Quick Takes: Do-Over in the House

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* Earlier this afternoon, the House passed that horrendous Republican tax bill 227 to 203. All but 12 Republicans voted for the bill. Zero Democrats supported it. But oops, they’re going to have to do a do-over.

The Senate parliamentarian advised Tuesday that three provisions in the Republican tax bill violate the Byrd rule, including a provision allowing for the use of 529 savings accounts for home-schooling expenses, the short title: “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” and part of the criteria used to determine whether the endowments of private universities are subject to the legislation’s new excise tax. These provisions may be struck from the conference report absent 60 votes.

As I write this, the Senate is debating the bill and plans a vote tonight. The House will have to vote again tomorrow.

* Michael Tomaksy writes that “Trump Is America’s First Lawless President.”

Our republic—our system of laws—is under assault in a way I’ve never seen and I don’t think has ever happened. Richard Nixon was a lawbreaker. He was not utterly and thoroughgoingly lawless. There’s a difference. Donald Trump is a lawless president. It’s obvious to anyone who’s watching and isn’t in a state of contemptible denial that he feels constrained by no law. He cares nothing about the Constitution and he’ll lie about anything to anyone at anytime.

* Renato Mariotti, the Democratic candidate for Illinois Attorney General, writes that Trump hasn’t fired Mueller because he’s better off not doing it.

Firing Mueller would not end the investigations that the former FBI director leads. Although we often speak about the “Mueller investigation,” inside the Justice Department that term probably refers to several different but related investigations. Some of those, such as the investigations of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, began before Mueller was appointed. Others, such as the inquiry into obstruction of justice, began later.

Those investigations would go on even if Mueller leaves…Trump’s legal team is probably aware of all of this and has probably considered exactly what would happen if Mueller was removed…All that means is that ultimately, keeping Mueller around but continuing to attack him and the FBI is probably Trump’s best strategy.

* Erik Wemple deconstructs the hypocrisy of Tucker Carlson.

Roundabout 10 months ago, Fox News host Tucker Carlson was quite the crusader for privacy rights. Particularly Michael Flynn’s privacy rights. “The most basic civil liberty of all is, as you often say, is privacy,” said Carlson on his eponymous show in February, as he argued with a congressman. “And you need that. So, if you do not have any privacy from the U.S. government spying on you, like, things fall apart.”

The backdrop for Carlson’s outrage was the firing of Flynn, who served a brief tenure as President Trump’s national security adviser…

Surely the guy who stood up for the privacy rights of a highly visible national security adviser would do the same for unheralded FBI types. A look at the Fox News host’s statements, however, shows a great privacy gap: Whereas Flynn’s communications were sacred, those of Strzok and Page, well, those weren’t quite as dear…

Deplore leaks when they embarrass your ideological brethren; embrace leaks when they embarrass your ideological adversaries. That’s what is happening at Fox News.

* I was struck by this passage in Trump’s speech yesterday about his national security strategy that had Stephen Miller written all over it.

We are reasserting these fundamental truths.

A nation without borders is not a nation.
A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad.
A nation that is not prepared to win a war is a nation not capable of preventing a war.
A nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future.
And a nation that is not certain of its values cannot summon the will to defend them.

* Trump didn’t go any further to outline the values we need to be certain about. But Sally Yates, the woman he fired as acting attorney general, did so in an op-ed titled, “Who are we as a country? Time to decide.”

Despite our differences, we as Americans have long held a shared vision of what our country means and what values we expect our leaders to embrace. Today, our continued commitment to these unifying principles is needed more than ever.

What are the values that unite us? You don’t have to look much further than the Preamble to our Constitution, just 52 words, to find them:

“We the people of the United States” (we are a democratic republic, not a dictatorship) “in order to form a more perfect union” (we are a work in progress dedicated to a noble pursuit) “establish justice” (we revere justice as the cornerstone of our democracy) “insure domestic tranquility” (we prize unity and peace, not divisiveness and discord), “provide for the common defense” (we should never give any foreign adversary reason to question our solidarity) “promote the general welfare” (we care about one another; compassion and decency matter) “and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (we have a responsibility to protect not just our own generation, but future ones as well)…

We are not living in ordinary times, and it is not enough for us to admire our nation’s core values from afar. Our country’s history is littered with individuals and factions who have tried to exploit our imperfections, but it is more powerfully marked by those whose vigilance toward a more perfect union has prevailed.

So stand up. Speak out. Our country needs all of us to raise our collective voices in support of our democratic ideals and institutions. That is what we stand for. That is who we are. And with a shared commitment to our founding principles, that is who we will remain.

* The final tally is complete in Virginia.

After a recount conducted Tuesday, Democrat Shelly Simonds had 11,608 votes to Republican incumbent David Yancey’s 11,607 votes in Virginia’s 94th House District. Simonds’ apparent victory — which will head to a judicial panel on Wednesday for certification — means Democrats and Republicans will have an even 50-50 split in the House of Delegates and will have to share power when the legislature starts its next term in January.

* Finally, as you probably know, we are in the final stages of our holiday fundraising drive here at the Washington Monthly. We simply ask that you join with us to give whatever you can—$10, $20, $30, $50, $100, $1000—knowing that for the next two weeks your contribution will be matched, dollar for dollar, thanks to a generous challenge grant we’ve received from three respected foundations. Your contributions to the Washington Monthly are vital, tax-deductible, and much appreciated.

As a thank you, here’s one of my favorite songs of the season.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.