The Review–Democrats’ Election Victories Offer Hope and Risk, Republican Tax Plans Locked in Battle

Victorious Democrats in Virginia. Is Trump tired of winning so much? (photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Democrats had a great election night on Tuesday and Trump is out of the country!  What could be better under the circumstances?

First, some “fun” facts:

A United Kingdom regulator found that the Fox News programs anchored by Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson violated impartiality standards.  It’s shocking, I know.  Still, it’s always nice to have official validation.  
With Syria (yes, Syria!) accepting the Paris Climate Change Accord, the U.S. is now the only country on the planet that rejects it.  Trump is making America great again!
One of Trump’s bodyguards told Congress this week that, when Trump was in Moscow in 2013, a Russian involved in the Miss Universe Pageant there offered to send five women of questionable repute to Trump’s hotel room.  While the bodyguard claimed the offer was not accepted, the Steele Dossier alleges that Trump hired a group of prostitutes at that time to urinate on a bed in a hotel that Obama had once slept on.  I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is further investigating Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn.   Flynn, along with son, was going to be paid up to $15 million for kidnapping a Turkish cleric and turning him over to the Turkish government for execution.  The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, lives in Pennsylvania as a legal U.S. resident and Turkish dictator Recep Erdoğan considers him a political enemy.  Well, I guess no one said which country Flynn was trying to advise regarding security.  

There were myriad small developments in the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. Presidential election.  Rather than try to cover all those, note that  at least nine people connected with Trump had contacts with the Russians during the election and the transition.   Here is a timeline of those contacts, and individual timelines of Russian contacts by Trump and his cohorts including prior to the campaign.  As Buffy the Vampire Slayer said, “”Giles, there are two things that I don’t believe in: coincidence and leprechauns.”  Well, maybe leprechauns.

As I’m sure you know already, the Democrats had a great election night on Tuesday.  In Virginia, the Democrats won the governorship and the other two statewide office races.  They also may have taken control of the Virginia House of Delegates (there are five recounts underway), where previously the Republicans had a 2 to 1 majority.  

In the State of Washington, the Democrats won a Senate race giving the Democrats complete control of the Legislature in addition to the governorship.  The governor’s office in New Jersey went to the Democrats, and they scored wins in mayoral races in St. Petersburg, Florida, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Charlotte, North Carolina and other contests.  In short, many wins across the country.

The results were seen as a backlash to Trump and an indicator that the Democrats may win the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.  That would place a huge brake on Trump and might lead to impeachment.  The Democratic victories could also make it harder for the Republicans to pass their tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.    

Which leads us to Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in the December 12 Alabama election to fill a U.S. Senate seat.  That seat was formerly held by Jeff Sessions, who was appointed Trump’s Attorney General (and who has a few Russia issues of his own).   The Washington Post reported that Moore initiated sexual touching with a 14-year-old girl when he was a 32-year old assistant prosecutor, and had pursued other girls aged 16 to 18 when he was in his 30’s.  Prosecutors always follow the law, right?

Moore is also known as a wingnut who, among other things, has ties to white supremacist and neo-Confederate secessionist groups.  He was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court not once but twice.  Once was for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building in defiance of a federal court order.  The other was for directing probate court judges to enforce Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that this was unconstitutional.  We can guess why he’s in favor of Alabama seceding from the Union.  

The National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled its funding of Moore and a poll says Moore and Democrat Doug Jones are tied for the Senate seat.

If Moore loses in Alabama, the Republicans will have a smaller majority in the U.S. Senate, making their “tax reform” even more difficult.  Democrats need to gain three Senate seats to take a majority there.  They have two reasonable pickup opportunities in 2018, in Nevada and Arizona.  If they win the Alabama Senate seat, they’ll have the third seat.  

Speaking of tax reform, as we know, the House Republican tax bill would actually raise taxes for millions in the middle class, while giving huge tax cuts to large corporations and the very wealthy.  Of course, rich donors to the Republicans are telling them “Get it done or don’t ever call me again.”  We can only hope.  

After the Senate Republican plan was released on Thursday, there already seemed to be enough Republican “no” votes to kill the bill.  The Republican Senate bill differs from the Republican House bill in that it would leave the mortgage-interest deduction alone but would remove the deduction for payment of state and local taxes and would delay the tax cuts for corporations for a year.  Announcement of the latter caused the stock market to fall.  Both bills currently result in deficits larger than $1.5 trillion, so enough Democrats in the Senate would have to vote in favor of the bill to give it 60 affirmative votes, which seems about as likely as leprechauns.    

While it’s expected there will be major modifications to the bills, it’s going to be hard for Congressional Republicans to get this passed.  Their self-imposed deadline is the end of December, I suppose in celebration of Christmas.  One can only hope they receive a lump of Koch-brothers’ coal instead.  

As this is the 11th day of the 11th month, it’s Veterans Day.  The U.S. originally celebrated Armistice Day, held on November 11 because the major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  (Of course, that was supposed to be the war to end all war, but somehow that didn’t happen.)  In 1954 the U.S. renamed the holiday Veterans Day.  A happy Veterans Day to all who have served our country. 

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