Balance of Power: Everything at Stake Today in Senate Tax VoteBy
It’s beginning to feel dangerously like deja vu for Republicans in the U.S. Senate.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to scrap plans to vote last night on his party’s tax proposal as Republicans scrambled to avoid a repeat of their failed July bid to repeal Obamacare.
With votes now planned for today, the stakes for President Donald Trump and his party couldn’t be higher.
Defeat this time would deal a blow to Republicans’ prospects in the 2018 midterm elections. Having yet to notch a legislative win of any significance since Trump took office, they’ve been banking on being able to campaign on boosting the U.S. economy through tax cuts.
Trump — who has spent much of the week sowing discord at home and abroad in a barrage of distracting tweets unrelated to the tax debate unfolding on Capitol Hill — is fond of pointing to the robust stock market as evidence of his success and has made the tax cuts his only major domestic-policy initiative.
Now he’s counting on the Senate — where he’s instigated feuds with some of the Republicans whose votes he needs — to deliver.
U.S. ramps up China criticism | The Trump administration accused China of failing to get tough on North Korea’s nuclear program and backsliding on market-oriented reforms. The blunt remarks by Treasury Undersecretary David Malpass at an event and on Bloomberg TV will likely fuel speculation that the world’s two largest economies are heading toward a showdown over trade.
Rexit | Oh, to be a fly on the wall for Trump’s scheduled lunch date today with Rex Tillerson, who the president is considering ousting as secretary of state. As Tillerson heads to Europe next week for meetings, foreign leaders will undoubtedly wonder how long he’ll remain in the job. CIA Director Mike Pompeo is in line to replace Tillerson and likely would bring a more hawkish approach to U.S. diplomacy.
Venezuela’s purge | Authorities arrested the former heads of the Oil Ministry and state-run oil company PDVSA on corruption charges yesterday, bringing to 65 the number of executives in custody. But President Nicolas Maduro’s main target, Ambassador to the UN Rafael Ramirez, remains in New York out of reach. Most detained have links to Ramirez, Maduro’s long-time rival. As Andrew Rosati and Patricia Laya report, the crackdown comes as the president consolidates power before 2018 elections.
Turkey court drama | A U.S. court was told yesterday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally signed off on a plot to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions, the most explosive revelation yet in a trial that has roiled Turkish markets and further strained ties between two key NATO allies. Erdogan has said the sanctions weren’t binding for his country.
North Koreans in troubled waters | Japan is trying to work out what to do with a dozen or so North Koreans who’ve drifted near its shores. A wave of rickety wooden fishing boats heading toward the Japanese coast is among the possible consequences of the sanctions squeeze against North Korea. The economic pressure and the reported sale of fishing rights to China have forced fishermen from the impoverished state to sail farther for their catch.
And finally... Tesla’s futurist chief executive officer, Elon Musk, brought the world’s largest lithium ion battery on line in Australia today, beating a self-imposed install-it-in-100-days-or-it’s-free deadline by more than a month. Musk made the offer after blackouts spurred a nationwide debate about energy security. The battery, linked to a wind farm, has stoked political wrangling over the future of coal, which accounts for more than half of all power generated in the country.
— With assistance by Brendan Scott