Health Bill Appears Dead as Pivotal G.O.P. Senator Declares Opposition

WASHINGTON — A last-ditch attempt by President Trump and Senate Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act appeared to collapse on Monday as a pivotal senator announced her firm opposition to the latest repeal plan, virtually ensuring that Republicans would not have the votes they need for passage.

The announcement by the senator, Susan Collins of Maine, effectively dooms what had been a long-shot effort by Republicans in the Senate to make one more attempt at repealing the health law after failing in dramatic fashion in July.

The demise of the latest repeal push means that Republicans are now all but certain to conclude Mr. Trump’s first year in office without fulfilling one of their central promises, which the president and lawmakers had hoped to deliver on quickly after Mr. Trump took office.

For seven years, Republicans have said they would repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement and replace it with a new health care system more palatable to conservatives. But they were never able to formulate a replacement that was both politically and substantively viable.

Ms. Collins, one of three Republican senators who opposed the last repeal attempt in July, described the latest plan as “deeply flawed.” She expressed concerns about cuts to Medicaid as well as the rolling back of protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“Health care is a deeply personal, complex issue that affects every single one of us and one-sixth of the American economy,” Ms. Collins said in a statement, lamenting the rushed process and the content of legislation that has shifted as Republican leaders scrambled for votes. “Sweeping reforms to our health care system and to Medicaid can’t be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target.”

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, now faces the unpalatable choice of admitting defeat or moving ahead with a vote that appears certain to fail.

Republican leaders in the Senate can afford to lose only two of their members, and they now have three firm opponents within their ranks: Rand Paul of Kentucky, John McCain of Arizona and Ms. Collins. Additionally, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, has withheld his support and requested changes to the bill.

Time is not on their side: Republicans have only until the end of the month to pass the bill through the Senate while being protected from a Democratic filibuster.

Beginning in October, Republicans would need Democratic votes in order to pass a repeal bill, a seeming impossibility given that Democratic senators have been unified in opposition to the repeal push.

Some Republican senators have suggested starting over, with parliamentary language in a new budget blueprint that once again would shield repeal legislation from a filibuster. But that could terribly complicate Republican efforts to overhaul the tax code, a risk the leadership may not want to take.

Ms. Collins’s announcement came three days after Mr. McCain said that he could not “in good conscience” support the latest repeal proposal, written by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

“We’re going to press on,” Mr. Graham said hours later, during a Monday night CNN debate on health care. He raised the possibility of still holding a vote, even as he acknowledged it might fail: “It’s O.K. to vote. It’s O.K. to fall short, if you do, for an idea you believe in.”

The senators released a revised version of their bill on Monday morning, hoping to win over holdout Republicans in part by shifting more funds to states like Alaska and Maine. The bill would take money provided under the Affordable Care Act for insurance subsidies and the expansion of Medicaid and send it to states, with vast new discretion over how to use it for health care or coverage.

But writing a repeal bill that could win over at least 50 of the 52 Republican senators has proved extraordinarily difficult, and putting together a complicated bill against the backdrop of a ticking clock only added to the challenge. Insurers, hospitals, doctors and patient advocacy groups assailed the proposal, as did the late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.

The Capitol complex looked at times like a hospital ward on Monday as patients swarmed through the corridors, pleading with senators not to take away their health insurance. Some wore T-shirts that said, “I Am a Pre-Existing Condition.”

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the repeal bill on Monday, and it was immediately disrupted by people in the audience shouting opposition to the proposal. “No cuts to Medicaid,” they chanted. “Save our liberty!” Capitol police officers removed the protesters, some of whom were in wheelchairs.

As Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Graham revised their bill to try to build support, critics asserted that their last-minute changes further weakened protections for patients, including those with cancer and other pre-existing conditions.

Dick Woodruff, senior vice president at the lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society, said that under the bill, patient protections provided by the Affordable Care Act would be up to each state to decide.

“Some states could decide not to cover even preventive services, like cancer screenings, routine mammography or colonoscopy,” Mr. Woodruff said.

Republican senators had to make up their minds with little information about the measure’s implications.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday that “millions of additional people would be uninsured” under the Graham-Cassidy bill, compared with the number of people expected to lack coverage under current law.

“Enrollment in Medicaid would be substantially lower because of large reductions in federal funding for that program,” the budget office said.

But the budget office said it did not have time to produce a more complete assessment, leaving senators without specifics on how the bill would affect coverage and health insurance premiums.

The rushed process contributed to the bill’s demise.

Mr. McCain, who killed the last repeal effort in July with a dramatic middle-of-the-night vote, faulted Republicans for trying to pass sweeping health care legislation without the participation of Democrats or extensive public deliberations.

Mr. Paul had previously said he would oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill because it did not go far enough in repealing the health law. On Monday, he continued to denounce it as a “fake repeal.”

Mr. Paul presented himself as open to compromise, voicing support for a narrower measure. But he rejected the Graham-Cassidy bill’s core concept of providing block grants to the states to use for health care — leaving little room for Republican leaders to win his vote unless they radically altered the legislation.

“I think if you vote for this bill, you put your stamp of approval on a trillion dollars’ worth of Obamacare spending,” he said.

Mr. Paul was not the only conservative with reservations. Mr. Cruz said on Sunday that he had not yet been won over and was seeking changes to the repeal plan, though he said he wanted to ultimately wind up in favor of the bill. An aide to Mr. Cruz said on Monday that he still wanted to see changes.

Before Ms. Collins’s announcement on Monday, Mr. Trump expressed frustration that Republicans had talked for years about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act but failed to deliver now that a Republican was in the White House.

On the “Rick & Bubba Show,” a radio program, Mr. Trump singled out Mr. McCain, calling his vote in July “a tremendous slap in the face of the Republican Party.” And the president seemed resigned to defeat in the latest attempt at repeal.

“We’re going to lose two or three votes,” he said, “and that’s the end of that.”

At Least 6 White House Advisers Used Private Email Accounts

WASHINGTON — At least six of President Trump’s closest advisers occasionally used private email addresses to discuss White House matters, current and former officials said on Monday.

The disclosures came a day after news surfaced that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, used a private email account to send or receive about 100 work-related emails during the administration’s first seven months. But Mr. Kushner was not alone. Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, also occasionally used private email addresses. Other advisers, including Gary D. Cohn and Stephen Miller, sent or received at least a few emails on personal accounts, officials said.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, who is married to Mr. Kushner, used a private account when she acted as an unpaid adviser in the first months of the administration, Newsweek reported Monday. Administration officials acknowledged that she also occasionally did so when she formally became a White House adviser. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with reporters.

Officials are supposed to use government emails for their official duties so their conversations are available to the public and those conducting oversight. But it is not illegal for White House officials to use private email accounts as long as they forward work-related messages to their work accounts so they can be preserved.

During the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Trump repeatedly harped on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private account as secretary of state, making it a centerpiece of his campaign and using it to paint her as untrustworthy. “We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office,” Mr. Trump said last year. His campaign rallies often boiled over with chants of “Lock her up!”

The F.B.I. closed its investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information and recommended no charges. But even after becoming president, Mr. Trump has prodded the Justice Department to reinvestigate.

While the private email accounts spurred accusations of hypocrisy from Democrats, there are differences. Mrs. Clinton stored classified information on a private server, and she exclusively used a private account for her government work, sending or receiving tens of thousands of emails. The content and frequency of the Trump advisers’ emails remain unknown, but Trump administration officials described the use of personal accounts as sporadic. The emails have not been made public.

“All White House personnel have been instructed to use official email to conduct all government related work,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Monday in response to questions about the emails. “They are further instructed that if they receive work-related communication on personal accounts, they should be forwarded to official email accounts.”

The acknowledgment of private email use came as the White House is responding to a wide-ranging Justice Department request for documents and emails as part of the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling. The use of private emails has the potential to complicate that effort, but the White House said it was confident in its process.

“I am dealing with honorable professionals and getting what I need,” said Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer leading the response to the investigation. “I am doing all I can to ensure the special counsel receives the materials they request.”

It is not clear why even sporadic use continued after a campaign in which email habits became a source of controversy. A former administration official noted, though, that in many cases, people received emails to their personal accounts. In some instances, officials used their private accounts to talk with reporters.

Most of Mr. Trump’s aides used popular commercial email services like Gmail. Mr. Kushner created a domain,, in December to host his family’s personal email. That domain was hosted by GoDaddy on a server in Arizona, records show.

Mr. Priebus and Mr. Bannon did not respond to messages seeking comment. A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted he almost never used his private email for work purposes. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a question for comment about the current officials.

James Norton, a former senior homeland security official during the George W. Bush administration, said private accounts pose security risks — a criticism often raised against Mrs. Clinton.

“These private email accounts become targets of phishing attacks or other types of ways of collecting information,” he said. “It’s an issue not only for the person who owns that account, but the person who is receiving the emails. It is introducing risk into the system.”

Richard W. Painter, a chief White House ethics lawyer under Mr. Bush who is now the vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, said that there is often a “gray area” over what is considered official business. But, he said, “If it has anything to do with the president’s policy, including defending the president’s policy to the press, it’s very difficult to escape that being official.”

“I think Kushner was sloppy to do this,” he said. “I think Hillary was sloppy. I don’t think any of it was criminal.”

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is leading the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and whether anyone around Mr. Trump was involved. Mr. Mueller’s team has the power to subpoena a company to turn over customer emails.

White House officials hope it does not come to that. They have been hurrying to provide Mr. Mueller with the documents he has asked for. Mr. Cobb has described it as “full cooperation mode.” He has reminded White House aides to search their private accounts for records to give to Mr. Mueller.

The White House views such cooperation as its best chance to escape the glare of a special counsel investigation that also touches on Mr. Trump’s actions as president.

The private email accounts immediately triggered questions in Congress. Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, who was among those who most vociferously criticized Mrs. Clinton’s email use, sent a letter to the White House and federal agencies asking about the Trump administration’s personal email use.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked the White House to make sure that none of Mr. Kushner’s emails are deleted.

“Before requesting copies or calling for the public release of all official emails you sent or received on your personal email account,” Mr. Cummings wrote, “I first request that you preserve all official records and copies of records in your custody or control and that you provide the information requested below.”

“Your actions in response to the preservation request and the information you provide in response to this letter will help determine the next steps in this investigation,” he added.

Mr. Cummings noted that Trump administration officials had previously said that senior White House officials did not use multiple email accounts. And he reminded the White House about the grilling that Mrs. Clinton received from congressional Republicans over her email practices.

Both political parties have fought for years over the use of private email accounts. Long before Mrs. Clinton’s emails were a campaign issue, Democrats criticized members of the George W. Bush administration for the practice.

Senate Republicans Pull Their Last Obamacare Repeal Bill Before the Vote

Thus ends the latest chapter in a seven-year-long health care drama.

Graham told reporters that the GOP conference will return to Graham-Cassidy “with a process that gives more attention and time,” directly addressing concerns from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and others about the rushed process. Other GOP senators seemed optimistic that they could seal the deal on a seven-year-long campaign promise.

“The decision was a joint one between Lindsey and Bill and the other two sponsors and also the leader that if the votes are not there, not to have the vote, but not to give up,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). “We’re going to try to do this in some form in this session of Congress.”

The latest GOP effort suffered a major setback on Monday when Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced her opposition, joining fellow opponents Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and McCain.

As recently as that evening, however, Graham was pushing for the Senate to hold a vote on his bill. But McConnell ended up determining that it wasn’t worth the bad optics to hold a vote that would fail, as he did back in July when McCain dealt the death blow to separate repeal-and-replace legislation.

McConnell’s decision likely did not come as a surprise to his GOP colleagues, many of whom were pessimistic about the likelihood of a vote passing or even being held.

“Everybody knows that’s going to fail,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told The Daily Beast on Monday. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who was likely to vote for the bill despite expressing concerns last week, bemoaned the process by it had been written and considered. “I don’t even know what the bill looks like anymore,” he said. “I don’t even know what the bill says anymore. I have no idea what it says.”

The effort to pass Graham-Cassidy had been rushed in an attempt to secure a vote before the Senate’s budget reconciliation rules—a process by which Republicans could pass a health care bill with just 50 votes—expire on September 30. After that date, any legislation would need 60 votes.

Republicans will now look to pass another set of budget reconciliation rules to be able to consider health care reform again through a simple majority vote. But those rules won’t likely be written for another year or more.

In the meantime, McConnell’s decision to pull a vote on Graham-Cassidy is likely to produce fierce backlash from Trump-aligned conservatives who are frustrated with his leadership. Many blame McConnell—not Trump—for the fact that the president does not yet have a major legislative achievement under his belt. Though Trump himself had talked up the bill and encouraged its passage, a senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the president is “well prepared” to go after McConnell for the failure.

Republican senators and McConnell allies have forcefully pushed back on that narrative, and Graham praised McConnell for his efforts on Tuesday.

“To the leader, thank you. It’s complicated. It’s difficult politics. Instead of quitting, you allowed us to move forward, and oh my God how far we’ve come in such a short time,” Graham said, also applauding Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. “To anybody out there who thinks that Mitch McConnell has not done all he could, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

This article has been updated with new reporting.

Price’s private-jet travels included visits with colleagues, lunch with son

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took a government-funded private jet in August to get to St. Simons Island, an exclusive Georgia resort where he and his wife own land, a day and a half before he addressed a group of local doctors at a medical conference that he and his wife have long attended.

The St. Simons Island trip was one of two taxpayer-funded flights on private jets in which Price traveled to places where he owns property, and paired official visits with meetings with longtime colleagues and family members. On June 6, HHS chartered a jet to fly Price to Nashville, Tennessee, where he owns a condominium and where his son resides. Price toured a medicine dispensary and spoke to a local health summit organized by a longtime friend. He also had lunch with his son, an HHS official confirmed.

An HHS official said both the Georgia and Tennessee trips were for official government business and were paid for by the department.

Richard Painter, who served as the top ethics official for President George W. Bush, said Price’s trips may have been legal but were ethically dubious.

“To use a charter flight on something that combines personal and government business, I think it’s highly unprofessional and really inappropriate,” Painter said — especially if personal business represented a disproportionate part of the trip.

HHS has long maintained that Price, whose use of chartered aircraft is under investigation by the HHS inspector general, has not violated Federal Travel Regulations, which state that officials can charter a plane only if “no scheduled commercial airline service is reasonably available (i.e., able to meet your departure and/or arrival requirements within a 24-hour period, unless you demonstrate that extraordinary circumstances require a shorter period) to fulfill your agency’s travel requirement.”

Like some of the other 26 flights that Price took on corporate jets since May identified by a POLITICO review, the trip to Tennessee appears to have occurred despite the existence of multiple commercial flight options. The trip to Georgia, while less direct, also could have been accomplished with a routine connecting flight through Atlanta’s busy international airport.

On Aug. 4, Price flew a Dassault Falcon 2000 twin jet from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he had given a speech to a flu vaccine manufacturer, to Brunswick Golden Isles Airport, which is about a half-hour drive from St. Simons Island. It was the same plane that had shuttled him between five states in four days, one that HHS had chartered through Classic Air Charter for more than $86,000, according to federal contracts.

The plane arrived in Brunswick at 4:02 p.m. the afternoon before the start of the two-day Medical Association of Georgia retreat and roughly 40 hours before Price addressed the group, according to airport records and people familiar with the event. At about the same time, there were connecting commercial flights from Raleigh to Brunswick via Atlanta that would have gotten Price to St. Simons Island that evening.

Painter questioned why Price needed to travel on Friday afternoon to St. Simons Island when his speech wasn’t until Sunday.

“One night is appropriate for a speech in Georgia, not two nights,” Painter said, given that Price was traveling around the East Coast.

The Nashville trip offered even more commercial options. On June 6, Price took a Learjet 55 — a $17,760 round-trip flight, according to a federal contract — that departed from Washington Dulles International Airport at 9:12 a.m. ET and touched down in Nashville at 9:44 a.m. CT.

Two commercial flights that morning followed similar itineraries. An American Airlines plane departed Reagan National Airport at 9:05 a.m. ET and landed in Nashville at 9:39 a.m. CT. A Southwest Airlines flight left Baltimore-Washington International at 9:18 a.m. ET and arrived in Nashville at 9:54 a.m. CT.

Commercial airline tickets with government discounts would have cost between $102 and $333 per person one way between the two cities, according to the U.S. General Services Administration.

The afternoon event was the first-ever Healthy Tennessee Summit organized by Dr. Manny Sethi, an orthopedic surgeon and prominent local Republican who’s met with President Donald Trump and was featured as an “Obamacare victim” in a White House video posted in June.

Sethi, who says he hasn’t given money to Price, has nonetheless donated $15,000 to the Tennessee Republican Party since May 2016; the party’s Twitter feed hailed Sethi last year as “one of our closest friends.” Sethi also said that Price has been a mentor for years.

In his remarks, Price reminisced about his longtime fondness for Sethi, and both men referenced Price’s personal ties to the city — chiefly, that his only son went to Vanderbilt University and still lives in the city. Price also owns a condominium in Nashville valued at more than $150,000, according to county records.

Price’s agenda in Nashville, which was planned just days in advance and came as Senate Republicans were trying to pass a bill repealing major parts of Obamacare, was also lightly scheduled, say individuals with knowledge of Price’s travels. Price spent less than 90 minutes combined between his two scheduled events — about an hour touring the Dispensary of Hope medication dispensary in the morning, and about 20 minutes giving his speech at the Healthy Tennessee Summit in the afternoon.

The trip was so last-minute that Price wasn’t part of the summit’s formal meeting agenda; attendees were given a handout with the secretary’s biography. Reporters weren’t informed when Price would be speaking until less than an hour before he arrived at the summit. The meeting website still lists an outdated agenda.

McCain Urges Congress to Waive Shipping Restrictions to Puerto Rico

A day after the Trump administration denied the request, Sen. John McCain on Tuesday urged Congress to waive shipping restrictions in order to quickly bring fuel and other vital supplies to Puerto Rico, which is in ruins following Hurricane Maria, New York Daily News reported.

In his letter to lawmakers, McCain says he is “concerned” by the decision not to waive the restrictions and emergency waivers like this one are “valuable to speed up recovery efforts in the impacted regions” which is facing “a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria.”

“It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster,” the senator wrote. “Now, more than ever, it is time to realize the devastating effect of this policy and implement a full repeal of this archaic and burdensome Act.”

The restrictions placed on shipping are due to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act. Under the law, shipments between U.S. ports can be carried out only by vessels built and operated by Americans. The government has occasionally waived these restrictions in emergencies, as it did during the recovery efforts following Hurricanes Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida earlier this month.

The temporary waivers allow the U.S. to use cheaper, tax-free, and more readily-available foreign vessels to quickly deliver food, fuel and supplies, Reuters reported.

U.S. denies request for Puerto Rico shipping waiver


On Monday, Rep. Nydia Velázquez and seven other representatives asked Elaine Duke, head of Homeland Security, to waive the Jones Act for a year to help Puerto Rico recover. Gregory Moore, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said in a statement there was “sufficient capacity” of U.S. vessels to ship goods to Puerto Rico, according to Reuters.

However, the waiver request was denied by the Department of Homeland Security, which said an exemption would not help because the ports in the U.S. territory are too badly damaged.

In response, McCain wrote to Congress, pleading it to waive the restriction, according to New York Daily News.

The senator has been working to reform and repeal the nearly 100-year-old Jones Act for several years and first introduced legislation to repeal it in 2010. Supporters of the act says it promotes American jobs and keeps shipping routes reliable.

US won’t waive shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico relief


Tags: John McCain, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, world news, Puerto Rico, hurricanes, Congress, foreign aid

Tags: John McCainCustoms and Border ProtectionDepartment of Homeland Securityworld news,Puerto RicohurricanesCongressforeign aid

Trump’s tax plan could actually benefit wealthy people like him

President Donald Trump has revealed some details about a sweeping tax reform plan. The president says he wants tax cuts for everyday working people, not the rich. USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Trump is making one thing clear about his plan to cut taxes: It won’t be a windfall for the richest Americans, including him.

“It’s not good for me, believe me,” Trump said in a speech unveiling the tax reform blueprint on Wednesday.

“We’re targeting relief to working families,” Trump said in Indianapolis. “We will make sure benefits are focused on the middle class, the working men and women, not the highest-income earners.”

A lot would have to change before that’s true.

Trump’s initial plan – backed by Republican leadership on Capitol Hill  – would eliminate the individual Alternative Minimum Tax and estate taxes. It would also tax so-called “pass through” businesses at 25%.

Both of these changes could greatly benefit Trump and his family’s business empire.

What’s more, Trump wants to eliminate the estate tax, which is levied on the distribution of property as it passes from deceased persons to their heirs. This could save the Trump family as much as $1.4 billion, assuming a Forbes estimatethat Trump is worth $3.5 billion. Currently, Trump’s children would inherit $2.1 billion, assuming the top 40% estate tax rate.

Finally, Trump’s plan collapses individual income brackets to three, lowering the top rate from 39.6% to 35%, which critics say would be a significant increase for the wealthiest Americans.

The White House pointed to language in the GOP framework that would allow the bill’s negotiators to add a surcharge on high-income households to ensure it is “at least as progressive” as the current code. It also vows to eliminate “itemized deductions that primarily benefit the wealthiest families.” Yet it doesn’t identify those loopholes, other than a state and local deduction that is also used by many middle-class families living in coastal and blue states.

It’s impossible to determine exactly how much Trump would personally benefit since, unlike every U.S. president since Richard Nixon, he has never released his tax returns.

Trump is making clear he intends to succeed on taxes where his effort to repeal Obamacare failed – by working with Democrats.

His plan is likely to undergo significant changes in Congress if Trump wants to win their approval. For instance, he may be pressed to drop his bid to end the estate tax. Yet eliminating the estate tax has been a longtime goal of the GOP, which argues that it stifles family-owned businesses, including in the farming industry.

As he rolled out the plan in a Wednesday speech, Trump was joined by Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, one of the most endangered Democrats sitting for reelection in 2018. Trump is courting moderate Democrats such as Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who’ve yet to indicate what it will take to get their votes.

However, according to a Democrat familiar with their thinking, these lawmakers are unlikely to support the plan unless it brings in about the same amount of revenue from upper-income earners as the current tax code.

Progressive Democrats are already seizing the moment to renew their calls for the release of his tax returns.


Meanwhile, Trump is touting several provisions that will help lower income earners.

For instance, he said the first $12,000 in personal income for individuals and $24,000 for married couples would pay no taxes. Trump would also expand the child care tax credit and create a new $500 caregiver credit.

It’s possible that, as the plan comes together, some of the substantial benefits the wealthy stand to gain will be offset by closing loopholes they currently benefit from.

Yet, until Republicans outline which loopholes are ending, the blueprint released this week promises substantial benefit for wealthier taxpayers.

The estate tax is charged only on estates worth about $5.5 million or more. It was created in part to reduce the ability of a small number of families to amass huge wealth over time. Supporters of its elimination say it can force family-owned businesses to be broken up and sold to pay taxes, affecting workers’ jobs.

Yet according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, only roughly 50 small business and small farm estates nationwide will face any estate tax in 2017, owing on average less than 6% of their value in tax. The provision also brings in significant revenue to the federal Treasury.

It’s a similar story with the Alternative Minimum Tax. A small minority, 3% of all taxpayers, had to pay the AMT, according to IRS data of the 2014 tax year reviewed by Forbes magazine. Doing away with it would be costly, as it brought in over $28 billion in revenue the same year.

The precursor to the AMT was created in 1969 in response to outrage over a small minority of wealthy taxpayers earning over $200,000 a year who paid nothing in federal income taxes by maximizing preferences and special write-offs.

Finally, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “pass through” income is highly concentrated among the wealthiest Americans.

Contributing: Herb Jackson

Phil Mickelson takes the most presidential selfie in history

It’s not often that Phil Mickelson is the fourth-most famous person in a photo, but Thursday’s selfie at the start of the Presidents Cup certainly qualifies.

The Presidents Cup brings together the best players in the United States and the non-Europe rest of the world for a little friendly showdown on the links, and for the first time, three former presidents showed up to watch the proceedings at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all hung around the first tee watching the players tee off, but it Mickelson who had both the imagination and the security clearance to get close enough for the selfie.

Mickelson’s brother Tim posted the results:

Pretty serious star power in that photo. After the first players teed off, Clinton even took a few minutes to play golf analyst, breaking down the first hole at Liberty National:

President Donald Trump is expected to attend the tournament on Sunday, marking the first time a sitting president has attended the event. We’ll see if Mickelson will try to get the quartet together.

POWERFUL LETTER To Cowardly Steelers Coach Will Make You Want To Stand Up and Cheer: “You’ve taken something that unites Americans of every color, creed, and religion and managed to divide them”

An anonymous blogger who goes by the name of “Lovely” wrote a scathing letter to Mike Tomlin, the Pittsburgh Steeler’s head coach who criticized the former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva who now plays for the Steelers, for daring to stand alone for our national anthem while the rest of the team hid in a tunnel. Her letter is so powerful, we had to share it. We think you’ll agree, that she speaks for the majority of Americans in this amazing and spot-on letter. Enjoy…

Dear Mike Tomlin, James Harrison, Ben Roethlisberger and any other Steeler who feels a need to criticize Bronze Star recipient Alejandro Villanueva for honoring the flag that his brothers came home under, you can all go to hell.

On Sunday your team had 3 options, stand and support America, sit/kneel and disrespect America or 3 take the coward’s way out and abstain, vote present, hide in the tunnel because you were too afraid to be seen as pro-American or Anti-American. What a vile low candy-ass choice you made.

“I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team,” Tomlin told reporters.

Your team does not come before America.

Why should anyone be forced to act in a way that is against their moral code? The poor boys’ millionaire club could not all agree on whether or not to disrespect America so you hid. We Americans understand. Trust me.

Let the kneelers kneel, the sitters sit, the Patriots stand, own your beliefs. Own your side. Everyone with a working knowledge of contract law knows that the players disrespecting America could have been fined in accordance with their contract.

Remember Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf? He was fined $30,000 after disrespecting the flag and choosing to sit on his butt during the anthem. Once he was fined he worked out a compromise and stood, he recited Islamic prayers under his breath but he did not disgrace his team by disrespecting the American flag, the anthem, America herself.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf covers his face during the national anthem.

The administrative branch of the NFL is tax exempt. I hope that exemption is revoked. The entire league is subsidized with billions of taxpayers dollars, for what, so you can spit in the faces of the people who support you? No more.

You have backed the wrong horse. Sometimes not choosing a side is choosing through omission.

You’ve taken something that unites Americans of every color, creed, and religion and managed to divide them through your cowardliness and fear of offending the “wrong ” people. Fine them or fire them this is behavior that is covered in their contracts “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the National Football League.”

Honoring 9/11 is detrimental, wearing pink in your hair to honor breast cancer survivors and casualties is detrimental, twerking is detrimental but dishonoring the American flag is not detrimental to the integrity of the NFL. Hypocrites. You lousy lowlife mamby-pamby, money-grubbing, cowardly, politically correct, assholes can all go to hell.

Your decision to hide in the tunnel is disgusting and cowardly. Your decision to criticize Alejandro Villanueva a war veteran, a man who fought for your freedom, a man who saved lives, a man who was willing to lay his life down for you, a bronze heart recipient is beyond words.

Mike Tomlin, James Harrison, Ben Roethlisberger and any Steeler who has the audacity to criticize or question Alejandro Villanueva standing for the National Anthem, choosing country over his team, you are what is wrong with America. As a team, you boys get a ball from one of a field to another side of the field and celebrate. As a man, Villanueva rescued wounded soldiers while under enemy fire and you cowardly clowns are hiding in a tunnel because you couldn’t decide whether or not to stand or sit for the American flag have the misguided intrepidity to criticize Villanueva’s dedication to America?

I hope my fellow Americans pray with me for a holy curse on your team, that you not win a single game for the rest of the season. I hope that you lose your tax exempt status, I hope you rethink your disgusting words and actions.

May the souls of the faithfully departed brothers and sisters who came home under the American flag haunt your every moment.

State Passes Law To Severely Punish Protestors Who Purposely Block Traffic. Do You Support New Law?

For several years now, America has been divided on the issue of race. While the Black Lives Matter camp wants police to change the way they deal with the public, the Blue Live Matter group believes that the police are doing the best they can. Neither side seems willing to listen to the other and reconcile their differences.But the Black Lives Matter group continues to take things too far. While they protest every small action and take up signs and banners at every opportunity they can, they recently did something in Minnesota that the government is pushing back against.And now that the Minnesota House made it clear they won’t tolerate this type of protest from the Black Lives Matter camp, the house hopes it strikes them where it hurts – their wallets.On Monday,

Minnesota’s house voted to stiffen financial penalties for the civil rights protestors who block traffic on the highway and other major roads. Because they’re stopping the flow of traffic and prevent people from getting to their jobs, the government is stepping in to squelch the protest.The new punishment was put forth before the representatives as part of a public safety package. The new law makes blocking a highway a “gross misdemeanor” and will be punishable by up to a $3,000 fine or a year in jail, maximum. Let’s see if the protestors continue to block traffic after this action.Although the state’s Democratic lawmakers and members of the resistance tried to block the vote, they miserably failed. It passed in a landslide 56-75.

One of the men who spearheaded the bill, GOP representative Tony Cornish supports the Blue Live Matter group. In his official legislative photo, you can see him sporting a lapel pin with a pair of handcuffs as a shout out to the brave men and women who protect and serve their communities.Because Tony Cornish believes that local tax dollars should not be spent to break up groups of protestors. He claims that the government is losing money protecting itself and the citizens from the increasingly militant Black Lives Matter protestors.“Cities and counties are forced to waste their tax dollars not only to protect property and remove and transport these lawbreakers, but to clean up the damage they create,” Cornish said.Minnesota is not the only state suffering from increasing amounts of Black Lives Matter rallies. The numbers of these protestors keeps growing and has spiked since Donald Trump took office. Police officers in large southern cities like Miami, Austin, and Atlanta have had to deal with similar blockades. They’ve shut down major highways because protestors refuse to get out of the way.Not only do these protestors make it inconvenient for the public to commute to work or get to important meetings, they also block emergency vehicles. This could lead to the death of someone in dire need of rescuing.Minnesota did the right thing standing up against this barbaric practice of protesting.Do you think more states should try to shut down these protests?Please SHARE YOUR OPINION in the comments below now!

Should students be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning?

The Pledge of Allegiance has been a nationally recognized symbol of loyalty to country for American citizens since 1942. While the text has undergone many iterations, it continues to represent American patriotism and pride. Many have questioned the requirement of school aged children to “pledge their allegiance” to a national symbol of the flag; citing that the wording used in the text of “under

God” is in direct opposition to the First Amendment, which establishes the separation of church and state. Others feel that the requirement for children to recite the Pledge in schools encourages unity, respect and patriotism for the men and women who died fighting for our freedoms.