By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER and MARCY GORDON
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jubilant Republican lawmakers laid plans to join President Donald Trump at the White House for a victory celebration Wednesday as Congress moved one roll call away from approving the GOP’s paramount priority, the most thorough reshaping of the country’s tax system since the 1980s.
“Workers benefit. Wages go up. More jobs occur,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today,” describing what Republicans say will flow from a $1.5 trillion measure that affects everyone’s taxes but is dominated by breaks for business and higher earners. Democrats call the legislation a boon to the rich that leaves middle-class and working Americans behind.
“If they think this bill is a good political argument for them, let them think that,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters.
The Senate used a post-midnight vote to approve the measure on a party-line 51-48 tally. Protesters interrupted with chants of, “Kill the bill, don’t kill us” and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly called for order. Upon passage, Republicans cheered, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin among them.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisted Americans would respond positively to the tax bill.
“If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” he said.
Trump planned a ceremony with GOP lawmakers Wednesday after final congressional approval.
In an eleventh-hour hiccup Tuesday, the Senate parliamentarian found that three minor provisions violated Senate rules, forcing lawmakers to strip them out.
Republicans had rammed the bill through the House 227-203 on Tuesday with all voting Democrats in opposition. Because of the language the Senate removed, the House had to revisit the measure Wednesday because each chamber must approve identical legislation before it can be signed into law.
Ryan, who has worked years toward the goal of revamping the tax code, gleefully pounded the gavel on Tuesday’s House vote. GOP House members roared and applauded as they passed a package that will touch every American taxpayer and every corner of the U.S. economy, providing steep tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, and more modest help for middle- and low-income families.
Despite Republican talk of spending discipline, the bill is projected to push the huge national debt ever higher.
Ryan said Wednesday the GOP is willing to risk running up deficits with the aim of getting a higher annual economic growth rate.
Trump is aching for a big political victory after 11 months of legislative failures and nonstarters. The president tweeted his congratulations to GOP leaders and to “all great House Republicans who voted in favor of cutting your taxes!”
Congressional Republicans, who faltered badly in trying to dismantle Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, see passage of the tax bill as crucial to proving to Americans they can govern — and imperative for holding onto House and Senate majorities in next year’s midterm elections.
“The proof will be in the paychecks,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said during the Senate’s nighttime debate. “This is real tax relief, and it’s needed.”
Not so, said the top Senate Democrat as the long, late hours led to testy moments Tuesday night.
“We believe you are messing up America,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told Republicans, chiding them for not listening to his remarks.
The GOP has repeatedly argued the bill will spur economic growth as corporations, flush with cash, increase wages and hire more workers. But many voters in surveys see the legislation as a boost to the wealthy, such as Trump and his family, and a minor gain at best for the middle class.
Democrats mocked the Republicans’ contention that the bill will make taxes so simple that millions can file their returns “on a postcard” — an idea repeated often by the president.
“What happened to the postcard? We’re going to have to carry around a billboard for tax simplification,” declared Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.
Tax cuts for corporations would be permanent while the cuts for individuals would expire in 2026 to comply with Senate budget rules. The tax cuts would take effect in January, and workers would start to see changes in the amount of taxes withheld from their paychecks in February.
The bill would slash the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The top tax rate for well-off individuals would be lowered from 39.6 percent to 37 percent.
The legislation repeals an important part of the 2010 health care law — the requirement that all Americans carry health insurance or face a penalty — as the GOP looks to unravel the law it failed to repeal and replace this past summer. It also allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The $1,000-per-child tax credit doubles to $2,000, with up to $1,400 available in IRS refunds for families that owe little or no taxes.
Disgruntled Republican lawmakers from high-tax New York, New Jersey and California receded into the background as the tax train rolled. They oppose a new $10,000 limit on the deduction for state and local taxes.
The bill is projected to add $1.46 trillion to the nation’s debt over a decade. GOP lawmakers say they expect a future Congress to continue the tax cuts so they won’t expire. That would drive up deficits even further.
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Kevin Freking and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter at http://twitter.com/stephenatap
ELECTION FILING CLOSED: MAY 8TH SHERIFF’S PRIMARY A THREE-WAY RACE
Candidate filing in Onslow County closed at 12:00 p.m. today, with no new candidates for the Sheriff’s seat. Potential candidates Robin Knapp and Paul Buchanon did not make a showing at the Board of Elections, leaving the battle to incumbent Hans Miller, former Chief Deputy Boyd Brown, and latecomer Walter J. Scott, the former spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
John Yopp has also washed out. He filed campaign finance paperwork in January and announced his candidacy, but never followed through with the final paperwork. The Yopp campaign never got off the ground and seems to have fizzled just as quickly as it started.
The Libertarian and Democratic parties remain empty.
Incumbent Hans Miller has faced heavy criticism over his leadership, with one source assessing him, “weaker than a packet of Kool-aid in the New River”, and many others calling for his resignation.
He’s been publicly lambasted for sweeping the Will Clifton scandal under the rug and lack of transparency about the nature of Clifton’s departure from the OCSO: claiming it was unrelated to reports of the former School Resource Officer raping a high school student. These same allegations appear to have been under an internal investigation by Miller’s Office at the time of the resignation. Of the same, Miller publicly claimed this amounted to “personal reasons” for the former deputy to tender his resignation. Flip-flopping weeks later he stated that he told the deputy to resign or be fired, but not over the criminal allegations, just what he calls a “difference in values” that had come to his attention.
The court had also intervened with Clifton by issuing multiple protective orders as a result of Clifton’s violence and apparent threats and ordered him to stay away from several minor children, having refused to do so under direction from the Sheriff’s Office during Miller’s internal investigation. This was done at the request of another Onslow Deputy, David Pickett, who was acting as a Guardian Ad Litem for a minor child.
Later it was discovered that a second, much younger victim had come forward, and Clifton faced an additional investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.
More recently, Miller has been under fire for his apparent lack of aggressiveness in seeking charges against Kristy Kay Hunter, mom of slain tot, Mariah woods.Miller has also launched vicious attacks on competitor Boyd Brown, challenging his integrity and repeatedly calling him a thief.
Boyd Brown has increased his activity as of late, with his billboard campaign ads appearing across the county. Some streets in Onslow County are lined end-to-end with his green and yellow campaign signs, without a trace of support for Miller. Despite the attacks on his credibility, Brown has maintained a steady hand and tackled the issues head-on, offering detailed responses to Miller’s mudslinging on his Facebook page. The only one seeming to challenge Brown’s honesty is Miller, but Brown shows no sign of giving way to these dirty campaign tactics or lowering himself to Miller’s level.
A third candidate, Walter J. Scott, launched his campaign Facebook earlier this week, “Elect Walter Scott for Sheriff”, and his website, “electwalterjscott.com”.Scott has taken advantage of the platform to make a multitude of posts. He’s outlined on his page his visions, plans, and goals if elected to the Sheriff’s position, and provided additional details about his background and experience; including his service as a Patrol Commander at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s office and service on the Drug Task Force and Dive Team.
Many people in Onslow County are looking for a change this election cycle, asking for a new Sheriff that stands up for victims instead of “covering the six” of his deputies and spending every waking moment promoting himself.
Time will tell how the candidates fair at the primary, but you’ll hear it right here first, at News In Onslow!
NRA accuses gun-control advocates of exploiting FL shooting
WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of the National Rifle Association on Thursday accused gun control advocates of exploiting the deadly Florida school shooting, striking a defiant tone amid a renewed debate over guns and school safety.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, in his first public comments since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, said NRA members mourn for the Florida victims but at the same time issued a searing indictment of gun control proponents for attempting to “exploit tragedy for political gain.”
“They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom,” LaPierre said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near the nation’s capital.
LaPierre addressed the conservative activists shortly before President Donald Trump held a listening session with state and local leaders on gun safety at the White House.
The president said he had spoken to NRA leaders and expressed optimism that the nation’s most prominent gun-owners organization would support his calls for raising the federal minimum age for buying or possessing certain weapons, enhancing background checks, addressing mental illness and banning the sale of bump stock devices.
NRA leaders did not address whether the federal government should raise the age requirement for young adults to buy weapons. A day earlier, the organization issued a statement saying it opposes raising the age limit.
“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” LaPierre said. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”
LaPierre said Democrats such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut were eagerly blaming the NRA. He also assailed the FBI for failing to follow up on warnings about the school shooter.
“Their solution is to make you, all of you, less free,” LaPierre said of gun control advocates. “They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.”
The longtime face of the NRA was preceded on stage by the group’s spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, a prominent conservative radio host. She accused media outlets of focusing heavily on school shootings involving white and affluent neighborhoods instead of those occurring in inner cities.
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings, you guys love it,” Loesch said. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
Trump says raise age for buying assault rifles, defying NRA
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation should keep assault rifles out of the hands of anyone under 21, President Donald Trump declared Thursday, defying his loyal supporters in the National Rifle Association amid America’s public reckoning over gun violence. He also pushed hard for arming security guards and many teachers in U.S. schools.
“There’s nothing more important than protecting our children,” Trump said, adding that he’d spoken with many members of Congress and NRA officials and insisting they would go along with his plans in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.
But there were no words of support from the NRA for his minimum-age proposal — and outright opposition from organizations of teachers and school security guards for the idea of arming schools to deal with intruders.
“The NRA will back it and so will Congress,” Trump contended as he called for raising the legal age of purchase for “all” guns from 18 to 21. A spokesman later said Trump was speaking specifically about semi-automatic weapons. The president’s proposal came just hours after the NRA affirmed its opposition, calling such a restriction an infringement on gun owners’ rights.
Trump has spent the past two days listening to ideas about how to stem gun violence at schools after last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. On Wednesday, he heard from students and family members of those killed in recent shootings and on Thursday from local and state officials.
In Florida, meanwhile, funerals continued. And a sheriff’s deputy who had been on duty at the school but never went inside to confront the shooter resigned after being suspended without pay.
Trump has been proposing a growing list of ideas, including more stringent background checks for gun buyers, reopening some mental institutions to hold potential killers and banning “bump stock” devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic machine guns.
He said Thursday that many teachers have military experience and suggested they be paid bonuses for the added responsibility of carrying weapons. He also appeared open to other proposals to “harden” schools, such as fortifying walls and limiting entry points.
One idea he didn’t like: the “active shooter” drills that some schools hold. He called that “a very negative thing” and said he wouldn’t want his own son participating.
Spokesman Raj Shah later said Trump was concerned about the name and would prefer calling them safety drills.
In Florida, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he now is open to raising age requirements for long-gun purchases. That was the day after he was confronted at a CNN town hall by Parkland students and parents over his pro-gun votes and support from the NRA.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, another Republican, told reporters during a visit to the Kansas Statehouse that he supported raising age requirements, saying: “Certainly, nobody under 21 should have an AR-15.”
NRA leaders emerged in unannounced appearances at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, blaming the FBI and local reporting failures for the Florida shooting.
“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” said Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”
NRA officials also accused Democrats and media outlets of exploiting the Florida shooting.
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” spokeswoman Dana Loesch said at CPAC. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
She and LaPierre did not mention the age requirement issue in their fiery remarks at CPAC. But Loesch said Wednesday night the NRA opposes the higher minimum age for rifles because, “if we are asking young men and women to go and serve their country (in the military) they should be able to also have a firearm.”
She added, “I’m also thinking of young women” who may need a rifle for self-protection.
The NRA was an early supporter of Trump’s campaign, and it remains unclear how far the president will go to cross them.
Shortly before LaPierre took the stage, Trump offered a rallying cry on Twitter, calling NRA leaders “Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing.”
“I don’t think I’ll be going up against them,” he said of the politically influential group. “I really think the NRA wants to do what’s right.”
In Congress, a bill being drafted by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., would apply more broadly than just to assault rifles such as the AR-15 used in the Florida shootings. It would raise the age requirements for all rifles.
In the end, Trump did not stray too far from conservative Republican orthodoxy. His focus when it comes to background checks is on mental health concerns and not loopholes that permit loose private gun sales on the internet and at gun shows. And he remains opposed to a full ban on assault rifles, Shah said.
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he was skeptical the president would follow though.
“The last time he showed support for sensible gun reform — no fly, no buy — he quickly dropped his support once the NRA opposed it. I hope this time will be different,” Schumer said in a statement, referring to a measure backed by Democrats to prevent people on a terrorism-related “no fly” list from buying guns.
Indeed, it is not clear that the GOP-controlled Congress, which is in recess, will take up or act on a variety of legislative proposals that have been made to address gun violence. Those include measures to expand federal background checks, allow authorities to issue emergency orders to take guns from people identified as a threat to themselves or others, and raise the minimum age for rifle purchases to 21.
The current federal minimum for buying handguns from registered dealers is 21, but the requirement in most places is 18 for rifles, including assault-type weapons such as the AR-15. In some states — mostly rural states with a strong tradition of hunting — young people can buy a rifle at age 14 or 16.
Polls show growing support for gun control measures, including 97-percent backing for universal background checks in a Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday.
But recent mass shootings, including the 2012 mass murder of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, and the killing of 58 people in Las Vegas last fall, have not resulted in significant legislation. In fact, a bill passed by the House in December would make it easier for gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.
Still, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla, said the president has a “unique ability right now to maybe really do something about these school shootings” because, at least in some districts, “nobody is more popular,” including the NRA.