GOP Feuds With Outside Group Over Analysis Of Tax Framework

The hottest feud in Washington is between Republicans and the Tax Policy Center (TPC).

Some prominent GOP lawmakers and conservatives are outraged with the wonky joint venture of the left-leaning Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The group released a study Friday that said the GOP’s tax reform framework would mostly benefit the rich, increase taxes on some middle-income people and lower federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over a decade.

The study was widely covered in the press, drawing front-page stories in The New York Times and Washington Post. The coverage ran counter to the White House’s messaging, which labeled the tax plan the “middle-class miracle.”

Republicans have responded by going after the Tax Policy Center, arguing the group is biased and used inaccurate assumptions to reach its conclusions.

The group “essentially sandbagged a Romney tax proposal,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

“The lesson here is that if Republicans want to pass tax reform, they better be prepared to fight back at every turn,” he added.

Read more from Naomi Jagoda at The Hill

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Trump Visit To Puerto Rico: A Chance To Deflect 'Katrina' Comparisons

President Trump has been praised for his administration’s response to last month’s hurricanes in Texas and Florida – no small feat. It was the first time two Category 4 storms had hit the United States in the same year.

But Puerto Rico has been another story. Hurricane Maria left the island in utter devastation, and critics have accused the Trump administration of lagging in its response. Mr. Trump, in turn, attacked local officials as “politically motivated ingrates” and called coverage of the devastation “fake news.”

Complicating it all is Trump’s prickly relationship with Latinos, who have never seen this president as an ally. Trump’s visit Tuesday to Puerto Rico represents an opportunity to turn the page, but a narrative is already setting in: Maria is Trump’s “Katrina,” a reference to the charge that President George W. Bush had failed a devastated New Orleans after its own hurricane in 2005.

Can today’s downward spiral of recriminations and distrust be reversed?

“I’ve got to be honest, there’s a lot of dishonest politics going on here,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “The Democrats are clearly trying to make this Trump’s Katrina through identity politics, just because of questionable statements made about Hispanics throughout the campaign.”

Another political dimension that roils the Puerto Rico story centers on Florida: If waves of Puerto Ricans move to the Sunshine State permanently, and begin voting there, that could be a game-changer in this critical battleground state.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Trump's Las Vegas Response Draws Praise But Gun Control Debate Looms

President Trump's unifying response on Monday to a massive shooting in Las Vegas may have earned bipartisan accolades, but the president could soon find himself drawn into a political debate about how and whether to tighten regulations on guns.

Trump's prepared remarks about the Las Vegas attack -- which he read Monday morning from a TelePrompTer at the White House -- made no mention of the fierce partisan debate that typically surrounds guns and mass shootings. The moment of silence he conducted on the South Lawn struck a solemn chord around the country. And his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, declined to answer a series of gun control questions on Monday by telling reporters she considered it "premature" to discuss policy while investigators still searched for the shooter's motive.

Meanwhile, Democrats -- including Hillary Clinton, Trump's former election rival -- hinted at the political slog over gun control that likely awaits the president and his fellow Republicans.

"I think that President Trump's response was pitch perfect. I mean, he captured the somber mood and framed it perfectly without getting political," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. "Now, there's no question about it that the left is gunning for another gun control showdown and debate."

Trump may avoid encountering the gun control debate on Tuesday when he travels to Puerto Rico to survey the damage from Hurricane Maria, O'Connell noted, and he may stave off the showdown on Wednesday by visiting the families of shooting victims in Las Vegas.

"The left is really going to push on this come Wednesday night, Thursday," O'Connell said. "I mean, they're just sort of building up."

Read more from Sarah Westwood at the Washington Examiner

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Trump's Puerto Rico Visit An Opportunity To Reassure Critics Of Hurricane Response

All eyes will be on President Trump next week when he travels to the devastated U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico, whose hurricane-ravaged communities remain largely without food, electricity, and clean water ahead of his visit.

Trump was scrutinized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle this week for his delay in waiving the Jones Act, a decades-old law that requires goods traveling between U.S. ports to ship exclusively on American vessels. Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Roselló had requested the waiver to better facilitate the delivery of basic supplies to the island, which was destroyed when Hurricane Maria made landfall as a category 5 storm earlier this month.

Democrats have seized on the disaster in Puerto Rico, claiming the administration has the power to bring greater relief to victims of Maria by deploying more troops, opening additional airports and bringing in specialists to deal with blocked roads and lack of power across the island. Failed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton joined the chorus of critics on Monday, urging Trump and the Defense Department to send the Navy and its East Coast hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, to help with the ongoing relief effort. Officials ultimately agreed to send the ship.

"What you're seeing now with Puerto Rico is Democrats and a fair amount of the mainstream media is trying to recreate the Katrina narrative to hurt Trump," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told the Washington Examiner. "The reality of the situation is the administration is doing what it can but because of the logistics and infrastructure in Puerto Rico, things aren't looking like they did in Miami or Houston."

"And a lot of Trump's political opponents are beginning to smell blood in the water," O'Connell said.

O'Connell suggested it would be wise for Trump to avoid discussing issues that preceded Maria during his visit to the island next week.

"I think it's a topic he should certainly stay away from even though the reality is that Puerto Rico's lousy infrastructure is one of the reasons why this disaster is so bad," he said, adding that Trump "has to be very careful" with how he discusses the situation so as not to appear as though he is blaming victims or lacks empathy.

Read more from Sarah Westwood and Gabby Morrongiello at the Washington Examiner

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White House Struggles To Shake Perception That Its Tax Reform Plan Benefits Trump

President Trump's full-court press for tax reform has revived scrutiny of his personal finances and highlighted the mystery that still surrounds how much he paid in taxes for most of his adult life.

Faced with a separate controversy related to the extravagant travel expenses racked up by members of his Cabinet -- primarily by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price -- the president's aides have struggled to downplay any suggestion that their tax reform plan caters to the wealthy men and women who hold senior positions throughout the administration.

The outline released by Trump administration officials this week contains a number of proposals that would benefit Americans of more modest income, such as an increase in the standard deduction and an expansion of eligibility for the child tax credit.

"To get this through, even if he wasn't wealthy, he was going to have to make the political sale of his lifetime," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. "There's a reason why this hasn't been done for 31 years. It requires bipartisan support, and frankly, Republicans get crushed in the messaging game every single time. This is solely a game about messaging."

O'Connell argued Democrats have exaggerated uncertainty about whether Trump's family will profit from the tax reform plan because the president plainly will, noting questions about his undisclosed tax returns are unnecessary because the answers are already clear.

"Let's say his tax returns are released, they'd still say the same thing," O'Connell said.

"Guess what, find me a president who wouldn't benefit from tax reform," O'Connell added. "Because chances are they have $100,000 to their name."

Read more from Sarah Westwood at the Washington Examiner

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Will GOP Divisions Thwart Trump's Agenda?

Several months ago, U.S. Republicans thought they made it. They not only clinched the White House in a victory that shocked the world, but also took control of both houses of Congress.

Most thought they would be on easy street, and could pass a slew of legislations, but the last few months have proved them wrong.

Deep divisions with his own party have prevented President Donald Trump from passing any major bills, even after eight months on the job. While Democrats are united in their opposition to Trump, Republicans are split among several factions.

While analysts say the animosity is likely to continue, the question is whether those divisions will stunt Trump's presidency for the next four years.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that the spats between Trump and the GOP "could very well continue, but it's easier for Trump to get tax reform through than it is with Obamacare."

"Trump is unpredictable. He may start cutting deals with Democrats to fire up the folks in Washington, but he knows he needs to get some sort of tax reform through before the Midterms," O'Connell said, referring to the 2018 congressional elections.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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In Alabama's Senate Primary Election 'Trump Wins Either Way,' GOP Strategists Say

In the Tuesday runoff election to fill the Alabama Senate seat held for 20 years by current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Republican voters are looking at two candidates to see who will be most successful in carrying the Donald Trump torch to Washington. 

In a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 1990, that gave Trump 63 percent of the vote, it's all eyes on the GOP candidate who wins on Tuesday, because that candidate is already seen as the favorite to win the general election on December 12.

While there are a number of issues at play in the runoff, voters are rallying behind the message that less of Washington is more. That is just one of the reasons that Judge Roy Moore is ahead of Sen. Luther Strange in all of the polls.

Political insiders made it clear that the dueling campaign rallies on Monday night, with Moore alongside Bannon in the southern part of the state and Vice President Mike Pence stumping for Strange in Birmingham, is not a division in Trump world. 

"Trump wins either way," explained D.C.-based Republican analyst Ford O'Connell. Both candidates fully back Trump and his agenda, both are dyed in the wool conservatives. "So it's important to understand why Trump went with Strange rather than the more than the more Trumpian candidate, so to speak."

Strange is less likely to be a "wild-card," O'Connell explained, a trait among conservative lawmakers that has already frustrated the GOP leadership's multiple efforts to pass a health care bill this year.

"Trump went out to back Luther Strange because he was trying to throw an olive branch to Mitch McConnell," he continued, noting "it is going to be hard to get Moore to buy into some compromise votes that Trump may want to take."

Read more from Leandra Bernstein at WJLA

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McConnell’s GOP Leadership May Hinge On Strange Primary Victory

President Trump may be the focus of Tuesday’s Senate GOP primary runoff in Alabama, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also has a lot on the line in the race.

Mr. McConnell, who has struggled to get his troops in line on Capitol Hill this year, has put all his electoral muscle behind Sen. Luther Strange, and a loss for Mr. Strange would be the latest dent to the GOP leadership.

Indeed, polls show Roy Moore, the state’s former chief justice who gained a national profile by defending the public display of the Ten Commandments, leading the runoff.

“Moore is way more of a wild card for McConnell and the administration,” said Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist.

That’s one reason why Mr. Trump has endorsed Mr. Strange, campaigning with the incumbent on Friday and deploying Vice President Mike Pence to Alabama on Monday.

“I think the concern for McConnell and the White House is: What does this mean for other incumbents?” Mr. O'Connell said.

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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Experts: Donald Trump Should Take Timeout On Topic

Football fans’ boos and the calls for an NFL boycott bolstered President Trump’s base after he slammed athletes refusing to stand for the national anthem, but he needs to leave the field in order to get the win, political strategists said.

More than 150 players from nearly every NFL team knelt during the national anthem yesterday — including 16 New England Patriots — with more like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and all the Houston Texans locking arms with each other in solidarity, in protest of Trump’s comments Friday calling for players who do not stand for the anthem to be fired. Most NFL owners also said they supported the players, with some joining them on the field and locking arms.

Some fans greeted the display with applause, while others booed and called for the players to “stand up!” On Twitter, some tweeted with the hashtag #TakeAKnee while others posted videos of themselves burning football apparel.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said, “This is more of a political issue for Trump as he battles Republicans and Democrats in Congress. He’s had bumps along the way and wants to pass his signature items, so you have to keep your people with you. I’m sure that eventually both (Trump and the NFL) would like to move away from the issue, but right now it’s firing up voters.”

Read more from Dan Atkinson at the Boston Herald

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Democratic Outrage Over DACA Is Getting Ridiculous

What if President Trump, who has yet to be able to convince the Senate to pass Obamacare repeal legislation, simply implemented repeal himself?

What if he just deemed by executive action that its remaining provisions no longer were valid and the country was moving in a new direction?

Democrats would react in roughly the same way as they have since two weeks ago when President Trump announced his plan to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and called on Congress to fix the problem before the nearly 800,000 young people affected would be ordered out of the country.

Former President Barack Obama, who has decidedly not followed President George W. Bush's practice of refusing to comment on his successor's administration, called the move "cruel" and "wrong." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., deemed it a "despicable act of political cowardice."

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a leading advocate for illegal immigrants and open borders, went so far as to call White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a Marine Corps General and gold star father, "a disgrace to the uniform."

And Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, topped all of that when he likened refusing sanctuary to DACA recipients – and all other illegal immigrants, for that matter – to refusing to help Jews escape Nazis in World War II Germany. This was a curious choice for a metaphor considering his past association with the radical Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan.

But what none of those critics would admit is that Trump is essentially reversing an edict issued by Obama after Congress rejected legislation that would have protected the Dreamers from deportation. In what he called at the time a "temporary, stop-gap measure," Obama simply changed immigration law on his own and ordered a system established to let the DACA recipients stay.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at the Washington Examiner

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