Top Senate Republican blasts House impeachment effort against Trump

By David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday signaled opposition to a Democratic request to call new witnesses in a Senate trial expected next month on whether to remove President Donald Trump from office, saying he would not allow a “fishing expedition” after a “slapdash” House impeachment process.

Lawmakers from both parties were set to grapple on Tuesday over the rules of engagement for a historic vote set for Wednesday in the Democratic-led House of Representatives, where Trump is likely to become the third U.S. president to be impeached.

If the House approves articles of impeachment – formal charges – as expected, it would set the stage for a trial in the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans – on whether to convict him and remove him from office. No president has ever been removed from office via the impeachment process set out in the U.S. Constitution.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has said he wants the trial to consider documents and hear testimony from four witnesses, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, saying testimony could sway Republicans in favor of impeachment.

Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell took aim at Schumer and Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that spearheaded the impeachment inquiry launched in September.

“So now, the Senate Democratic leader would apparently like our chamber to do House Democrats’ homework for them. And he wants to volunteer the Senate’s time and energy on a fishing expedition to see whether his own ideas could make Chairman Schiff’s sloppy work more persuasive than Chairman Schiff himself bothered to make it,” McConnell said.

“From everything we can tell, House Democrats’ slapdash impeachment inquiry has failed to come anywhere near – anywhere near – the bar for impeaching a duly elected president, let alone removing him for the first time in American history,” McConnell added.

McConnell said he also hoped to meet with Schumer very soon to discuss how to proceed.

Trump remained in attack mode a day before his expected impeachment in the Democratic-led House, referring to the process in a Twitter post as “this whole Democrat Scam” and calling himself “your all time favorite President.”

“Don’t worry, I have done nothing wrong. Actually, they have!” Trump wrote.

In what is expected to be a marathon meeting, the House Rules Committee will decide how much time to set aside for debate on Wednesday before lawmakers vote on two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings with Ukraine.

Representative Jerry Nadler – the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which approved the articles of impeachment last week – will miss the Rules Committee meeting because of a family emergency, and Representative Jamie Raskin will represent the Democrats in his place, a congressional aide said. Nadler is expected to be back at the Capitol on Wednesday.

The panel’s top Republican, Representative Doug Collins, also will testify before the Rules Committee.

The looming vote promises to bring a raucous, partisan conclusion to a months-long impeachment inquiry against Trump that has bitterly divided the American public as voters prepare for next year’s presidential and congressional elections.

The House is expected to approve the impeachment articles largely along partisan lines. The action then moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where the effort to remove Trump from office faces long odds.

House Democrats accuse Trump of abusing his power by asking Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender to oppose him in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. He is also accused of obstructing Congress’ investigation into the matter.

Trump has denied wrongdoing.

Lawmakers are expected to offer amendments at the Rules Committee meeting, which could run for 12 hours or more depending on how many of the House’s 431 sitting legislators decide to show up and speak.

In the end, the committee will set the rules for the floor debate that will precede the impeachment vote.

The White House, which has not cooperated in the impeachment inquiry in the House, also signaled opposition to Schumer’s requests for the Senate trial.

“Why in the world should we be asked to fill in the blanks that the Democrats created? They created these huge holes and canyons in the presentation of their case. It’s not up to us to help them fill in the blanks and make their case,” presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters.

The final House vote is expected to fall largely along party lines. Several Democrats from districts that backed Trump in 2016 said on Monday they would vote to impeach him.

Trump will be on friendlier terrain in the Senate, which is expected to consider the charges in January.

Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, and at least 20 of them would have to vote to convict Trump in order to clear the two-thirds majority required to remove Trump from office. None have indicated they may do so.

McConnell has suggested the chamber could move quickly to a vote without hearing from witnesses, after House Democrats and the White House make their presentations.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Patricia Zengerle and Makini Brice; editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump impeachment effort passes first test in split U.S. Congress

Trump impeachment effort passes first test in split U.S. Congress
By Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A deeply divided U.S. House of Representatives took a major step in the effort to impeach President Donald Trump on Thursday when lawmakers approved rules for the next stage, including public hearings, in the Democratic-led inquiry into Trump’s attempt to have Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival.

In the first formal test of support for the impeachment investigation, the Democratic-controlled House voted almost entirely along party lines – 232 to 196 – to move the probe forward in Congress.

The vote demonstrated unity among Democrats who accuse Trump of abusing his office and jeopardizing national security for personal political gain. But they did not pick up a single Republican vote.

“It’s a sad day. No one comes to Congress to impeach a president,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote.

Televised public hearings featuring U.S. officials testifying in Congress about alleged wrongdoing by Trump could crowd out other issues like the economy and immigration as voters turn their minds to the November 2020 presidential election.

That might damage Trump but some of his supporters say the impeachment drive could actually boost his re-election chances by showing him at loggerheads with Washington-based political foes.

Republicans accused Democrats of using impeachment to overturn the results of his 2016 victory.

“The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!” Trump wrote on Twitter after the vote.

The probe focuses on a July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymr Zelenskiy, to investigate Trump’s Democratic political rival Joe Biden, a former U.S. vice president, and his son Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Biden is a leading candidate in the Democratic presidential nomination race to face Trump in the November 2020 election. He and his son have denied any wrongdoing.

Trump has also denied wrongdoing. Republicans have largely stuck by him, blasting the effort as a partisan exercise that has given them little input.

REPUBLICAN PUSHBACK

“The country next year will be deciding who our president is going to be. It should not be Nancy Pelosi and a small group of people that she selects that get to determine who is going to be our president,” said Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican.

Just two Democrats – Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey – voted against the measure. Both represent districts where Trump won in the 2016 election. Other Democrats from Trump-leaning districts, such as Jared Golden of Maine, voted yes.

If the House eventually votes to impeach Trump, that would set up a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. Trump would not be removed from office unless votes to convict him by a two-thirds margin, something that looks unlikely as congressional Republicans have been reluctant to move against the president.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler declined say when public hearings would start but they are expected to begin in the next few weeks.

The U.S. Constitution gives the House broad authority to set ground rules for an impeachment inquiry and Democrats say they are following House rules on investigations. They have promised to hold public hearings on the case against Trump.

Lawmakers leading the inquiry heard closed-door testimony from Tim Morrison, the top Russia specialist on Trump’s National Security Council. Morrison resigned from his position on Wednesday, a senior administration official said.

Members of the three committees conducting the investigation expect Morrison to fill in more of the details about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Morrison listened in on the July 25 phone call and said the call “could have been better,” according to acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor.

Committee members have asked a far more prominent player, former national security adviser John Bolton, to appear next week. Others have testified that Bolton was alarmed by a White House effort to pressure Zelenskiy. Bolton’s lawyer has said he was not willing to testify unless a subpoena is issued.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Daphne Psaledakis; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Alistair Bell)

Trump drops census citizenship question, vows to get data from government

U.S. President Donald Trump stands with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General Bill Barr to announce his administration's effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Jeff Mason and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump retreated on Thursday from adding a contentious question on citizenship to the 2020 census, but insisted he was not giving up his fight to count how many non-citizens are in the country and ordered government agencies to mine their databases.

Trump’s plan to add the question to the census hit a roadblock two weeks ago when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against his administration, which had said new data on citizenship would help to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority rights.

The court ruled, in considering the litigation by challengers, that the rationale was “contrived.” Critics of the effort said asking about citizenship in the census would discriminate against racial minorities and was aimed at giving Republicans an unfair advantage in elections by lowering the number of responses from people in areas more likely to vote Democratic.

Trump, a Republican, and his supporters say it makes sense to know how many non-citizens are living in the country.

“We will utilize these vast federal databases to gain a full, complete and accurate count of the non-citizen population, including databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. We have great knowledge in many of our agencies,” Trump said in remarks in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday. “We will leave no stone unturned,” he said.

Trump said he was not reversing course.

“We are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population,” he said.

But there could be more legal challenges ahead for the administration because the U.S. Constitution states that every person living in the country should be counted to determine state-by-state representation in Congress and that is done every 10 years in the Census, not by other means.

“We will vigorously challenge any attempt to leverage census data for unconstitutional redistricting methods,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, a law and policy institute at the NYU School of Law.

Waldman said his group would also challenge “any administration move to violate the clear and strong rules protecting the privacy of everyone’s responses, including the rules barring the use of personal census data to conduct law or immigration enforcement activities.”

IMMIGRATION POLICIES

Trump, who has made hard-line policies on immigration a feature of his presidency and his campaign for re-election in 2020, said he was ordering every government agency to provide the Department of Commerce with all requested records regarding the number of citizens and non-citizens. The U.S. Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department.

“That information will be useful for countless purposes, as the president explained in his remarks today,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

Barr cited a legal dispute on whether illegal immigrants can be included for determining apportionment of congressional districts. “Depending on the resolution of that dispute, this data may possibly prove relevant. We will be studying the issue.”

The approach announced by Trump on Thursday was similar to the one proposed by a Census Bureau official to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, according to a memorandum made public by congressional Democrats in 2018. It said the costs of adding a citizenship question to the Census would be high, but using existing administrative records would not.

Opponents called Thursday’s decision a defeat for the administration, but promised they would look closely to determine the legality of Trump’s new plan to compile and use citizenship data outside of the census.

Rights groups in citizenship-question lawsuits in federal courts in New York and Maryland have no plans to abandon the litigation, Sarah Brannon of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, and John Yang, president of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said on a conference call with reporters.

They also see potential for future litigation over the Trump administration’s collection of data, as well as how those data are used in state redistricting.

“We will sue as necessary,” Brannon said.

The Census is also used to distribute some $800 billion in federal services, including public schools, Medicaid benefits, law enforcement and highway repairs.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Shepardson; additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Doina Chiacu, Makini Brice and Eric Beech in Washington and Andrew Chung and Lauren LaCapra in New York; Writing by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Grant McCool and Leslie Adler)

Trump threatens ‘very long’ U.S. government shutdown

A pedestrian walk past the U.S. Capitol ahead of a possible partial government shut down in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday threatened a “very long” government shutdown just hours ahead of a midnight deadline, calling on the Senate to pass spending legislation that includes his $5 billion demand for border wall funding and seeking to shift blame for a holiday showdown to Democrats.

The Republican-led Senate had already approved funds for the government through Feb. 8 without money for the wall. But Trump pushed Republican allies in the House of Representatives on Thursday to use the short-term funding bill as leverage to force through the border wall money despite Democratic objections.

In a series of ten early-morning tweets on Friday, the president urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up the amended bill from the House. Trump, who last week said he would be “proud” to preside over a shutdown, sought to blame Senate Democrats, whose support is needed to reach the 60 votes needed for passage.

Republicans currently have a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.

“If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Senator Mitch McConnell should fight for the Wall and Border Security as hard as he fought for anything,” he tweeted. “He will need Democrat votes, but as shown in the House, good things happen.”

Three-quarters of government programs are fully funded through next Sept. 30, including those in the Defense Department, Labor Department and Health and Human Services.

But funding for other agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and Agriculture Department, is set to expire at midnight on Friday. A shutdown would leave a number of federal workers without a paycheck at Christmas.

If the House measure is put to a vote in the Senate, Democrats have pledged to prevent it from getting the votes it needs for passage.

“The bill that’s on the floor of the House, everyone knows it will not pass the Senate,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters late Thursday.

It was not yet clear what would happen in that case. The partial government shutdown could begin, or lawmakers could work to find a solution that Trump finds acceptable.

Trump also called on McConnell to use the so-called “nuclear option” to force a Senate vote on legislation with just a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes currently needed.

The nuclear option would allow the chamber to approve legislation with a simple majority in an extreme break from Senate tradition that McConnell has so far resisted.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders on Friday said Trump would stay in Washington rather than go to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holidays as planned, but said she hoped the Senate would not vote down the bill.

“We hope they’ll step up,” she told reporters at the White House.

Trump’s border wall was a key campaign promise in the 2016 election, when he said it would be paid for by Mexico, and sees it as a winning issue for his 2020 re-election campaign.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Ginger Gibson and Susan Heavey; Editing by Kieran Murray, Sam Holmes and Jeffrey Benkoe)

After fight that split U.S., Kavanaugh wins place on Supreme Court

Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by Chief Justice John Roberts as Kavanaugh's wife Ashley holds the family bible and his daughters Liza and Margaret look on in a handout photo provided by the U.S. Supreme Court taken at the Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States/Handout via Reuters

By Richard Cowan, Amanda Becker and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate on Saturday confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, dismissing anger over accusations of sexual misconduct against him and delivering a major victory to President Donald Trump who has now locked in a conservative majority on the court.

By a vote of 50-48, the deeply-divided Senate gave the lifetime job to Kavanaugh, 53, after weeks of fierce debate over sexual violence, alcohol abuse and his angry response to the allegations that convulsed the nation just weeks before congressional elections on Nov. 6.

Kavanaugh will help take the highest U.S. court to the right, perhaps for many years, and his confirmation is a bitter blow to Democrats already chafing at Republican control of the White House and both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

Conservatives will now have a 5-4 majority in any future legal battles on contentious issues such as abortion rights, immigration, transgender rights, industry regulation, and presidential powers.

Adding to a dramatic day on Capitol Hill, women protesters in the Senate gallery shouted “Shame on you!” and briefly interrupted the vote.

Another group of protesters stormed toward the doors of the nearby Supreme Court building with raised fists. Police stood guard at the doors.

Kavanaugh was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts shortly after the vote.

Kavanaugh’s nomination blew up into a personal and political drama when university professor Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexually assaulting her in the upstairs bedroom of a home in a wealthy suburb of Washington in 1982.

Two other women accused him in the media of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.

Kavanaugh fought back against the accusations, denying them in angry and tearful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that was viewed live on television by around 20 million people.

Trump, who called Kavanaugh to congratulate him on Saturday, said he was “100 percent” certain that Ford named the wrong person in accusing the judge.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One while flying to a campaign rally in Kansas, Trump said of Kavanaugh: “We’re very honored that he was able to withstand this horrible, horrible attack by the Democrats.”

Michael Bromwich, a lawyer for Ford, said in a tweet that Kavanaugh’s confirmation capped, “A week that will live in infamy for the U.S. Senate, permanently diminishing its stature.”

A few Republican senators who had wavered over whether to vote for Kavanaugh finally backed him this week, saying they did so in part because a brief FBI investigation found no corroborating evidence of Ford’s accusations.

Democrats said the FBI probe was nowhere near wide enough.

Trump watched the vote on a large-screen television tuned to Fox News in a wood-paneled cabin on the plane. He flashed two thumbs up when the final vote was declared and aides on board applauded.

The Senate confirmation allows him to hit the campaign trail ahead of the congressional elections saying that he has kept his 2016 promise to mold a more conservative American judiciary.

At a political rally in Mississippi on Tuesday, Trump mocked Ford’s account of what she says was a drunken attack on her by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers.

For weeks, senators from both parties decried the harsh and often emotional rhetoric in the clash over Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge with a history of advancing Republican causes.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, dismissed the prospect of lingering bitterness among senators. “These things always blow over,” he told a news conference.

WOMEN PROTESTS

Hundreds of protesters against Kavanaugh gathered on the grounds of the Capitol and at the Supreme Court. A total of 164 people were arrested in the protests, U.S. Capitol Police said.

Residents of a townhouse near the Washington home of Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican whose backing helped get Kavanaugh over the line on Saturday, flew the flag of the lawmaker’s home state Maine upside down in protest.

Accusations against Kavanaugh energized the #MeToo social media movement that emerged after high-profile accusations of sexual assault and harassment by men in politics, the media and the entertainment industry.

Democrats said Kavanaugh’s partisan defense of himself, in which he said he was victim of a “political hit,” was enough itself to disqualify him from the court.

The dispute over Kavanaugh has added fuel to campaigning for the elections in November when Democrats will try to take control of Congress from the Republicans.

Several polls show that Republican enthusiasm about voting, which had lagged behind, jumped after the Kavanaugh hearing last week.

McConnell told Reuters that the political brawl over Kavanaugh will help Republicans at the ballot box.

“Nothing unifies Republicans like a court fight,” McConnell said in an interview ahead of the vote. “It’s been a seminal event leading into the fall election.”

But Democrats hope women angered at the Kavanaugh accusations will turn out in large numbers to reject Republicans.

During Saturday’s vote, senators were showered with cries of “We will not forget,” and “Survivors vote” from protesters in the Senate gallery.

Democrats must gain at least two Senate seats and 23 House seats at the elections to claim majorities in each chamber, enabling them to block Trump’s agenda and investigate his administration. The Democrats are seen as having more chance of winning control of the House of Representatives than the Senate.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter: “Confirming Brett Kavanaugh in the face of credible allegations of sexual assault that were not thoroughly investigated, and his belligerent, partisan performance…undermines the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”

Kavanaugh succeeds retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was often the decisive swing vote on social issues.

The showdown over Kavanaugh had echoes of current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ contentious confirmation hearings in 1991 involving sexual harassment allegations lodged against him by a law professor named Anita Hill.

(Reporting by Amanda Becker, Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Roberta Rampton on Air Force One; Editing by Alistair Bell)

U.S. Senator John McCain loses fight with brain cancer, age 81

FILE PHOTO - Republican presidential hopeful John McCain points to his head during his Carolina kickoff rally at Presbyterian College February 2, 2000. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Senator John McCain’s brave fight against cancer came to an end on Saturday afternoon.  The Senator had been battling glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, diagnosed by his doctors in 2017.

A statement from his office on Saturday said: “Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28 p.m. on August 25, 2018. With the senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years.”

McCain served in the military and was a prisoner of war for 5 1/2 years in Vietnam.  He was nominated as the 2008 Republican Presidential candidate with his running mate Sarah Palin and served as a U.S. Senator for the state of Arizona for close to three decades.  

“My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years,” Cindy McCain wrote on Twitter. “He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best.”

Our deepest prayers are with his family.    

Disregarding FBI, White House to release Republican memo: official

The main headquarters of the FBI, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, is seen in Washington on March 4, 2012.

By Steve Holland and Warren Strobel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A secret Republican memo alleging FBI bias against President Donald Trump likely will be released on Thursday, a Trump administration official said, a move that would put the White House in direct confrontation with the top U.S. law enforcement agency.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a rare rebuke on Wednesday to the president and his fellow Republicans in Congress who are pushing to release the four-page document crafted by Republican members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

“The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the FBI said in a statement. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Justice Department officials have also said releasing the memo could jeopardize classified information.

The administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Wednesday night, did not elaborate on the expected release.

The fight over the memo reflects a wider battle over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal probe into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to help him win the 2016 presidential election. Russia and Trump have both denied the allegations. Mueller’s investigation and the FBI probe that preceded it have hung over Trump’s year-old presidency.

Democrats say the four-page memo is misleading, based on a selective use of highly classified data and intended to discredit Mueller’s investigation.

Representative Devin Nunes, the intelligence committee’s Republican chairman who commissioned the document, dismissed the objections to its release as “spurious.”

In a bid to block its release, Representative Adam Schiff, the intelligence committee’s top Democrat, said late on Wednesday he had discovered that Nunes had sent the White House a version of the memo that was “materially altered” and not what the committee voted to release on Monday. It was not clear if the panel’s Republicans would hold a new vote on the altered document.

The memo accuses the FBI and Justice Department of misleading a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge in March as they sought to extend an eavesdropping warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, four sources familiar with it have said.

They said memo contends that the FBI and Justice Department failed to tell the judge that some of the information used to justify the warrant included portions of a dossier of Trump-Russia contacts that was opposition research paid for by Democrats.

However, the sources said the memo does not mention that the request to extend surveillance on Page, which began before Trump took office, also relied on other highly classified information and that U.S. agencies had confirmed excerpts from the dossier included in the request.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign using hacking and propaganda to attempt to tilt the race in favor of Trump. The president has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and “hoax.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. House gives final approval to tax bill, delivers victory to Trump

President Trump celebrates with Congressional Republican on the South Lawn of the White House.

By David Morgan and Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval on Wednesday to the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, sending a sweeping $1.5 trillion tax bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.

In sealing Trump’s first major legislative victory, Republicans steamrolled opposition from Democrats to pass a bill that slashes taxes for corporations and the wealthy while giving mixed, temporary tax relief to middle-class Americans.

The House approved the measure, 224-201, passing it for the second time in two days after a procedural foul-up forced another vote on Wednesday. The Senate had passed it 51-48 in the early hours of Wednesday.

“We are making America great again,” Trump said, echoing his campaign slogan at a White House celebration with Republican lawmakers. “Ultimately what does it mean? It means jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Trump, who emphasized a tax cut for middle-class Americans during his 2016 campaign, said at an earlier Cabinet meeting that lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent was “probably the biggest factor in this plan.”

It was uncertain when the bill would be signed. White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said the timing depended on whether automatic spending cuts triggered by the legislation could be waived. If so, the president will sign it before the end of the year, he said.

The administration expects the waiver to be included in a spending resolution Congress will pass later this week, a White House official told reporters.

BUSINESS FRIENDLY

In addition to cutting the U.S. corporate income tax rate to 21 percent, the debt-financed legislation gives other business owners a new 20 percent deduction on business income and reshapes how the government taxes multinational corporations along the lines the country’s largest businesses have recommended for years.

Millions of Americans would stop itemizing deductions under the bill, putting tax breaks that incentivize home ownership and charitable donations out of their reach, but also making tax returns somewhat simpler and shorter.

The bill keeps the present number of tax brackets but adjusts many of the rates and income levels for each one. The top tax rate for high earners is reduced. The estate tax on inheritances is changed so far fewer people will pay.

Once signed, taxpayers likely would see the first changes to their paycheck tax withholdings in February. Most households will not see the full effect of the tax plan on their income until they file their 2018 taxes in early 2019.

In two provisions added to secure needed Republican votes, the legislation also allows oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and removes a tax penalty under the Obamacare health law for Americans who do not obtain health insurance.

“We have essentially repealed Obamacare and we’ll come up with something that will be much better,” Trump said.

Democrats were united in opposition to the tax legislation, calling it a giveaway to the wealthy that will widen the income gap between rich and poor, while adding $1.5 trillion over the next decade to the $20 trillion national debt. Trump promised in 2016 he would eliminate the national debt as president.

“PILLAGING”

“Today the Republicans take their victory lap for successfully pillaging the American middle class to benefit the powerful and the privileged,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

Opinion polls show the tax bill is unpopular with the public and Democrats promised to make Republicans pay for their vote during next year’s congressional elections, when all 435 House seats and 34 of the 100 Senate seats will be up for grabs.

“Republicans will rue the day they passed this bill,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. “We are going to continue hammering away about why this bill is so unpopular.”

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the bill, saying support would grow for after it passes and Americans felt relief. “I think minds are going to change,” Ryan said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” television program.

A few Republicans, a party once defined by fiscal hawkishness, have protested the deficit-spending encompassed in the bill. But most voted for it anyway, saying it would help businesses and individuals while boosting an already expanding economy they see as not growing fast enough.

In the House, 12 Republicans voted against the tax bill. All but one, Walter Jones of North Carolina, were from the high-tax states of New York, New Jersey and California, which will be hit by the bill’s cap on deductions for state and local taxes.

Despite Trump administration promises that the tax overhaul would focus on the middle class and not cut taxes for the rich, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a think tank in Washington, estimated middle-income households would see an average tax cut of $900 next year under the bill, while the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans would see an average cut of $51,000.

The House was forced to vote again after the Senate parliamentarian ruled three minor provisions violated arcane Senate rules. To proceed, the Senate deleted the three provisions and then approved the bill.

Because the House and Senate must approve the same legislation before Trump can sign it into law, the Senate’s late Tuesday vote sent the bill back to the House.

Graphic: Republican tax bill’s tax brackets and rates – http://tmsnrt.rs/2BJnrIV

Graphic: U.S. debt level since 1950 – http://reut.rs/2B3Yl3C

(Reporting by David Morgan and Amanda Becker; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Roberta Rampton, Gina Chon and Susan Heavey; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Trott)

Senator Rand Paul suffers five broken ribs after assault

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to reporters as he arrives for a vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 18, 2017.

By Bernie Woodall and Pete Schroeder

(Reuters) – U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s return to Washington may be delayed after he suffered five broken ribs during an assault at his Kentucky home, media reported on Sunday, citing a senior adviser to the Republican lawmaker.

Paul’s neighbor, Rene Boucher, has been charged with one count of fourth-degree assault causing minor injury in connection with the incident on Friday, according to authorities. Boucher, 59, was released on bond.

“Senator Paul has five rib fractures including three displaced fractures. This type of injury is caused by high velocity severe force,” Doug Stafford, a senior adviser to Paul, said in a statement, according to multiple media reports.

“It is not clear exactly how soon he will return to work, as the pain is considerable as is the difficulty in getting around, including flying,” the reports quoted Stafford as saying. He added that the senator’s type of injury could lead to life-threatening injuries.

Paul, 54, also has lung contusions, Stafford said in the statement, according to the reports.

The Bowling Green Daily News, citing an arrest warrant, said Paul told police his neighbor came on to his property in a gated community just east of Bowling Green and tackled him from behind. Paul had injuries to the face and trouble breathing because of a rib injury, the newspaper said.

It was not clear what motivated the altercation and Paul did not go to the hospital, police said. Paul was mowing his lawn at the time of the attack, television station WAVE-TV in Kentucky reported.

“Kelley and I appreciate the overwhelming support after Friday’s unfortunate event. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers,” Paul said on Twitter on Sunday morning, referring to his wife.

A man who answered Boucher’s phone on Sunday, when a Reuters reporter asked to speak with him, said: “I’m sorry. I can’t talk.”

Kentucky State Police said on Saturday that Paul and Boucher were acquaintances. The suspect is a retired physician, the Bowling Green Daily News said.

The New York Daily News reported that a Facebook page for Boucher contained numerous postings critical of Republican President Donald Trump.

Paul, an ophthalmologist, ran for the Republican presidential nomination before dropping out of the race in February 2016.

 

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Simao)

 

Republicans on track for tax reform this year: lawmaker

FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX) listens to testimony before the committee on tax reform on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee said on Tuesday Republicans are on track to pass tax reform this year and, unlike with healthcare, are united around a common plan even as the details are still being hammered out.

“We are on track to deliver transformational, bold tax reform this year,” Committee Chairman Kevin Brady told CNBC in an interview. “We have the White House, the House, the Senate working together on the same page unifying behind a single tax reform plan. That didn’t happen with healthcare.”

Brady, speaking ahead of a planned speech on the issue scheduled for Wednesday, said Republicans had yet to finalize tax rates and other details.

The White House has said it will release a tax reform framework next month but not accompanying legislation. That would instead come from a key group of legislators, who released their working framework in July.

The Republican Party controls both chambers of Congress as well as the White House, and President Donald Trump has been anxious to notch up a first legislative win. An effort to pass healthcare legislation failed last month.

“We’re still working with the White House and Senate on the details of this plan but we’re going to push rates as low as we can and we’re going to incentivize as much business investment now and in the future as we can,” Brady told CNBC, adding that any changes should be permanent “so that families and businesses can count on this.”

Asked about Trump’s handling of his party’s bid to repeal and replace Obamacare, which failed to gather enough votes to pass in the Senate, Brady said the president’s leadership would be key in pushing a tax plan.

“My sense … is he’s all in on tax reform,” he told CNBC.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Makini Brice; Editing by Frances Kerry)