Newsletter: California Republicans face big decision on tax vote
When GOP Reps. Mimi Walters and Ed Royce cast votes on the GOP tax plan, will they stick with it? That’s among the biggest questions setting the agenda for this week in politics.
These maps showing the vast numbers of taxpayers in their districts who claim state and local tax deductions, and those who have mortgages larger than $500,000 illustrate the dramatic effect the tax plan could have back home.
That’s one reason why Reps. Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher voted against the plan when it passed the House. Walters said she supported the bill in hopes it would be improved in the Senate. As Sarah Wire reported last week, House leaders are considering keeping the popular state and local tax deductions to secure all of the California Republicans’ votes on the measure. We’ll be covering the House vote, currently scheduled for Monday evening.
While you wait to see what happens, check out how the numbers stack up in the most competitive California GOP districts.
All indications are that any differences between the House and Senate versions will be swiftly reconciled so Republicans can notch points on the board at a time when they badly need them.
Then the questions will turn to immigration policy.
Consider this: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), only agreed to support the tax plan last week after winning a commitment from the White House and GOP leadership that there would be a forthcoming immigration deal to allow young immigrants, known as Dreamers, to permanently remain in the U.S. without threat of deportation if Trump ends the so-called DACA program as planned next year.
There are a number of Republicans — including two from California — clamoring for a fix now.
And there’s that pesky matter of keeping the government funded. As David Lauter pointed out in Friday’s newsletter, lawmakers in September gave themselves until this Friday to get the job done. They’ve barely started to negotiate.
FLYNN’S HISTORY OF PUSHING THE LIMITS
After weeks of whispers and speculation, a flood of developments in the special counsel investigation began on Friday. It started with the announcement that President Trump’s former national security advisor, Michael T. Flynn, would plead guilty to lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Chris Megerian was there when the retired three-star general, who once called for Hillary Clinton to be jailed for her use of a private email server, exited the courthouse to the jeers of passersby who shouted, “Lock him up!”
Flynn was a respected intelligence officer in Iraq and Afghanistan before returning to Washington. But he also had a history of pushing the limits, starting with his rebellious adolescence, that finally caught up to him while serving as one of Trump’s closest advisors.
It remains to be seen how Flynn’s guilty plea reverberates during the special counsel’s investigation into whether anyone in Trump’s orbit helped Russia interfere with last year’s presidential election. Flynn has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and court filings indicate that senior members of the Trump transition team were involved in his communications with the Russian ambassador.
One of those people is Jared Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and is one of the president’s most trusted, and busy, advisors in the White House. Megerian and David Cloud looked at how Kushner has been tied to many of the contacts with Russians that are under investigation.
For his part, Trump has been defiant. He told reporters Saturday that he wasn’t worried about what Flynn could tell prosecutors because there was “no collusion” with Russians during the campaign. Later that day, Trump tweeted that Flynn’s actions during the transition were legal and it was a “shame” that he lied about them.
He also raised eyebrows by saying he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him as national security advisor in February, an admission that could color the president’s subsequent interaction with then-FBI Director James Comey. According to Comey, Trump asked him to go easy on Flynn. Trump tweeted Saturday that he “never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn.”
California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that, “what we’re beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice” in connection with the firing of Comey and other actions.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet for the charges in the Russia investigation so far.
Stay up to speed with our Essential Washington news feed.
NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND
-- President Trump tweeted Monday “we need Republican Roy Moore” to win the U.S. Senate race in Alabama. Moore is accused of making unwanted sexual advances on teenage girls several decades ago.
-- Was Trump’s Sunday morning tweetstorm inspired by “Fox & Friends”?
-- Comey, for his part, seems to be enjoying himself on Instagram
-- The guy who could be the next CIA director shared his thoughts on the president’s Twitter habit.
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s major achievements, including the tax bill, have come from sometimes abandoning his ascribed allegiance to upholding long-standing Senate rules. Lisa Mascaro explains.
-- We asked several Western governors to assess how Trump is doing so far. Results were mixed.
-- Trump is expected to formally propose chopping Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments into five separate and much smaller national monuments.
-- Alec Baldwin’s Trump gets visits from the ghosts of Christmas.
TUESDAY’S ELECTION IN L.A.
The roughly 223,000 voters in Echo Park, Silver Lake, Chinatown, Lincoln Heights and City Terrace will choose a new Assemblymember in Tuesday’s special election: Wendy Carrillo or Luis Lopez.
Javier Panzar reports that, since the October special election, Carillo’s campaign has gathered a string of new endorsements and benefited from more than $500,000 in outside spending from independent expenditure committees largely funded by labor unions. She has also gotten support to the tune of $38,000 from a committee funded by charter school proponents. Lopez won a late endorsement from United Teachers Los Angeles over the weekend.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT THE CAPITOL
In an almost five-hour subcommittee meeting last week, staffers and lobbyists said procedures in California’s state Capitol have for years protected those in power, leaving victims in fear of retaliation.
The testimony also revealed that the chamber has an opaque process to report and investigate claims, no measures to track complaints and blurry ethics standards for elected officials.
Here are some unanswered questions.
WHERE THINGS STAND SEVEN MONTHS FROM THE PRIMARY
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa top the field in California’s race for governor, and Feinstein has a dominant lead in her bid for reelection, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. But those numbers could shift around quite a bit before the June primary election. Why? Because a third of likely voters polled in California don’t know who they will vote for in either race.
A reminder you can keep up with these races in the moment via our Essential Politics news feed on California politics.
POLITICAL ROAD MAP: IN SEARCH OF A THIRD PARTY
California voters across the political spectrum -- age, ideology, class and beyond -- all seem to agree on at least one thing: The two major political parties aren’t cutting it anymore.
In this week’s Political Road Map column, John Myers takes a look at new polling that shows just how bad the perception is of the Republican and Democratic parties. Even so, they also overwhelmingly support a key California election law that has made third parties less viable than perhaps ever before.
It’s the season for giving. But for many who might be negatively affected by the GOP tax plan, should it be enacted, it could be their last time to donate — at least at the level they’re used to, writes George Skelton in his Monday column.
Skelton also asked how powerful men can be stopped from sexually harassing women, and wrote that one way is to make the men vulnerable by making them pay with their careers, their wallets and their reputations. Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), who helped lead last week’s Assembly hearing on sexual harassment, has said perpetrators should be publicly exposed because “it’s important for the voters to know.” Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) announced he’ll introduce legislation to require abusers to pony up personally for settlements, so taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the payouts.
ONE YEAR AFTER THE GHOST SHIP FIRE, ARTISTS STRUGGLE TO FIND HOUSING
Carmen Brito called 911 last Dec. 2 as a fire ripped through the Ghost Ship warehouse where she was living. Minutes later, the fire had killed 36 people, making it the deadliest in Oakland’s history.
A year on, Brito, an artist and substitute teacher, has struggled to find a place to live in Oakland and wonders if there’s room in the Bay Area for her. Her story is symptomatic of the larger housing problems in the Bay Area, where costs have only risen in the year since the fire, Liam Dillon reports.
-- The major candidates for governor debated education this weekend in San Diego.
-- All 55 members of the California delegation are asking Congress to approve more money for fire disasters.
-- Republican opponents of a recent increase to the state gas tax have launched a television ad campaign aimed at getting California voters to sign petitions for an initiative to repeal it.
-- Emily’s List endorsed one of Rep. Steve Knight’s challengers, Katie Hill, in the 25th Congressional District.
-- Royce and Walters are more vulnerable for 2018, according to one election handicapper.
-- Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia endorsed Newsom in the governor’s race.
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