It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Tax Cuts...


It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Tax Cuts...

December 18, 2017

Republicans won't be able to erase this summer's debacle with Obamacare, but what happens this week could go a long way to making it up with voters. After a year of trying, GOP leaders are about 48 hours away from finally accomplishing something big for the American people: the largest overhaul of the U.S. tax code since Ronald Reagan.

Of course, most conservatives are more than little more skeptical. And after August's last-minute stunner, who can blame them? Watching Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) kill the Obamacare repeal in the final moments taught voters that being close and being successful are two different things. Still, Friday's announcement that the Republicans' only true holdout, outgoing Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), had switched his vote to "yes" gives Americans slightly more comfort that this debate is different. "After many conversations over the past several days with individuals from both sides of the aisle across Tennessee and around the country," Corker said, "I have decided to support the tax reform package we will vote on next week." Even with McCain ill and doubtful for Wednesday's vote, Corker's support should give Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the slim margin he needs to push the bill out the door and on to Donald Trump's desk.

On Friday, Americans got a much-awaited peek at what that bill will be. With the House and Senate passing starkly different plans, it was up to the parties' conferees to carefully fuse the two pieces of legislation without losing the fragile coalition of Republicans they need to pass it. So far, it seems they've succeeded. Although the language isn't perfect -- there are still concerns about how the standard deduction will affect charitable giving and frustration over the IRS's ongoing attacks against the free speech of religious leaders -- it does make serious progress on a number of values issues.

The final text kept the Senate's more generous child tax credit -- giving parents a $2,000 break for children under 17. And, in a nod to Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) who led the fight, Congress made the credit refundable up to $1,400. Republicans also managed to wipe out the marriage penalty for five of the seven tax brackets, losing the battle, unfortunately, on the upper-income earners. The adoption tax credit is back in the plan, after early fears that it would be scrapped. Although the Senate's rules cost pro-lifers the chance to let pregnant parents invest in their children's education savings accounts, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) salvaged something good out of the 529 savings accounts when he made homeschoolers eligible for the plan.

And while Republicans couldn't deliver a fatal blow to Obamacare this year, they are taking a big bite out of the law by rolling back the individual mandate. Although it doesn't kick in until 2019, Senate leaders decided this was the perfect time to attack the IRS's punishment for Americans who refuse to buy insurance. In doing so, Hatch argued, "We not only ease the financial burdens already associated with the mandate, but also generate additional revenue to provide more tax relief to [middle-class] individuals." The benefits are two-fold: taxpayers aren't fined for making a personal decision about health care, and the Senate has more money to offset other tax reforms.

Although the proposal will never get a fair shake from the media (let alone an accurate one!), some of the bill's biggest skeptics are starting to come around. Experts who had panned the plan from the beginning now say, "If you formed your impression of the tax bill when it was first introduced in the House in November, you should know it's changed a lot on its way to becoming the likely final version that Congress is expected to vote on this week... [And] most of the changes" Business Insider reports, "have been positive." The only opinion that should matter, though, is voters'. And Republicans will be happy to know that their base is not only on board with the reforms, but in a more forgiving mood about the party's performance. A new Quinnipiac survey shows that 66 percent of GOP voters support the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And, on top of that, more Republican voters approve than disapprove of the Republicans' handling of Congress for the first time since summer.

The next few days are critical. Let's hope the GOP has the finishing power to prove the president right: "This is going to be one of the great gifts to the middle-income people of this country that they've ever gotten for Christmas."


Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


Under Trump, Term About Is Fair Play

December 18, 2017

For once, it's not what the Trump administration is saying that's raising the media's eyebrows -- it's what they aren't saying. Heading into the weekend, the Washington Post sparked an interesting debate over the power of words when it reported that officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were asked to avoid certain terms in their budget requests.

The Post treated the news as if it were an unusual -- and even troubling -- development. Among the taboos, reporters write worriedly, are words like "diversity," "transgender," "entitlement," "fetus," "evidence-based," and "science-based." As usual, the liberal media ginned up plenty of outrage over the changes, despite the fact that this is a standard practice of every administration. President Obama understood better than anyone that if you control the language, you control the debate. In fact, we've watched the far Left use this strategy for years on everything from religious liberty to life. "Abortion" became a "choice." "Liberals" are "progressives." And suddenly, it's not "same-sex marriage" but "marriage equality."

Framing the debate has always been one of the biggest turf wars in politics. Obama chose his rhetoric carefully, enlisting the politically-correct media to help. And ironically, no one batted an eye. When he changed terms and rules unilaterally, there was no uproar in the mainstream press. They simply accepted it as the administration's prerogative. Now, with a conservative in the White House, it's suddenly news that Republicans would want the agencies to use the conservative lexicon. In this case, swapping out words like "fetus" for "unborn child" more accurately reflects the president's ideology and agenda. Tone and lingo change with every administration. Why it's a headline now is anyone's guess.

Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesman Matt Lloyd called the "controversy" a "complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process." Ultimately, the CDC is doing with language what President Trump has done with policy: bringing the country back to reality. The media wants to act like the swinging pendulum of the Obama years only sways one way. But that's not how democracy works. This is the return to normalcy Americans voted for -- a change in how we view the world that's in line with most people's core values. If the Left doesn't like it, it's up to them to persuade the country otherwise!


Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


A Blue Star Mom Christmas

December 18, 2017

Since World War II, there's been a common sight in windows and doors across America: a single blue star and two red stripes. For 75 years, parents with sons and daughters in the military have hung this flag as a powerful symbol of what's at stake. The Blue Star Mothers, as they've been called since 1942, have been a significant network of support for other families with children in uniform and wounded veterans in need.

Last Friday, my wife, Lawana, and I had a fresh appreciation for what these parents go through when we watched our oldest son take the oath of enlistment, marking the sixth generation of our family to serve the United States military. Months before we knew that would happen, I was invited to speak at a chapter of the Louisiana Blue Star Moms during their annual Wreaths across America day at the Baton Rouge Cemetery. It was a meaningful event -- made even more impactful by what had just happened in my own family the day before.

As we laid wreaths on the graves of fallen heroes, it struck me that it would be difficult to find a more appropriate time of year to recognize and honor those who serve. Christmas is about Jesus coming to earth, not to be served, as the Gospel of Mark tells us, "but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

This concept of service and sacrifice, which is counter to human nature, is foundational to Western Civilization. It's gained not by lectures, but by living examples. Jesus, that baby in a manger that we celebrate at this time of year, changed the world by serving others and sacrificing Himself for our sins.

As I told the crowd on Saturday, "Those of you who are gathered here today with sons and daughters selflessly serving our nation are no doubt living examples as well as you have either directed or inspired your children to serve. Thank you for being such an example. When I see the young men and women who continue to volunteer to serve America, despite the political division and cultural chaos that surrounds us, I am hopeful about our nation's future."

Join us as we remember in prayer this holiday season the thousands of families celebrating Christmas with empty chairs at the dining room table, waiting for their brave loved ones to come home. We owe all of them our deepest gratitude.


Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.



Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


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