Republicans Buy Corker’s Vote
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Republicans Buy Corker’s Vote

The Reluctant Senator Profits from a Late Add-On to the Tax Bill

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Corker kickback. A tax provision that could personally enrich key Republican lawmakers was added to the final tax bill to try to “cobble together the votes we needed to get this bill passed,” according to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the majority whip.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) switched his vote to “yes” after GOP leaders added the provision which could boost Corker’s real estate income. The provision potentially enriching Corker, Trump and a handful of other top Republican lawmakers was not part of the tax bills passed by the House or Senate but was added by GOP lawmakers to the final bill.

Corker is considered a crucial swing vote. He voted against the initial bill in the Senate and has said he did not know how the provision that allows owners of income-producing real estate to take advantage of a 20% deduction for “pass-through” entities was added to the bill. Corker asked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, how the provision made it into the final version of the bill.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is headed home to Arizona and will miss the tax vote. McCain has a brain tumor and has been undergoing chemotherapy.

The tax bill, if it passes, could usher in a new period of instability in the tax code. The GOP has a 52-48 vote advantage in the Senate.

Insults after injuries. Puerto Rico could be headed for a foreclosure epidemic that could rival what happened in Detroit where abandoned homes became almost as plentiful as occupied ones. About one-third of the island’s 425,000 homeowners are behind on their mortgage payments to banks and Wall Street firms that previously bought up distressed mortgages. Tens of thousands have not made payments for months. About 90,000 borrowers became delinquent because of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico’s 35% foreclosure and delinquency rate is more than double the 14.4% national rate during the depths of the housing implosion in January 2010. A temporary moratorium on foreclosures is scheduled to expire in early 2018.

Infrastructure woes. Hundreds of flights were canceled and thousands of passengers were stranded during one of the busiest travel periods of the year when the power went out at the Atlanta airport, the world’s busiest airport. A fire in an underground tunnel knocked out the main power source and the airport’s backup system. The cause of the fire wasn’t known. The Federal Aviation Administration ordered all flights bound for Atlanta to be held on the ground. International flights bound for the airport were diverted.

Refugees. Nearly 200 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention islands of Nauru and Manus will be resettled in the United States in 2018. Trump’s reinstated travel ban is excluding some nationalities such as Iranians and Somalis. The group will be the second resettled in the U.S. under a 2016 deal.

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December 18, 2017