On The Money: US paid record $7.1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed

On The Money: US paid record $7.1B in tariffs in September | Dems ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones' | Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed
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Happy Wednesday and welcome back to On The Money, where we're weirdly interested in this Supreme Court copyright case involving Blackbeard's ship. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL--US paid record $7.1 billion in tariffs in September:  U.S. consumers and businesses paid a record $7.1 billion in tariffs in September due largely to President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE's trade war with China, according to an analysis of federal data released Wednesday.

  • Roughly $4.1 billion of the $7.1 billion in import taxes paid by Americans in September were levied through tariffs Trump imposed on Chinese goods since 2018. 
  • The total amount in tariffs paid by Americans has increased 59 percent since September 2018 and rose $600 million since August 2019, according to the analysis.
  • The analysis of Commerce and Agriculture Department data was commissioned and released by Tariffs Hurt the Heartland, a coalition of trade groups opposed to Trump's import taxes. 

I break down the report here.


The background: Since March 2018, Trump has imposed tariffs on more than $350 billion in imports from China. Another round of tariffs on close to $200 billion in Chinese goods is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 15, which would subject almost all Chinese imports to additional tariffs.

  • Trump insists that China has effectively paid the cost of U.S. tariffs on its goods through currency devaluation and firms being forced to lower their prices. 
  • While the president argues that the U.S. economy has not been harmed by tariffs, manufacturers and farmers have been slammed with higher costs and lower global demand.


What comes next: Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were expected to sign the so-called phase one trade deal at a now-canceled summit of Pacific nations in Chile later this month.


"Negotiations are continuing and progress is being made on the text of the phase-one agreement," said White House spokesman Judd Deere in a statement to The Hill. "We will let you know when we have an announcement on a signing location."



Judge hints at letting House lawsuit over Trump tax returns proceed

A federal judge on Wednesday signaled that he may let House Democrats' lawsuit over their requests and subpoenas for President Trump's tax returns proceed.

The Trump administration and Trump's personal lawyers filed a motion to dismiss House Democrats' lawsuit in September, arguing that the Democratic-led Ways and Means Committee can't force the federal courts to take a side in the dispute. The committee filed a brief in response, urging the court to reject the administration's motion.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, didn't issue a ruling but gave some of his early thoughts about the parties' briefs and asked questions about their arguments.

  • McFadden said that his "initial inclination" was that he probably does have subject-matter jurisdiction over the case, saying that there's a history of efforts to enforce the House's subpoenas in court.
  • McFadden also asked the House's lawyers to inform him if they would be okay with withdrawing some of their counts if he ruled in favor of letting others move forward.
  • The judge also said he wasn't going to direct the parties in the case to negotiate, but that it would be smart for the parties to think about doing so.

Naomi has more on today's hearing and what's next.


Democrats ramp up oversight of 'opportunity zones': Key congressional Democrats are ramping up their oversight efforts over a program created by President Trump's tax-cut law that was designed to increase investment in low-income communities.

Trump's 2017 law created the "opportunity zone" tax incentive, which provides capital gains tax breaks for those making investments in designated economically distressed areas.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed interest in boosting reporting requirements in order to evaluate the effect of the opportunity-zone provision on low-income communities. And Democrats have also been raising concerns about allegations of political interference into the program. The Hill's Naomi Jagoda tells us how here.

  • Wyden, Neal and two other key Democrats sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week requesting that the office evaluate census tracts designated as opportunity zones, implementation of the provision by the Treasury Department and the IRS, controls the IRS has in place to make sure that investors are in compliance with the opportunity-zone provisions, and Treasury's ability to report on the effectiveness of the program.


Senators urge 'tough economic sanctions' if Turkey violated ceasefire: A bipartisan group of senators is pushing Secretary of State Pompeo on reports of Turkish violations of a ceasefire in northern Syria, urging the administration to respond with "tough economic sanctions."

"On several occasions, President Trump has threatened to 'destroy Turkey's economy' should Turkey violate its obligations," the senators wrote in a letter to Pompeo on Wednesday. "In keeping with this position, we ask that the Administration take swift measures to enforce the October 17 agreement with tough economic sanctions."

The letter was organized by Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development Senate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign MORE (D-Md) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Five things to know about emerging US, Taliban peace deal MORE (R-S.C.) and was co-signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Marsha. Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia MORE (D-N.H.).

The same group sponsored one of the Turkey sanctions bills that have been introduced in the Senate in response to Turkey's offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces.



  • Worker productivity declined last quarter for the first time since 2015 as economic growth slows, according to data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • A record 1,332 CEOs have left their positions through October this year, a survey released Wednesday found.
  • Privacy advocates and lawmakers are raising concerns over Google's $2.1 billion deal to acquire fitness tracking company Fitbit, an ambitious step to expand the tech titan's footprint into wearables and health apps.



  • Airbnb on Wednesday announced several steps it will take to strengthen its verification process and build trust with customers after a shooting at one of its rentals in Orinda, Calif., killed five people.
  • Honolulu officials announced Tuesday that they plan to sue fossil fuel companies from damage to the island due to climate change.