In it, but not of it. TPM DC

On Wednesday the House and Senate hold the first public conference committee meeting to iron out significant differences on the GOP tax bills — though Republican lawmakers and their staffs have already been negotiating behind closed doors for several days. Just before going into the conference, lawmakers announced they had tentatively struck a deal on changes to the bill that will further benefit the highest earning Americans, including a reduction in the top income tax bracket from 39.6 to 37 percent. 

They reportedly plan pay for this change and others by ticking up the new corporate tax rate from 20 to 21 percent—which remains a major reduction from the current 35 percent rate.

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In the wake of a stunning upset victory Tuesday night by Democrat Doug Jones in deep-red Alabama, Senate Democrats are demanding that Republicans “hit pause” on their fast-track tax bill—delaying a vote until Jones is sworn in so that the voters of Alabama are fully represented.

“It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the duly elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)  told reporters Wednesday morning.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore ain’t done yet.

An obstinate Moore refused to concede defeat to Democrat Doug Jones even though he trailed Jones by a not-that-close 49.9 percent to 48.4 percent, insisting there was a possibility of a recount.

“Realize that when the vote is this close it is not over. We’ve still got to go by the rules and by this recount provision,” he declared around 10:30 p.m. CT Tuesday evening, more than an hour after the race had been called by the Associated Press and most TV networks – an after Jones had given his victory speech.

“We also know that God is always in control. The problem with this campaign is we’ve been painted with an unfavorable and unfaithful light. We’ve been put in a hole, if you will,” he continued. “That’s what we’ve got to do – wait on God and let this process play out. … Let’s go home and sleep on it.”

Alabama has a law for an automatic recount if the race’s margin is within 0.5 percent, paid for by the state. If the margin is wider, then a candidate can ask for (and pay for) a recount. But Jones led by more than 21,000 votes — a gaping chasm in the world of recount elections.

Moore’s campaign insisted Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill had indicated that a recount could happen, and told reporters to head to his office for an explanation of the rules.

Merrill, a staunch conservative who’d stuck by Moore’s campaign, said Moore could get a recount if he paid for it. But he threw cold water on Moore’s plans, telling CNN he “would find it highly unlikely” that Jones won’t be Alabama’s next senator.

Alabama Republicans made it clear that Moore is on his own in his quixotic quest.

“While we are deeply disappointed in the extremely close U.S. Senate election results, with our candidate Judge Roy Moore, we respect the voting process given to us by our Founding Fathers,” Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said in a statement. “Now that this race has ended, may this holiday season of peace, love and hope resonate with everyone, regardless of one’s political affiliation.”

Even some of Moore’s closest allies weren’t optimistic.

John Eidsmoe, a friend and ally for decades who works for Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, told TPM that it could be “days” for a final count — but was shocked when TPM told him that Jones trailed by more than 20,000 votes. When asked how confident he was that Moore could win, he said “not very.”

Moore, a firebrand social conservative, blew a race few thought a Democrat could win, largely because nine women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. He remained willfully defiant throughout the campaign, denying all accusations. And after a career of obstinate refusal and intransigent fights with everyone who told him no, he looks like he’s going to go down kicking and screaming.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Democrat Doug Jones will be Alabama’s next senator after one of the wildest races in recent memory, giving Democrats a crucial seat in the chamber and opening a real if narrow path to retaking Senate control next year.

Jones lead accused child molester and GOP nominee Roy Moore by 49.6 percent to 48.8 percent with 89 percent of precincts reporting, according to the New York Times returns. The Associated Press has called the race, as have several TV networks.

Jones’s improbable victory was made possible when multiple women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct towards them when they were teenagers. Those allegations plunged the race into chaos and gave his party a rare chance at seriously contesting a race in deep red Alabama, where no Democrat has won a major statewide office since 2006.

His win narrows Republicans’ edge in the Senate to 51-49, leaving even less room for error on legislation and giving Democrats a real chance at winning back control of the chamber next year in spite of a brutal map where they’re mostly on defense.

Democrats now just need to hold serve in the 10 states that Trump won where they’re defending incumbents, and pick up swing-state Nevada and Arizona, to win back control. That appears doable if tough in the current political environment.

The result is likely to further inflame tensions between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Trump. McConnell disavowed Moore’s campaign, called for him to drop out and refused to spend to help him after the allegations surfaced, while Trump rode to his rescue with rallies and money from the Republican National Committee after refusing to help push him out of the race. Both will likely blame the other for the disastrous result, further fueling fights within the party that will play out in a number of Senate primaries.

It’s also a blow to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who threw his support hard behind Moore in the primary and stuck by him through the race. Bannon has promised support to a rash of populist firebrands in GOP primaries, but it might be harder to convince voters to back his candidates after the debacle in Alabama, where he was one of Moore’s most visible supporters.

The infighting between the factions began even before final results were in — and escalated as soon as the race was called for Jones.

“This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” Steven Law, the head of the pro-McConnell Senate Leadership Fund, said in a statement immediately after the AP called the race. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO) was direct, saying Alabama voters “deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve” before calling on Jones to vote with the GOP.

Trump himself was gracious in his loss.

But some of his supporters weren’t happy.

“I hate the fact that Doug Jones ran a gutter-style campaign instead of addressing the issues. This man hasn’t been charged with anything, he’s always been a man of faith,” Trump Alabama state chairman Perry Hooper, who was at the Moore election event, told TPM.

Hooper then turned on Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the most prominent Alabama Republican who publicly refused to back Moore.

“It’s upsetting being a Trump guy, it’s a setback to Alabama… and there’s a lot of people upset with Sen. Shelby, I’ll tell you that,” he said.

Democrats were jubilant — starting with Jones.

“We have shown the country the way that we can be unified. … At the end of the day, this entire race has been about dignity and respect,” Jones said to a jubilant crowd in Birmingham. “This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency, and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of which zip code you live in, is going to get a fair shake in life.”

But even after the race was clearly over, Moore’s campaign wasn’t ready to concede defeat.

“Some people have called the race. We’re not calling it yet. … And it could be a while,” Moore adviser Rich Hobson said at 9:40 p.m. central time before asking supporters to pray.

Jones is a relatively liberal Democrat who’s likely to stand with his party on most issues for the next few years. He’s pro-choice, believes in climate change and holds progressive views on civil rights, LGBT rights and immigration.

He’s also been critical of the GOP tax bill, putting additional pressure on Republicans to pass the legislation before the end of the year, when he’ll replace appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in Congress. Strange was appointed to the seat when President Trump picked Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice, and lost to Moore in the primary in spite of huge spending by McConnell and his allies.

Jones is a former U.S. attorney who is best known in Alabama for successfully reopening a decades-old case and prosecuting the Ku Klux Klansmen who bombed a Birmingham church in 1963, killing four little girls.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Tensions have started to build underneath the sounds of smooth jazz at Roy Moore’s election night party as updated results have Democrat Doug Jones closing in on Moore.

Moore was clinging to a narrow lead of 49.5 percent to 49 percent lead — less than 5,000 votes —shortly after 9 p.m. CT on Tuesday — when a jazz saxophonist wrapped up his cover of Carlos Santana’s “Smooth” and a few other gems and was met with nervous silence from the audience. Moore’s lead in the raw vote count had been shrinking all evening. County-by-county results indicated a nail-biter of a race — and the more urban, more Democratic counties had more of the outstanding vote.

“We’re hanging on, 81% of the vote, we need some more,” a Moore surrogate who’d been keeping the crowd warm all night said as a once-raucous crowd tittered nervously.

“Call it!” someone in the crowd yelled a few minutes later after a family band came onstage to sing “America the Beautiful.”

“I want to call it,” he joked back.

But the once-excited crowd’s happy chatter had dimmed to a dull murmur. And at 9:15 p.m. CT, the crowd fell silent as Jones pulled ahead, with the sad sounds of “Amazing Grace” playing in the background.

Black turnout has been higher than most experts expected — and significantly higher than white turnout in some crucial counties. That’s helped Jones claw his way into a virtual tie.

The race appears headed for a photo finish, with even expert prognosticators unclear who will win.

For those watching at home, under Alabama law any election narrower than 0.5 percent of the vote triggers an automatic recount. Get your popcorn.

If y’all continue to keep the faith,” the Moore surrogate told the crowd, “we’re going to get this thing.”

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Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) was at Tuesday morning Bible study—a rare bipartisan activity on Capitol Hill—with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) when her aides interrupted to inform her that President Donald Trump had gone after her on Twitter as a “lightweight” who “would do anything” for campaign donations.

Gillibrand and other Democrats immediately denounced the President’s post as a “slur” against her that implied an exchange of sexual favors for money. But Rounds and other Republicans asked about the exchange on Tuesday largely refused to comment, either claiming not to have seen the message or playing it down as unimportant.

“I think it’s simply one of those cases where it’s best if we look at what the President does and not pay attention to the tweets,” Rounds told reporters with a shrug.

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Since the day he was sworn into office, President Donald Trump and his administration have gone to significant lengths to weaken, undermine and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This week will demonstrate how effective their tactics have been.

For millions of people in the 39 states that depend on Healthcare.gov for open enrollment, the deadline to sign for health insurance for 2018 is Friday, Dec. 15.

“This week is the entire ball game,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Larry Levitt told TPM. “A growing enrollment means a healthier risk pool. Declining enrollment means a sicker risk pool. What happens this week will also determine the political narrative about whether the ACA is succeeding or failing.”

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MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — Kayla Moore used the final campaign rally for her husband to fire back against accusations that they hate Jews, black people and women, with an interesting choice of evidence.

“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews. But I’ll tell you all this because I see you all, I just want to set the record straight while they’re here: One of our attorneys is a Jew,” Kayla Moore said, waving towards the back of the room where reporters were gathered. “We have very close friends who are Jewish.”

The comment came towards the end of a testy and sometimes bizarre rally Monday night where she, her deeply controversial husband, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and top allies lashed out at all of their enemies, real and imagined: The multiple women who’ve accused him of sexual misconduct towards them when they were teenagers, the “fake news” that covered the women’s claims, the Republican establishment that’s recoiled from Moore since the allegations broke, and the Democrats who are hoping to score a shocking victory against him on Tuesday.

It was a fitting capstone for one of the most bizarre elections in recent memory.

Moore, who’s been missing from the campaign trail for almost a week, admitted he’d gone to Philadelphia “for two and a half days” to see his son play in the Army-Navy football game, while slamming reporters daring to report on his absence. Moore’s campaign had steadily refused to say where he was, insisting he’d been doing private events around the state.

“That’s one reason I don’t talk to the media — they won’t print the truth,” he said.

The event, held in an upscale barn in the deeply conservative and rural southeast corner of the state, featured stars of the hard right including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). A few hundred hardcore supporters showed up, as did almost as many journalists and dozens of protestors waving signs for Moore’s opponent, Democrat Doug Jones.

Bannon painted the race as “an up or down vote between the Trump miracle and the nullification project” — and issued broadsides against the media and the GOP establishment, barely mentioning Moore for much of his speech.

“There’s a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better,” he said to cheers, seemingly tweaking first daughter Ivanka Trump for her comments that “there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children.”

Gohmert, a former judge, said the women who have accused Moore should be jailed if they lied: “If somebody got money for trying to destroy a righteous man, there’s a place called prison.”

But both were just warm-up acts for a man who said he served in Vietnam with Moore — and told a story about the two of them being taken by another soldier to a brothel they’d thought was just a private club when they’d agreed to go. As soon as Moore realized where they were, he said they should leave immediately, the man said.

“That was Roy. Honorable, disciplined, morally straight and highly principled,” he said, describing the accusations against Moore as the “political equivalent of a Vietcong ambush.”

The race has been consumed by accusations from multiple women of sexual misconduct towards them when they were teenagers — including one who says she was 14 when Moore undressed her and put her hand on his underwear, and another who says she was 16 when Moore sexually assaulted her.

Moore has led Jones in most, but not all recent polls of the race, in a contest that’s nearly impossible to predict heading into Election Day. Alabama hasn’t seen a tight statewide race in a decade, and a Jones victory would be a huge upset even with Moore’s fatal flaws as a candidate. Jones is banking on huge black turnout and major defections from Republican women to win the race.

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When the House and Senate passed different versions of a bill to slash corporate tax rates and eliminate the deductions millions of people depend upon, GOP lawmakers insisted that the bill would pay for itself and then some. They presented no evidence to back up this claim, and multiple reports from government experts and outside groups found instead that the bills would increase the federal deficit by at least $1 trillion.

The Treasury Department promised to release an analysis ahead of last week’s Senate vote, but it was nowhere to be seen, and whistleblowers at the Department told the New York Times they were never even instructed to crunch the numbers. On Monday, after the department’s inspector general opened an investigation into the whereabouts of the promised report and whether Secretary Steve Mnuchin was attempting to mislead the public about the impact of the tax plan, the Treasury Department quietly released a one-page document.

Treasury’s quickie analysis is basically in agreement with other respected assessments of what the tax cuts will do to the deficit absent economic growth: reduce tax revenue by $1 trillion. But the Treasury analysis accepts as a given the White House’s projection for 2.9 percent economic growth over 10 years, which turns that $1 trillion addition to the deficit into a $300 billion net gain in government revenue. But even the rosy Treasury analysis conceded that the tax cuts alone will not spur this growth.

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