saying he was happy the party was on the precipice of passing their tax bill even if he wasn’t going to be with them. Republican leaders as of Friday morning were still trying to win his support, but sources acknowledged the reality: the decision had been made to cut him loose. They had the votes without him.

Press release from Sen. Bob Corker (issued prior to the vote):

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today (Friday) released the following statement.

“My concern about the impact a rapidly growing $20 trillion national debt will have on our children and grandchildren has been a guiding principle throughout my time in public service. And during my 10 years and 11 months in the Senate, I have consistently fought for fiscal discipline in Washington.

“I have authored comprehensive legislation to address America’s debt crisis, including the Commitment to American Prosperity (CAP) Act and the Fiscal Sustainability Act. I also have taken some really tough votes against very popular policies, including appropriations bills, budget resolutions, defense authorizations, disaster funding, and even a veterans’ bill. 

“But at the same time, I have consistently advocated for pro-growth tax reform. And in my view, these are not mutually exclusive priorities.

“From the beginning of this debate, I have been a cheerleader for legislation that – while allowing for current policy assumptions and reasonable dynamic scoring – would not add to the deficit and set rates that are permanent in nature.

“I worked closely with Senator Toomey to negotiate the budget agreement that paved the way for this legislation. And I have worked diligently over the past few weeks with Senate leadership and the White House to make improvements.

“While I support a number of the provisions included in this legislation and continue to believe it would have been fairly easy to alter the bill in a way that would have been more fiscally sound without harming the pro-growth policies, unfortunately, it is clear that the caucus is in a different place.

“This is yet another tough vote. I am disappointed. I wanted to get to yes. But at the end of the day, I am not able to cast aside my fiscal concerns and vote for legislation that I believe, based on the information I currently have, could deepen the debt burden on future generations.

“I thank the administration, Senate leadership, and members of the tax-writing committee for working with me in good faith, and as I shared with President Trump when I called him a short time ago, I will take a close look at the product developed in conference before making a decision on the final legislation.”

U.S. Senate panel hears from Trump nominees to TVA board

A U.S. Senate subcommittee heard testimony Tuesday from President Trump’s four nominees to the TVA Board of Directors. Jeffrey Smith, deputy director of operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the only Tennessean among the four, emphasized the need for clean energy in recruiting new business investment within the region, reports WPLN.  No vote was taken.

Continue reading

NAACP affiliate opposes Norris confirmation as federal judge

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) announced its opposition to the confirmation of state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) as a federal judge, reports Nashville Post. At least two other ‘progressive groups’ are opposing confirmation.

Norris, an attorney with Adams and Reese, was nominated to serve as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee by President Donald Trump earlier this year. He was questione by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in October, but it has not yet voted on his nomination. If the committee votes in favor of his appointment, the vote would move to the full Senate.

In a letter to the Judiciary Committee, Sherrilyn A. Ifill, the president of the LDF (a separate institution from the NCAAP itself) cites concerns with Norris’s record as a legislator.

“Norris has developed an appalling record opposing equal rights that stands out even among President Trump’s long line of anti-civil rights nominees,” Ifill writes. “Norris’s record of hostility toward vulnerable and marginalized communities in Tennessee – that is, the very people who depend most on the courts to protect their rights – shows that he cannot fairly and impartially provide equal justice under the law.”

 

Corker gets requested revision and votes for Senate GOP tax bill; Alexander involved with Obamacare deal

The Senate Budget Committee voted to advance the GOP tax reform bill on Tuesday on a party-line vote, with both Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) backing the measure a day after threatening to withhold their support, reports Politico.  That critical vote came after President Donald Trump came to Capitol Hill to rally the troops in the tax battle.

Johnson voted for the tax bill after a back-and-forth with Trump during the lunch, according to multiple sources, over the Wisconsin Republican’s main concern: that the proposal currently gives more benefits to corporations than to businesses that pay taxes through the individual system.

… Corker, one of the fiscal hawks concerned about the deficit impact of tax cuts, said he was satisfied with details for a “trigger” to reverse tax cuts if economic growth fell short of projections in years to come. He expects details to be released Thursday.

Continue reading

Corker seeks inclusion of ‘backstop’ in Senate tax overhaul; otherwise ‘very possible’ he’ll vote no

U.S. Senate Republican leaders are considering last-minute changes in federal tax overhaul legislation, including a provision pushed by Tennessee’s Bob Corker that could eliminate some tax cuts if the new law winds up adding more to the federal deficit than projected, reports Politico.

Two critical Republican swing votes, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Bob Corker of Tennessee, on Monday left open the possibility that they could vote against the tax plan in a key committee vote scheduled for Tuesday if changes weren’t made to their liking. That would tank the bill before it could reach the floor, putting more pressure on leadership to quickly make revisions.

…A handful of deficit hawks — including Corker and Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and James Lankford of Oklahoma — are discussing a trigger mechanism that would kick in and potentially change tax rates if the economic growth needed to defray the cost of the tax overhaul doesn’t materialize.

Continue reading

Poll finds Tennesseans skeptical of Senate Republican tax plan

Excerpt from a Hart Research Associates polling memo on a Nov. 17-9, 2017 survey of 400 registered voters in Tennessee, with a margin of error of ±five percentage points, asking their sentiments on the tax plan now pending in the U.S. Senate.  It was apparently commissioned by Americans for Fair Taxation, a non-profit organization of multiple groups – including labor unions and others generally oriented toward Democrats.

-Just 30% of Tennessee voters currently approve of the Republican tax plan, while nearly half (47%) disapprove. Significantly, strong sentiment on the issue is even more lopsided, with more than twice as many voters strongly disapproving (28%) as strongly approving (13%).

Continue reading

Cohen gets support from five fellow Democrats for Trump impeachment effort

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) says that five other Democrats have signed on to his resolution to introduce five articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, reports Politico.

The Democrats charge that Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey; that he has violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause by continuing to frequent and profit from his businesses; and that he has undermined the federal judiciary and freedom of the press.

“We’re calling upon the House to begin impeachment hearings,” Cohen said. “It’s not a call for a vote. It’s a call for hearings.”

Continue reading