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National Govt & Politics
Trump-Corker spat only adds to GOP concerns about tax reform

Trump-Corker spat only adds to GOP concerns about tax reform

Trump-Corker spat only adds to GOP concerns about tax reform
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Trump-Corker spat only adds to GOP concerns about tax reform

As lawmakers in Congress from both parties anxiously await the fine print of a major tax reform plan from Republicans, President Trump's Sunday social media spat with a key GOP Senator was a reminder that the White House may be in a more precarious political situation when it comes to getting the votes for tax reform, than the recently failed effort on changes to the Obama health law.

"Count me out if it adds a penny to the deficit," Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said last week about the outlines of a GOP tax reform bill, as the Tennessee Republican has made clear he will vote to start the tax reform process - but not necessarily back the final product.

"I think the deficit is the greatest threat to our nation," Corker said just off the Senate floor, arguing that Republicans in Congress and the White House seem to have forgotten their vow to restrain spending.

"I feel like in some ways - since Election Day - we've moved into a party atmosphere here, and that concerns me," Corker added.

Those words - and other criticisms - made the President boil over on Sunday, when he sent out a string of highly critical tweets aimed at the Senator.

"I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda," Mr. Trump tweeted.

While those tweets might make the President and his allies feel good, Republicans simply can't lose votes like Corker - especially in the Senate, where like on health care, if three GOP Senators go against Mr. Trump, tax reform legislation won't be approved.

Along with Corker's shot across the bow on the deficit, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has repeatedly made clear that he doesn't like the details made public so far on tax reform, saying the GOP plan looks like it will end up raising taxes on many middle class voters.

"We must speak up and fix this plan," Paul wrote in an op-ed piece for Forbes Magazine.

"What I will not accept is a tax hike on the middle and upper middle class, sacrificing their paychecks on the altar of “reform," Paul wrote.

Those type of red flags - before the details are even out - have some Republicans concerned.

"I wish we had 62 Republicans instead of 52," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). "But we don't."

Even before we know all the details of the tax reform plan, one item is getting a lot of attention, and that is the stated goal of the White House and GOP leaders in Congress to end the deduction for state and local taxes.

"To lose deductibility of state and local taxes is unfair, and I'm going to continue to fight it," said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ).

"I am going to do what I can to rally states like New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Connecticut," MacArthur told reporters off the House floor. "It's not fair to give the entire country a tax break on the back of the citizens of these six or seven states."

It's not just more moderate Republicans from East Coast states with higher taxes who have raised questions about the possibility of doing away with the state and local tax deduction.

"It is not" just Blue States, said Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX), who says that local property taxes in Texas can certainly be a big write-off for itemizers in the Lone Star State as well.

"I'm from a high property tax state," Marchant told reporters, acknowledging that a number of GOP colleagues have made it clear to the tax writing Ways and Means Committee that they don't want the state and local tax deduction phased out.

"There are some people who say, it isn't a big issue back home," said Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA). "Well, in some places, it is the issue back home.

The state and local tax deduction isn't the only possible pitfall for Republicans - more will likely emerge once the tax-writing committees in the House and Senate produce an actual draft tax reform bill, chock full of all sorts of details.

The goal is to do that in October - but it could still slip.

And if you are going to do a full tax reform bill, there will be a never-ending source of stories about whatever is in those details.

"Tax Reform is needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!" the President tweeted last month.

But if Mr. Trump battles more with individual GOP lawmakers in the Congress, it could make that drive for tax reform even more difficult.

Read More

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Frank Ancona was the imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the newspaper reported.  Her son, Paul Jinkerson Jr., 26, of Belgrade, faces the same charges as his mother, the newspaper reported.  “I fired both shots that killed my husband,” Malissa Ancona told the judge, according to the Post-Dispatch.  Eric Barnhart, the attorney representing Jinkerson, told the newspaper he expects Malissa Ancona’s admission to help his client at his trial, set to begin May 6.  >> Read more trending news St. Francois County prosecutor Melissa Gilliam asked Malissa Ancona to clarify her role in her husband’s death, the Post-Dispatch said. She told Gilliam her son was involved in the aftermath -- cleaning blood from the bedroom walls, getting rid of bloody bedding and dumping Frank Ancona’s body about 20 miles away near Belgrade -- but that she acted alone in the shooting.  Malissa Ancona initially reported her husband missing, but later told police her son fatally shot her husband while he slept on Feb. 9, 2017. According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Frank Ancona’s car was found abandoned in a remote part of the county by a U.S. Forest Service employee.   The Riverfront Times reported that a pile of burned clothes was found nearby.  Frank Ancona’s body was found two days after the slaying on the bank of the Big River, the Sheriff’s Office reported. He had been shot twice in the head, once with a 9 mm handgun and once with a shotgun, according to The New York Times.  A family who went to the river on a fishing trip made the gruesome discovery.  Frank Ancona’s father, Frank Ancona Sr., told the judge Friday that he had to identify the body of his only son, who he said had “no face left” after the murder. According to the Post-Dispatch, the defendant’s former father-in-law described her as a “terrible wife” and a “piece of (expletive).” He often asked his son, “Why, why do you stay with her?” the grieving father told the judge. According to Malissa Ancona’s Facebook page, the couple was married since 2010.  Ancona Jr. had decided to leave the marriage prior to his death, authorities said. Malissa Ancona told investigators upon her arrest that her son killed his stepfather after he requested a divorce.  The Riverfront Times reported that investigators found bloody clothes at Jinkerson’s home, as well as blood in his car. Surveillance footage from a gas station near the river and the wooded road where Frank Ancona’s car was found showed mother and son driving by, one driving Frank Ancona’s Ford Fusion and the other, Jinkerson’s Chevy Impala. The camera showed them passing by again a short time later. That time, both were in the Impala, the newspaper reported.  When a search warrant was executed at the Ancona home, investigators found blood on the bedroom ceiling and soaked into the couple’s mattress, the Riverfront Times said.  The guns used in the attack were found in the river near Frank Ancona’s body and in a pond in St. Francois County -- where Malissa Ancona said they would be.  Malissa Ancona maintained that Jinkerson pulled the trigger -- and agreed to testify against her son -- until last September, when she wrote a letter to Judge Wendy Wexler Horn in which she confessed to the slaying. According to the Post-Dispatch, Malissa Ancona wrote that she wanted to “let the court know now that he did not pull the trigger, (I DiD).” She wrote that she was “under the influence” when she spoke to detectives following her husband’s death. The Riverfront Times reported that Malissa Ancona was addicted to prescription pain pills.  Frank Ancona’s ex-wife, Kellie Ancona, described him as “very, very kindhearted” and a good father and grandfather. His daughter, Carolyn Ancona, wept when talking about her father.  “He didn’t deserve this. No one deserves this,” she said, according to the Post-Dispatch.  Before his death, Frank Ancona led a branch of the Ku Klux Klan that the Southern Poverty Law Center has defined as a hate group. As of last year, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan still had chapters in Florida and South Dakota, the SPLC website says.  The Post-Dispatch reported that a since-suspended Twitter account in Malissa Ancona’s name contained links to the Klan group and described her as a member.  According to a 2014 federal court filing, Frank Ancona described the group as “comprised of white Christian patriots, people who care about their nation and their race.” He and his group had sued the small city of Desloge, Missouri, after city officials tried to keep the group members from handing out leaflets to drivers stopped at intersections. The Klan group was represented by the ACLU of Missouri.  “We do not commit acts of violence, and we believe in perpetuating our race,” Frank Ancona said in his description. “We believe in having children and grandchildren, white ones․ We believe in the Constitution as it was originally written by our forefathers that founded this nation.” Frank Ancona told the New York Times in an interview published a week before he was slain that he had been a Klan member for more than 30 years. He said he formed the Traditionalist American Knights in 2009.  He and his group made news in the days before his death because of fliers the group distributed overnight in neighborhoods in Maine. He told the New York Times he did not understand why anyone was afraid of the Klan.  “If you follow the doctrine of the Klan, it is a positive Christian organization that brings benefits to people,” Frank Ancona told the newspaper. “I don’t focus on the negative history.” During the 2014 protests following the fatal police shooting of Ferguson teen Michael Brown, however, Frank Ancona and his group passed out leaflets in which they vowed to use lethal force against protesters. The fliers, one of which was obtained by MSNBC, read, “Attention: To the terrorists masquerading as ‘peaceful protesters! You have awakened a sleeping giant.” As Missouri awaited a grand jury decision on whether the officer who killed Brown, Darren Wilson, would be criminally charged, Frank Ancona told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that the Klan would not tolerate violence during the protests.  “It’s a bit ironic for you to talk about how bad violence is when you’re telling people that you’re going to arm yourself and shoot,” Hayes responded. “You’re advising people of what the law is for being able to shoot someone. That seems, I think, to everyone seeing this like incitement. It seems like you are attempting to bring about the exact same thing you’re saying that you are against.” Frank Ancona disagreed, saying it was aimed at people making “terroristic threats” and informing them that the people of Missouri have the legal right to protect themselves from attackers.  “It’s basically educating them on that law and letting them know what their options are,” he said. “You know, you don’t have to sit back and let somebody throw a Molotov cocktail at you and just sit there and take it. There’s remedies under the law.” Around that same time frame, Frank Ancona sat down for an interview with a member of the hacker group Anonymous, which later claimed to have hacked Ancona’s Klan group’s files and released what it said was his personal information.  In his New York Times interview the week before he was killed, Frank Ancona said the only part of the Klan doctrine he believed people might see as a negative was the group’s policy against the mixing of races.  “We need to preserve the white race because we are the ones who keep civilization civilized,” he said. 
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  • Sanford Police arrested a carjacking suspect who tried “hiding” in a lake early Monday morning. On Facebook, the department said at around 1:45 a.m., officers were called about a carjacking near the intersection of Country Club Drive and Jefferson Boulevard. The suspect, later identified as Monterrious Burton, jumped into a truck and tried to drive away.  The owner had been working on the truck and was still inside when Burton jumped in.  Police said Burton tried pulling the owner out the truck.  The two of them started fighting when the owner’s wife tried to help him.  Burton hit her and then ran away. When officers arrived, Burton ran to a lake where the K9 unit tracked him.  His shoes were found in the water.  The K9 Athos then located Burton, who was “hiding” under the water.  He surrendered and was taken into custody without incident. Sanford Police released a video of the K9 tracking Burton to the lake and giving himself up: (Facebook post) (Tweet)

Washington Insider

  • Monday brought yet another annual warning from the trustees in charge of America's major government retirement programs that action is needed by Congress to alter the financial trajectory of Social Security and Medicare, otherwise those programs will face a financial shortfall which could require dramatic cuts in benefits in the future. 'Medicare still faces a substantial financial shortfall that will need to be addressed with further legislation,' the Medicare trustees wrote in their annual report. 'The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes,' the Social Security report states. The bottom line is not new - neither Medicare nor Social Security has enough money to indefinitely keep paying current benefits to the millions of Americans who use those two programs. 'Social Security will pay out more than it takes in next year and every year going forward,' said Michael Peterson, head of the Peterson Foundation, a federal budget watchdog group. 'That’s the definition of unsustainable.' 'Medicare will go insolvent in 2026, Social Security in 2035,' said Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). 'Refusing to address this will cause automatic cuts to these programs.' If Social Security were to reach that point of insolvency - and Congress did nothing about it - then the latest estimate is that benefits would be paid out at only 77 percent, a 23 percent reduction. Medicare and Social Security are not dealt with on a yearly basis by the Congress in terms of the budget - as they are on automatic pilot, unless lawmakers proactively take action to change the amount paid out in benefits, or brought in from revenues. 'Implementing changes sooner rather than later would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits,' the Social Security report noted. Like many fiscal situations within the federal budget, there are three fairly basic ways to deal with Medicare and Social Security: 1) Reduce the amount spent by the programs in terms of benefits. 2) Increase the amount of tax revenues brought in for the programs. 3) A combination of 1) and 2). One option which has drawn some attention in recent years on the Social Security side is forcing more wealthy income earners to pay a larger share of payroll taxes into the system, in order to help bring in more revenues. Currently, the Social Security payroll tax ends once an individual earns $132,9000 in 2019 - that amount is indexed, and creeps up each year. One plan would have it phase out at the current level, and then kick back in at a higher level of income, like $500,000 or $1 million, in order to bring in more revenues.. But votes on matters like expanding the payroll tax to bring in more resources to pay benefits - or raising the retirement age, slowing the yearly increase in Social Security benefits, or making some Medicare recipients pay more for health care - those type of proposals are considered politically toxic by many, too easily demagogued by both parties. “This report highlights the need for serious-minded legislators to partner with the Administration on commonsense, bipartisan reforms that will lower costs and eliminate fraud and abuse, preserving the program for future generations,” the White House said in a statement. But while politicians on all sides say the right things, there has not been a serious legislative effort on the matter in years. 'Why wait to until drastic changes are needed to avert insolvency in these programs?' asked Shai Akabas of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. 'The time for action is now.