Overnight Finance: Senate votes to begin debate on tax bill | Trump opens GOP eyes on reform | Republicans could punt funding fight to January | Yellen says national debt 'should keep people awake at night'

Overnight Finance: Senate votes to begin debate on tax bill | Trump opens GOP eyes on reform | Republicans could punt funding fight to January | Yellen says national debt 'should keep people awake at night'
© Greg Nash

Senate GOP votes to begin debate on tax bill: The Senate voted to begin debate on its tax cut bill Wednesday, edging Republicans closer to their first major legislative victory under President Trump as they seek to finish the chamber's work on the measure by the end of the week.

Senators voted 52-48 to take up the House-passed legislation, which is being used as a vehicle for the Senate bill.

No Republicans voted against proceeding to debate, a huge accomplishment for GOP leaders who struggled earlier this year to corral their members around legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Collins 'appalled' by Trump tweet about Kavanaugh accuser Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE (Maine), Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesMontana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone Congress passes bill to require Senate campaign filings to be made electronically Congress just failed our nation’s veterans when it comes to medical marijuana MORE (Mont.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley panel scraps Kavanaugh hearing, warns committee will vote without deal Coulter mocks Kavanaugh accuser: She'll only testify 'from a ski lift' Poll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it MORE (Ariz.) all said they would agree to start debate before it began, despite various worries about the legislation.

In another sign of GOP momentum, Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski says she’ll wait until Ford testifies before making decision on Kavanaugh Alaska gov, lieutenant gov come out against Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh MORE's office told MSNBC that the Alaska Republican would be a "yes" on the tax plan.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins MORE (R-Ky.) urged senators to vote to start debate, promising they'd have time to amend the bill on the floor.

"I encourage any member who thinks that we need to fix the problems of our outdated tax code to vote to proceed to the legislation," he said in a floor speech.

The vote to begin debate starts the clock on 20 hours of additional debate on the tax legislation before a free-wheeling "vote-a-rama."

During that process, any senator can demand a vote on any amendment, with hundreds of potential changes typically being filed.

http://bit.ly/2Agr7AA

 

How the votes shifted Wednesday: Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said Wednesday that he would vote to start debate on the Senate tax plan after negotiating a deal with GOP leadership. Daines and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills MORE (R-Wis.) threatened to oppose the tax bill as they tried to get more parity between corporations and pass-through businesses.

Pass-through businesses, such as partnerships and sole proprietorships, have their incomes taxed through the individual system on their owner's returns. Many small businesses are pass-throughs. http://bit.ly/2BxnAvV

 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a key vote for Senate Republicans in their pursuit of tax reform, also said she would vote for the tax legislation on final passage, according to a reporter with MSNBC. 

Murkowski earlier this month came out in support of repealing ObamaCare's individual mandate as part of the tax-reform bill, despite previously voting against repeal-and-replace bills this year. http://bit.ly/2BxYJrW

 

And Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Wednesday she has received a commitment from Senate GOP leadership to include ObamaCare funding in a must-pass bill.

Collins said she got a promise from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that the deal crafted by Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: HHS diverts funds to pay for detaining migrant children | Health officials defend transfers | Lawmakers consider easing drug company costs in opioids deal Trump health official defends funding shifts to pay for detained migrant children Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh MORE (D-Wash.) to help stabilize ObamaCare insurance markets would be included in legislation this year. http://bit.ly/2k7WxmH

 

For the latest on where GOP senators stand, check out The Hill's Whip List: http://bit.ly/2BwTuZF

 

Trump touts tax bill ahead of vote: President Trump on Wednesday rallied the public on tax cuts ahead of a key Senate vote.

Standing in front of American flags and Christmas trees in Missouri, Trump told the crowd he came to the state "to help push our plan for historic tax cuts right across the finish line."

"The eyes of the world now turn to the United States Senate," he said.

"This week's vote can be the beginning of the next great chapter for the American worker," Trump said.

Trump also took the chance to target Missouri's Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskill'Kavanaugh' chants erupt at Trump rally in Missouri The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Drug companies will love Trump's plan to get rid of drug rebates — the consumers will hate it MORE, telling the crowd that she "is doing you a tremendous disservice."

McCaskill voted against the tax bill in the Senate Finance Committee, along with the panel's other Democrats.

The president on multiple occasions has touted a leading Republican challenger to McCaskill, Josh Hawley. He said he would campaign with Hawley in the future.

"He's going to be a great senator," Trump said. http://bit.ly/2zQFooV

 

More on Trump's role in tax debate... Trump opens GOP eyes on reform: Senate Republicans think President Trump is playing a constructive role in the tax debate and are optimistic about their chances of winning a big legislative victory.

Trump flexed his muscle as an advocate on Capitol Hill Tuesday when he took on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) during a private meeting after Johnson threatened the day before to vote against the tax bill.

"He told him to stop blocking it and to work out his concerns with the rest of the conference. He told him he would have a chance to offer amendments and he should stop being an impediment," said a Senate GOP source familiar with the meeting.
"He went at him twice by name," the source added.

Trump also addressed deficit concerns raised by Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters MORE (R-Tenn.) and James LankfordJames Paul LankfordConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Outdated global postal system hurts US manufacturers Tech mobilizes to boost election security MORE (R-Okla.), warning them that lawmakers needed to be careful not to hurt future growth by setting up a backstop measure that would raise taxes in case the bill's growth projections fell short. Here's more from The Hill's Alexander Bolton: http://bit.ly/2Bvktom.

 

Trump repeats claim he won't benefit from tax bill: President Trump on Wednesday repeated his claim that the GOP's efforts to overhaul the nation's tax code will not benefit him personally, saying that his finances would actually take a hit under the proposal.

"It's going to cost me a fortune, this thing. Believe me," he said at a tax-reform speech in Missouri. "This is not good for me. Me, it's not so -- I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that's okay.

"You know, I keep hearing [Sen. Charles] Schumer [saying] 'this is for the wealthy.' Well, if it is, my friends don't know about it," Trump said, referring to the Democratic leader from New York.

Some analyses and media reports have suggested that Trump and his family do, in fact, stand to benefit from the tax legislation Republicans are moving through Congress. http://bit.ly/2jwcZJy

 

Happy Wednesday and welcome back to Overnight Finance. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. See something I missed? Let me know at slane@thehill.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.

 

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GOP could punt funding fight to January: Chatter among Republicans grew louder Wednesday that Congress may punt its government-funding fight into January rather than tackle a massive, trillion-dollar omnibus package right before the holidays.

With lawmakers scrambling to avert a government shutdown on Dec. 8, GOP leadership has been weighing the length of a continuing resolution or CR to keep the government's lights on while they hash out a broader fiscal 2018 spending deal.

The lawmakers in charge of writing the spending bills prefer a one- to two-week CR, which they think will give them their best shot at finishing their 2018 omnibus package before Christmas.

But there is a growing consensus on Capitol Hill that there's just not enough time left to do it. There are just 11 legislative days left in 2017 and Republicans have a long to-do list, including passing a major tax overhaul.

"We need a CR. The question is, how long? If we don't get the top-line agreement soon, inevitably it will push this beyond Christmas, which I'm not happy about," Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentGOP House candidate placed on leave from longtime position after sexual misconduct allegation Election handicapper moves GOP leader's race to 'toss-up' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Pa.), a senior appropriator and chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, told reporters Wednesday. "Nobody likes doing a CR, but the alternative is a shutdown.

"If the alternative is a shutdown," Dent added, "Then, yes, of course I'll support a CR into January."

Dent said he had been optimistic earlier this week that GOP and Democratic leaders would be able to soon reach a budget deal on top-line spending numbers, which Appropriation Committee "cardinals" like himself need to begin crafting spending bills.

But Dent now fears that Trump's tweet declaring "I don't see a deal!" with Democrats could push fiscal 2018 spending talks well past the holidays.

http://bit.ly/2io4W4S

 

Yellen: National debt 'should keep people awake at night' The fact that U.S. debt is about to soar past $20 trillion "is the type of thing that should keep people awake at night," outgoing Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen said Wednesday in testimony to Congress.

"This should be a very significant concern," Yellen told the Joint Economic Committee.

She said expenditures on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will grow more rapidly than tax revenues as the U.S. population ages.

Yellen said the U.S economy was strong beyond the ballooning national debt, with the country near full employment and the financial system steadied by Dodd-Frank. She added that the Fed would likely raise interest rates soon to bring monetary policy back toward historic levels: http://bit.ly/2BxS4hu.

 

Back to taxes... Lawmakers, conservative groups don't want 'trigger' in tax bill: Some GOP senators and outside conservative groups are raising concerns about the potential inclusion of a "trigger" in the Senate tax bill if the measure fails to meet economic growth projections.

GOP deficit hawks in the Senate have been pushing for a backstop that would scale back tax cuts if they add more to the deficit than Republicans expect. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Tuesday that he has reached an agreement with leadership to include a trigger in the bill, though he did not provide any details about the provision.

But others are wary of automatic tax increases.

"Right now, my feeling about it is that I'd rather drink weed killer than vote for the thing," Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) told reporters, though he added that he's willing to keep an open mind.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (R-Ky.) also said he'd prefer a trigger not be included.

"I'm not very excited about having any automatic raises in taxes," he said. "I think if your economy is slowing down, that's a terrible time to raise taxes."

But Paul, who came out in support of the current version of the bill on Monday, added that the inclusion of a backstop probably wouldn't ultimately cost him his vote on the overall measure: http://bit.ly/2BA3ZeK.

 

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on Wednesday also said he could back the tax bill if a backstop is included in case revenues fall short. More from The Hill's Brett Samuels on his stance here: http://bit.ly/2zzBRa9

 

Cisco, Pfizer, Coca-Cola plan to turn over gains from proposed tax cuts to shareholders: A string of corporate giants have said that they would give back to shareholders any gains they make from corporate tax cuts proposed in the GOP's tax plan, Bloomberg News reported, undercutting Republican claims that the revenues will quickly trickle down to workers.

The comments from company executives -- including those at Cisco Systems Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. -- come after the White House released a paper last month arguing that a corporate tax cut would boost wages.

The chief executive of Amgen Inc. said in an October call that the company is "actively returning capital in the form of growing dividend and buyback."

"And I'd expect us to continue," Robert Bradway said in the call.

These comments were echoed by executives including Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, Pfizer Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Frank D'Amelio and Cisco CFO Kelly Kramer, according to Bloomberg.

Kramer said this month that after the tax cut, the company will "be able to get much more aggressive on the share buyback." http://bit.ly/2BvSeFY.

 

Rubio, Lee to offer child tax credit amendment to Senate bill: Republican Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioNikki Haley: New York Times ‘knew the facts’ about curtains and still released story March For Our Lives founder leaves group, says he regrets trying to 'embarrass' Rubio Rubio unloads on Turkish chef for 'feasting' Venezuela's Maduro: 'I got pissed' MORE (Fla.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeReexamining presidential power over national monuments Utah group complains Mia Love should face criminal penalties for improper fundraising Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (Utah) said Wednesday that they plan to offer an amendment to the Senate tax bill to further expand the child tax credit and pay for doing so by slightly raising the bill's corporate tax rate.

Under the amendment, the child tax credit would become refundable up to the payroll tax liability of 15.3 percent of earnings, allowing more low-income families to be able to take advantage of it.

The amendment would also fix a marriage penalty associated with the credit and index the credit to the same inflation index that other individual tax changes are tied to under the bill: http://bit.ly/2BA6ygS

 

San Juan mayor: GOP tax bill would be worse for Puerto Rico than hurricanes: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Tuesday said the tax legislation Republicans are pushing in Congress will have worse consequences for Puerto Rico than the hurricanes that hit the island earlier this year.

"This would be a much more devastating blow to our economy than Irma and Maria put together," Cruz said on "The Rachel Maddow Show."

Cruz noted that the tax proposal includes a 20 percent excise tax on goods imported from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States. That provision, she said, would destroy the island's economy.

"[Our economy] is crippled already, this would obliterate it," she said.

The San Juan mayor accused President Trump's administration of failing to protect the U.S. territory from the possibility of a humanitarian crisis, while claiming that GOP lawmakers have repeatedly pledged they will fix the language in the bill but have failed to do so: http://bit.ly/2BzKcw7.

 

AARP: 5.2 million seniors could see taxes increased by GOP bill: Millions of senior citizens could see tax increases under the Senate version of the GOP's tax-reform plan, according to an analysis from the AARP.

In an article published Wednesday on the group's website, the AARP's vice president and policy director argue that 1 in 5 seniors, about 6.3 million taxpayers, will see either no change or a tax increase in 2019 under the plan passed by the Senate Budget Committee. Of those individuals, 1.2 million people would get a tax hike.

The authors argue that number will jump "more than four times" by 2027 to 5.2 million seniors "as a result of sunsetting the middle-class tax cuts."

Another issue of concern for older Americans, the AARP says, is the automatic cuts to Medicare and other services under the GOP plan.

"The bottom line is that even today's 65+ as well as those who turn 65 by 2027 who benefit initially may end up paying higher and ever increasing taxes soon thereafter," the authors write: http://bit.ly/2By0llu.

 

Freedom Caucus chair opposes ObamaCare funding pushed by GOP senator: House

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Graham to renew call for second special counsel MORE (R-N.C.) said Wednesday that he opposes ObamaCare funding known as "reinsurance" that was part of a commitment given to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to help gain her vote for tax reform.

"That's a totally different thing because that actually puts more money into a failing system where the money will not actually lower premiums and reduce costs in a substantial way," Meadows told The Hill. "I think that's a bigger problem."

Meadows's objections, and those among House Republicans more broadly, could be an obstacle to the deal that Collins worked out on Tuesday.

Collins said that President Trump had agreed to support the reinsurance funding, as well as another bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), to help assuage her concerns about repealing ObamaCare's individual mandate in the tax bill: http://bit.ly/2Bxf3co.

 

Fed considering digital currency: The Federal Reserve is considering adopting its own digital currency similar to bitcoin, according to the president and CEO of the Fed's New York branch.

William Dudley said during a conference on Wednesday that the Fed is exploring digital currency options, but warned that any implementation would be far off in the future, according to Dow Jones.

It would be "very premature" to speculate when the Fed could make such a decision, Dudley said, adding that he views bitcoin and other similar digital currencies as "more of a speculative activity" than a stable object of value.

Other Fed officials are less sure. CNBC reported that in September, Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Patrick Harker cast doubt on the idea that the U.S. government would ever throw support behind a digital currency: http://bit.ly/2Bx3WQN.

 

Economy grows at fastest pace in three years: The U.S. economy grew at the fastest pace in three years during the third quarter, which is a brisker expansion than initially reported.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that growth hit an annual rate of 3.3 percent in the July through September quarter, up from the first-reported 3 percent.

The economy managed to bear the brunt of two major hurricanes that ripped through Texas and Florida.
"This is a solid performance, especially given that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were drags on growth in the quarter," said Gus Faucher, PNC Financial Services Group's chief economist.

The latest figure reflects the best performance of gross domestic product (GDP) -- a measure of economic output -- since the third quarter of 2014 when growth hit a 5.2 percent annual pace. http://bit.ly/2Bxq1yJ.

 

Write us with tips, suggestions and news: slane@thehill.comvneedham@thehill.comnjagoda@thehill.com and nelis@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane,  @VickofTheHill@NJagoda and @NivElis