December 12, 2017

Puerto Rican officials lobby Congress against ‘devastating’ GOP tax measure

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Puerto Rico is still drowning from Hurricane Maria but it’s already facing its next crisis — a U.S. tax reform bill that island officials fear will devastate the economy.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marín will make a final plea on Wednesday to Republican officials, asking them to exempt the U.S. territory from a 20 percent excise tax on goods that American companies import from their overseas subsidiaries.

The measure in the GOP tax bill is designed to stop American companies from avoiding taxes by shifting profits overseas. But it would also apply to Puerto Rico because the island is treated as both a foreign and domestic entity under the U.S. tax code.

It’s a hit that Puerto Rico’s elected officials say the island’s economy cannot take.

“If the U.S. Congress ignores our situation and gives us this mortal blow to our economy, the immediate and direct effect will be Puerto Ricans boarding airplanes,” Rivera Marín told the Miami Herald.

Puerto Rico already was struggling through a deep recession before hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in September. The island’s unemployment rate hovered around 10 percent and the country was $72 billion in debt. Since the storms, thousands of Puerto Ricans have lost their jobs as businesses remain without power and unable to reopen.

Rivera Marín warned that the tax could wipe out the island’s manufacturing sector and a third of the government’s tax revenue, sending thousands more families fleeing to Florida and New York.

Read more here. Photo by @dsantiagophoto

December 01, 2017

Rubio fails in push to increase child tax credit with higher corporate taxes

Marco Rubio 3


Sen. Marco Rubio has been pushing an expanded child tax credit for weeks, but an effort to make the credit fully refundable by slightly raising a proposed cut on corporate taxes failed late Friday night on the Senate floor. 

Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee's amendment to raise corporate taxes by .94 percent to 20.94 percent went down on a 29-71 vote on Friday after Democrats decided not to support an amendment that would have made the bill slightly more palatable to them. 

Rubio and Lee could have held up the tax bill by insisting on the amendment's passage in exchange for their support, but chose not to. Both senators are expected to vote in favor of the final bill. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has said he will vote against the bill because it does not do enough to help the deficit, but every other Republican Senator has indicated that they will likely support the bill. Three Republican no votes combined with united Democratic opposition would stop the bill. 

"Today, the Senate missed an opportunity to help working families by strengthening the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit," said First Five Years Fund executive director Kris Perry. "Millions of American households rely on this credit each year, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers worked hard to extend it to more low-income families who would benefit most from receiving it." 

The Senate is expected to vote on their tax bill Saturday, just hours after the text of the bill was revealed. The House and Senate will then attempt to work out their differences in conference before sending a final bill to President Donald Trump's desk, if it passes Congress. 

November 30, 2017

Rubio isn't bound to increasing corporate taxes to raise the child tax credit

Marco Rubio 3


Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday that he's open to alternative ways to pay for an increased child tax credit, after his amendment with Sen. Mike Lee to raise corporate taxes to pay for the expanded credit was opposed by President Donald Trump and a slew of conservative interest groups. 

"I'm trying to pass it, and I'm open to how we pay for it," Rubio said. "Cutting corporate taxes by 13 instead of 15 (percent) is one way to do it, but if there's a better way we're open to it. But ultimately, we're trying to allow working families, welders, plumbers, firefighters, members of the armed forces, to keep a little bit more of the money that they earn by working." 

Other senators like Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins have also voiced support for an expanded child tax credit that is fully refundable for low-income families, though there are other ways to pay for it like reducing other tax deductions and raising the proposed corporate tax cut by one percent instead of two percent. 

Conservatives like Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said that the current 20 percent corporate tax rate in the House and Senate tax plans is non-negotiable. 

"We continue to strongly support the unified framework and the 20 percent corporate tax rate that the White House has said they would oppose raising," a letter by Koch-backed Freedom Partners to Senators on Thursday said. "The proposed Rubio-Lee amendment would deviate from that framework by increasing the corporate tax rate beyond 20 percent, undermining the full economic benefits that families would otherwise see. We believe this is the wrong approach." 

The Senate is expected to vote on a slew of amendments, including Rubio and Lee's, late into the evening on Thursday before they vote on a tax overhaul. The Senate and House, which passed its tax bill before Thanksgiving, would then conference together to hammer out a final proposal that would go to Trump's desk if it passes Congress. 

Democrats prod Miami Republican up for OAS ambassador over immigration bill

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A 2015 bill that would have made it a felony for an undocumented immigrant who was previously deported, or facing a deportation order, to be in Florida, was a point of contention for Democrats during state Rep. Carlos Trujillo’s Senate confirmation hearing to be U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States on Thursday.

Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., challenged Trujillo’s bill during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing chaired by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Trujillo ally.

“In 2015 you authored what I would consider to be a draconian bill in the Florida legislature that would have made not complying with a deportation order a felony punishable up to 30 years in prison,” Menendez said. “Give me a sense of what you meant by that bill because when you deal with the ambassadors to these countries they’re going to know this and...some of these countries, Mexico, Guatemala and others in Central America are good partners with us at the OAS. So this is going to be a bit of a challenge and I want to hear what your intent was and how you’re going to deal with that.”

Trujillo told Menendez he would have done things differently.

“I would not have supported that bill on the floor the way it was drafted,” Trujillo said. “It was poorly drafted, it never captured my original intent. My original intent for that bill was to codify federal statue for legal reentry post-deportation, post all of due process being exhausted.”

Trujillo, a Republican and vocal supporter of President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, was announced as the White House’s appointment for OAS ambassador in October, just two months after Trump named him one of four U.S. representatives to the United Nations General Assembly. That job made Trujillo one of U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s four deputies.

As OAS ambassador, the Cuban-American Trujillo would become a leading voice on U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela, countries of key importance to South Florida immigrants and to Rubio, a Trujillo friend and go-to adviser to Trump on Latin America. Trujillo is bilingual and a married father of four.

Read more here.

November 29, 2017

Marco Rubio bucks Donald Trump, proposes higher corporate tax rate (updated)

Marco Rubio



Sens. Marco Rubio and Mike Lee are adamant that any tax overhaul bill must benefit working families and corporations alike, and they're willing to support a smaller cut to corporate taxes in order to pay for an increased child tax credit.

President Donald Trump doesn’t like the idea.

Rubio, R-Fla., and Lee, R-Utah, announced Wednesday that they want to increase the federal corporate income tax rate to 22 percent from the 20 percent proposed in the Senate’s tax overhaul bill. The corporate tax increase would pay for a child tax credit that reduces some families’ tax bill for every child they have under the age of 17.

“We have a chance to do better by working families in this tax bill,” Rubio and Lee said in a statement. “Right now, 70 percent of the tax cuts we’re considering would go to businesses, and only 30 percent to individuals. This amendment would level the playing field for families, while still kick-starting national investment and growth. By increasing access to the Child Tax Credit, we can increase working family fairness and deliver overdue relief to America’s greatest investor class: our moms and dads.”

Rubio and Lee have repeatedly said that Republicans will pay at the ballot box if it is perceived that their tax plan doesn't do enough to help working families. The pair did get the child tax credit increased to $2,000, which is higher than the current ceiling of $1,000, but they are arguing that more must be done.

Rubio and Lee’s plan would also make the $2,000 tax credit fully refundable, meaning that if a low-income family’s tax credit exceeds their total amount owed in taxes, they would be eligible for a tax refund. The tax credit would also be tied to the rate of inflation, which means the tax credit will increase if inflation increases. 

“I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class,” Rubio said in October. “But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here.”

President Donald Trump called the proposed 20 percent corporate tax rate a “perfect number” earlier this year, though at one point he wanted an even bigger cut to 15 percent. A White House official confirmed to the Miami Herald that Trump opposes Rubio’s plan.

“We do support the child tax credit. We also think it’s important to make businesses more competitive. We would not support raising the corporate rate as outlined in that amendment,” said White House spokesman Raj Shah.

Read more here.

November 28, 2017

Bill Nelson to Republicans on tax plan: try again


via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson and Democrats are hopeful that Republican divisions over the tax package will result in failed vote later this week and insist they are ready to work on a do-over.

“If this attempt can be defeated, then the flowers of bipartisanship will start to spring up,” Nelson said during a news conference Tuesday in which more than a dozen Democrats denounced the current legislation.

“Why not test us?” said Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, suggesting a revamped bill could get plenty of Democratic support.

Nelson, in an interview, blasted the corporate tax cuts in the bill. “Why give a huge, multinational corporate tax cut, which in essence swells the defict $1.4 trillion and the same time gives little relief, if any, to the middle class?”

Some tax cuts aimed at the middle class expire after a number of years – “widow dressing,” in Nelson’s terms. He also cited a CBO report showing that over a decade, people making $75,000 or less would see a tax increaes.

Nelson said another unfairness is small businesses would pay a higher rate than the 20 percent for corporations.

“Nothing about it is fair,” Nelson said.

Asked about the child tax credit increase fellow Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is pushing, Nelson replied, “That’s just nibbling around the edges.” The current proposal calls for doubling the current credit to $2,000 but is not fully refundandable, which Rubio himself objects to.

Nelson did manage to get something in the bill, with an assist from Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who co-sponsored the amendment Citrus growers would get a deduction for new trees replacing those savaged by greening disease.

But it’s a blip — $30 million over a decade — in the overall package.


November 27, 2017

Bill Nelson for governor? Nah


via @learyreports

In announcing he would not run for governor as a Democrat, John Morgan said Sen. Bill Nelson should.

But that's not going to happen.

"Nelson is running for reelection," a spokesman flatly told the Tampa Bay Times.

Florida's only statewide elected Democrat, Nelson, 75, is seeking a fourth Senate term in 2018. He faces a likely challenge from Gov. Rick Scott, who cannot run for reelection in 2018.

Morgan, however, suggested Nelson would be "happier" as governor and is the Democrats' best chance. "In the Senate he accomplishes nothing," he told Politico. "As governor, he could have a legacy."Currently, Nelson is the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee and second on Armed Services.

November 15, 2017

Rubio sees ‘progress’ on Senate tax bill

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via @learyreports @alextdaugherty

Senate Republicans unveiled changes to their tax overhaul plan on Tuesday, and one of the changes is a $2,000 child tax credit championed by Sen. Marco Rubio.

The $2,000 tax credit is the minimum amount that the Florida Republican said was necessary to help working families in a tax proposal and he previously indicated he would vote against any plan that did not meet the $2,000 minimum.

"We are making progress," Rubio said Wednesday on Twitter.

The initial Senate plan increased the child tax credit to $1,650 from the current $1,000 maximum, $50 more than the House proposal released two weeks ago. Democrats say the credit should be even higher and Rubio at one point talked up $2,500. 

Rubio held numerous meetings with Ivanka Trump and Utah Sen. Mike Lee to discuss a higher child tax credit. 

"I’m not going to vote for an increase on the middle class," Rubio said in October. "But we’re not going to get to that point. We’re not that crazy around here."

Democrats are not expected to vote in favor of the GOP tax bill, especially after Republicans included a provision to repeal Obamacare's individual mandate on Tuesday. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is frustrated that Democrats were not included in any preliminary discussions on a tax bill. 

November 13, 2017

Bill Nelson calls out Republicans by name for refusing to work with him on taxes



Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson loves to talk about his bipartisan work in Washington and close relationship with Republican colleagues like Florida counterpart Marco Rubio

But Democrats weren't part of drafting the Senate's plan to rewrite the nation's tax code, and Nelson is personally appealing to his Republican colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to find common ground. The bill is set for a committee markup on Monday afternoon, though Republicans can push the bill through with a simple majority. 

"We are completely rewriting our tax code," Nelson said, according to remarks prepared for delivery. "Yet, we haven’t had any hearings on the bill. Or any time to seriously debate the slew of policy changes that will affect people’s everyday lives." 

Then Nelson calls out several Republicans on the Finance Committee by name, referencing work he's done with them in the past. 

"Mr. Chairman (Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch), how many times have we come together to find common ground and get something good done for the American people? Just last year, we passed the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act out of committee with a bipartisan vote of 26 to 0. It started with you and the Ranking Member hashing out differences to find a workable middle. Why can’t we do that again?"

"Senator (Chuck) Grassley, we worked together on the ACE Kids Act, which would create a national network of children’s hospitals and other providers to better serve kids needing specialized care."

"Senator (John) Cornyn, we’ve worked together to increase accountability at the VA, to honor helicopter air ambulance crews that served in Vietnam, and to help citrus growers struggling to deal with a plant disease known as citrus greening."

"Senator (John) Thune, you and I have partnered on so many issues in the Commerce Committee it’s hard to keep count. If anyone wants a good example of how we should be conducting ourselves, just look to how Senator Thune and I work together in the Commerce Committee."

"You all get the picture. I could go all the way down the line citing examples of times when each of us crossed the partisan divide to do the people’s work. It doesn’t happen as much as I’d like. But it is possible," Nelson said. 

Nelson also offered nine amendments to the tax bill, including lower tax rates for people making less than $170,000 a year, reinstating personal exemptions and providing funding for citrus trees struck by disease in Florida. His amendments are likely to fail in the GOP-controlled committee. 

"All I’m asking is to give bipartisanship a chance," Nelson said.

The House is expected to vote on its tax overhaul, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this week. If the Senate passes its version, the two chambers will deliberate in conference to come up with a final bill. 

November 09, 2017

Marco Rubio says Roy Moore should be disqualified from the Senate if allegations are true



Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Roy Moore should disqualify himself from running for an Alabama Senate seat if an on-the-record account by a woman who said that Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14 is true. 

The Washington Post reported that Moore had multiple relationships with underage women decades ago, including a relationship with a 14-year-old that began when the young girl's mother let Moore look after her outside a courthouse. 

"Today’s report in The Washington Post raises allegations against Mr. Moore that are deeply disturbing and, if true, disqualifying," Rubio said in a statement.

Moore, a fiery Republican former judge who has said that LGBT individuals are unfit to serve in Congress, is the Republican nominee for attorney general Jeff Sessions' former seat after winning a fierce GOP primary earlier this year. The election between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones is just over a month away, meaning Moore's name will still appear on the ballot even if the Alabama GOP revokes the party's endorsement. 

Rubio never endorsed Moore after he won the Republican nomination, in contrast to some of his Senate Republican colleagues. His campaign had no plans to speak or raise money on Moore's behalf.

Disavowing Moore could lessen the GOP's advantage in the Senate, which currently stands at 52 Republicans and 48 senators who caucus with Democrats. 

Many Republican senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, called on Moore to step aside if the allegations are true. 

Sen. John McCain did not include a qualification about proving truthfulness in his statement. 

"The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying," McCain said. "He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of." 

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he could not comment on the sexual assault allegations against Moore because he hadn't read the story yet.