Senate Delivers for Its Paymasters
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Senate Delivers for Its Paymasters

Late-Night Budget Vote Paves the Way for Tax Cuts for the Top 1%

Tax cutting. The Senate took a significant step toward rewriting the tax code on Thursday night with the 51-49 vote passing a budget blueprint that would protect a $1.5 trillion tax cut heavily skewed toward the wealthiest Americans. The budget resolution could also pave the way for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration by ensuring that drilling legislation can pass with only Republican votes.

The budget’s passage could keep Republicans on track to approve a tax package late this year or early in 2018. The House plans to take up the budget blueprint as early as next week.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“This is the last, best chance we will have to cut taxes,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Budget Committee, who warned that the consequences would be ruinous if the party failed. “That will be the end of us as a party,” he said, “because if you’re a Republican and you don’t want to simplify the tax code and cut taxes, what good are you to anybody?”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) will need most House Republicans to back the blueprint without changes; in the Senate, Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone Republican to vote against the measure on Thursday, in protest of what he deemed excessive spending.

Abortion blocked. The Trump administration is trying to block a 17-year-old woman in federal custody from having an abortion. The federal appeals court in Washington will hold a hearing on the case Friday. The woman, known in court as Jane Doe, has been held at an immigrant detention center in Texas since she was stopped after crossing the border in September. A medical exam found she was pregnant, and she began seeking an abortion. Minors in Texas who don’t have parental permission must get approval from a judge. A state judge approved the procedure, but federal officials have refused to allow her to leave the detention center to go to a clinic. Justice Department lawyers said the woman could get an abortion by returning to her home country. Attorneys for the ACLU are representing the woman. “We should all be horrified that the federal government is doing everything imaginable to stop a young woman from getting an abortion,” said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “No one should be delayed for weeks in getting the care they need.”

Harvey hazards. The Environmental Protection Agency has decided to permanently remove tons of toxics from a Houston-area Superfund site that flooded in August during Hurricane Harvey. The two companies responsible for the cost of the $115 million cleanup of the San Jacinto waste pits, McGinnes Industrial Maintenance and International Paper, oppose the decision. They want a cheaper option that leaves the contaminated soil in place. Hurricane Harvey punctured a protective cap, leaking dioxin into the San Jacinto River at levels more than 2,333 times higher than the site’s cleanup goal.

Florida shoutdown. Hundreds of protesters marched in opposition to white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida, but his 90-minute appearance was mostly peaceful as police in riot gear watched. Spencer spent the first 35 minutes  or so arguing and trying to talk over the crowd about his right to speak as people chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “Go Home, Spencer.” Spencer’s last major public appearance ended with a deadly riot in August in Charlottesville, Va. Spencer, a Trump supporter, has called for a separate nation for white people. First Amendment protections for free speech at public universities limit officials’ ability to deny Spencer a platform. The university spent about $500,000 for security. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County.

Death in Niger. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has joined the investigation into how a group of militants thought to be Islamists killed four American soldiers in Niger. FBI investigators are helping gather and evaluate evidence about the militants considered responsible for the ambush and how members of the group learned about the joint U.S.-Nigerian patrol. Army Sgt. La David Johnson appeared to have been left behind during an ambush for nearly two days before Nigerien forces found his remains.

October 20, 2017