With Conyers almost gone, pressure mounts on Franken

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On the roster: With Conyers almost gone, pressure mounts on Franken – I’ll Tell You What: Don’t boil your beef – Rubio, Lee draw heat for child tax credit boost – Countdown on for T-Rex departure – A burning river of scorn 

WITH CONYERS ALMOST GONE, PRESSURE MOUNTS ON FRANKEN
It is remarkable to note that as Congress wrestles with enormously significant legislative proposals that the biggest story in Washington (or any place else) remains the “reckoning” over workplace sexual harassment. 

Now, we know that part of this is prurient. Talking about sexual conduct, even in a negative context, is always going to be more interesting than corporate tax rates. 

But the other, more significant part of all this is that the direction and work of the government very much depends on how these matters play out and who is the next to fall.

Democrats are currently bowing to reality about Rep. John Conyers D-Mich. Conyers, 88, has been checked into a Detroit hospital, having succumbed to “stress.” Whether the longest-serving House member leaves claiming physical incapacity or ends up acknowledging the severity of the allegations of misconduct against him doesn’t matter. 

With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi going from defending Conyers the “icon” on Sunday to calling for his resignation on today, it’s clear he won’t be able to stick it out for another year. Perhaps the staff that has held power and profited by Conyers position, even well into his dotage, can only convince him to explain his departure by infirmity. But go, he will.

This, of course, makes matter much worse for Minnesota Sen. Al Franken. Almost daily, new accusers continue to step forward claiming that Franken engaged in nearly identical behavior to that which forced his lame apology last week. 

A practical political lesson here about lame apologies: Franken’s mealy-mouthed partial denials and I’m-sorry-you-were-offended quasi-apology obviously incensed other women. They have stepped forward because of his effort to placate the mob rather than in spite of it. 

Franken’s biggest problem, though, is that the political calculus is changing for Democrats.

When Rep. Kathleen Rice D-N.Y., split from a House Democratic Caucus meeting on Wednesday because sexual harassment wasn’t being addressed, she declared, “I don’t have time for meetings that aren’t real.”  Her frustration mirrors that of many female Democrats who wonder why their party, having tried so vigorously to profit from the accusations against then-candidate Donald Trump are now so cautious about dealing with the issue in their own ranks.

It’s going to be close to impossible for Democrats to hold up the bipartisan legislation Rice is co-sponsoring that would pull back the veil on all prior settlements made with staffers who claimed harassment or abuse. Having used such charges as a political weapon before, Democrats can hardly tell women that continued suppression is politically necessary. 

Jonah Goldberg helped explain this phenomenon in a piece this week about how this cultural moment got rolling. Democrats were only too happy to be avenging angels about claims of misconduct by individuals on the right, but now are facing the painful consequences as the universality of human frailty continues to be revealed. 

Franken won’t last in the Senate not just because we keep reading about his alleged misconduct, but because Democratic women are coming to demand more than just opportunism when it comes to these issues. Even if Franken does somehow hold on, a posture which will rely entirely on the continued forbearance of Minnesota Democrats, he will be hard pressed not to do as Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton and declare that he won’t seek re-election.

What Republicans better hope, though, is that Democrats don’t clean house just in time for the GOP to seat a new senator from Alabama accused of conduct that makes Franken’s alleged misdeeds look mild. It would be tough for individual Democrats if the party keeps moving toward greater accountability, but it would be brutal for Republicans overall if they get Roy Moore just as Democrats get religion on men in power abusing women.

THE RULEBOOK: #TBT 
“It has until lately been a received and uncontradicted opinion that the prosperity of the people of America depended on their continuing firmly united, and the wishes, prayers, and efforts of our best and wisest citizens have been constantly directed to that object.” – John JayFederalist No. 2

TIME OUT: CHEATING THE SYSTEM  
Smithsonian: “Researchers at Washington State University have examined how occupant behavior in high-efficiency buildings affects energy use, asking open-ended questions in an effort to discover unanticipated behaviors. Professor Julia Day and her team conducted surveys and interviews with occupants of more than a dozen high-efficiency buildings, including homes and offices. The answers revealed a number of behaviors designers did not anticipate. ‘What I find most surprising in these studies is that oftentimes it seems that the end-user needs were either neglected, ignored or just not really understood in the first place within the design process,’ says Day… One of the buildings Day studied was a remote weather station… Unhappiness with motion sensor lights was a common grievance. In one office, an occupant covered the sensors with paper because the constant on-off was causing headaches. … Discomfort with temperature was another theme. … So occupants found ways to trick the thermostat.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -17.6 points
Change from one week ago: Unchanged 

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: DON’T BOIL YOUR BEEF 
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt ask, “Do we really have to talk about politics?” The duo discuss tax reform, the North Korean missile launch and the latest sexual harassment allegations. Plus, Dana talks about her upcoming taco party and Chris takes on this week’s trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

RUBIO, LEE DRAW HEAT FOR CHILD TAX CREDIT BOOST
Tampa Bay Times: “Sen. Marco Rubio’s move yesterday to increase the child tax credit by giving corporations less of a break has drawn powerful opposition. ‘Florida’s Republican tries to blow up the Senate tax reform,’ read a Wall Street Journal editorial on Wednesday evening, hours after Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee offered their proposal. … Worse, it said Rubio has adopted Chuck Schumer talking points by noting that businesses get 70 percent of the tax cuts under the plan, with individuals getting 30 percent. ‘This is a false choice—individuals earn income at businesses—and apes the left’s class-war politics.’”

Vote-a-rama sets up flurry of amendments – San Jose Mercury News: “With the American taxpayer on the edge of his/her seat right now, the Senate tax bill is headed into the final stretch of this week’s marathon debate over the GOP’s tax-reform legislation and a final vote is expected as early as Friday. Which leaves today wide open for a ton of last-minute fireworks. A so-called ‘vote-a-rama’ is expected later [today] in which various factions in the Republican Party will be horse-trading their brains out as the lawmakers vote on final amendments to the bill.”

McCain to vote for Senate tax bill – Fox News: “Republican Sen. John McCain announced his support Thursday for the Senate tax reform bill, boosting the chances for passage of the sweeping legislation as it faces a likely final vote within hours. ‘After careful thought and consideration, I have decided to support the Senate tax reform bill,’ the Arizona senator said in a statement. ‘I believe this legislation, though far from perfect, would enhance American competitiveness, boost the economy, and provide long-overdue tax relief for middle-class families.’ Republicans only have two votes to spare in the Senate, where they hold a 52-48 edge. Vice President Pence would break a tie, if needed.”

Trump claims he’d suffer under tax plan, but he wouldn’t – WaPo: “With the tax bill passed in the House and pending in the Senate, this is one of those moments. Back in September, [Donald Trump] claimed he would not benefit from the tax plan, twice in offhand remarks with reporters and once in a speech. ‘It’s not good for me,’ he claimed. It seemed so silly that it was not worthy of a full fact check. But now, Trump has doubled down on the claim — saying the tax bill would ‘cost me a fortune, believe me.’ … In any case, it should not be a surprise that someone with Trump’s wealth would benefit from the tax plan. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that more than 70 percent of the taxpayers in the top 0.1 percent would get a tax cut under either the House or Senate versions of the tax plan.”

COUNTDOWN ON FOR T-REX DEPARTURE 
Fox News: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected leave the Trump administration in January, sources tell Fox News, amid discussion of potentially tapping CIA Director Mike Pompeo as a replacement. The discussions come amid reports of growing tension between President Trump and the nation’s top diplomat. Fox News is told the most likely succession plan would involve moving Pompeo to the State Department and nominating Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton to lead the CIA. The New York Times also reported that the White House has developed such a plan. Asked for comment, Cotton’s communications director, Caroline Tabler, told Fox News on Thursday that the senator’s ‘focus is on serving Arkansans in the Senate.’ Another potential, albeit less-likely, scenario would move U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to the State Department, and transition National Security Council official Dina Powell to Haley’s post. ‘We have no comment,’ a CIA spokesperson told Fox News on Thursday, when asked about the discussions.”

Trump hits British PM for criticizing his promotion of fringe U.K. group – Politico: “President Donald Trump struck out at British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday following her condemnation of his retweets of anti-Muslim videos from the leader of far-right British political group. ‘Theresa @thersa_may, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!’ the president wrote after sending a series of tweets related to Wednesday’s successful tax vote. Earlier Wednesday, a spokesperson for May called the president’s actions ‘wrong.’”

Kelly’s battle against the president’s Twitter – Politico: “On Wednesday morning, the failure of [John Kelly’s] attempt at information control was on the fullest display since he accepted the job. … Together, the president’s active morning on Twitter raised new questions about Kelly’s influence — specifically, what impact can the retired four-star Marine general exert when the president is determined to set his own agenda, based on his own sources of information, on a platform his chief refuses to monitor or even acknowledge is driving the news, the legislative process and the country’s standing around the globe, every day. “Believe it or not, I do not follow the tweets,” Kelly told reporters… But when Trump is consumed by information he ferrets out online, the question is how long Kelly can perform his job while maintaining that position.”

Sessions faces House Intel committee in closed-door hearing – 
Bloomberg: “When Attorney General Jeff Sessions meets behind closed doors Thursday with House lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, he should expect some unfriendly fire from fellow Republicans. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee intend to slam Sessions over what they see as his stonewalling of their August subpoenas for information on what prompted the FBI’s Russia meddling investigation in the first place, say officials familiar with the anticipated line of questioning who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the meeting. The tensions prompted President Donald Trump to even suggest in a tweet late Wednesday there could be action taken by the House against the Justice Department and FBI ‘for withholding key documents and an FBI witness which could shed light on surveillance’ of his associates. For their part, the panel’s Democrats have been questioning the credibility of Sessions’s testimony in public hearings on Capitol Hill, and they expect to continue such challenges Tuesday.”

The Judge’s Ruling: And the work continues – Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano examines what remains in Mueller’s investigation: “The tantalizing question remains: What evidence does Flynn have that Mueller wants or can use? Here is where this business of independent counsels — prosecutors not answerable through normal Department of Justice channels — can become dangerous to personal liberty.” More here.

MOORE: BISEXUALS, LESBIANS AND SOCIALISTS BEHIND CLAIMS
The Hill: “Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore appeared to blame members of the LGBT community, liberals and socialists for the sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him. Speaking at Magnolia Springs Baptist Church in Alabama, Moore called the allegations against him ‘false and malicious,’ according to BuzzFeed News. He accused ‘Democrats pushing a liberal agenda’ of trying to destroy his campaign. ‘When I say they, who are ‘they?’’ he asked. ‘They’re liberals. They don’t hold conservative values. They are the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender who want to change our culture. They are socialists who want to change our way of life and put man above God and the government is our God. They’re the Washington establishment … who don’t want to lose their power.’ Multiple women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct. The Washington Post reported earlier this month that a woman claimed Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32.”

Black voter turnout key to Alabama race – Montgomery Advertiser: “Val Goodson stepped to the podium Sunday evening… It was an annual dinner for two predominantly African-American Democratic groups, where Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones would speak later in the evening. The crowd was largely, though not exclusively African-American. … It’s that kind of motivation the Democratic nominee needs in the black community to have any chance of winning on Dec. 12. African-Americans make up roughly a quarter of the population of Alabama, and that’s generally a good baseline to consider black election turnout, said Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster with the Montgomery-based firm of Anzalone Liszt Grove. … David Mowery, a Montgomery-based consultant who has worked on Democratic and Republican campaigns, agreed that a 25 percent African-American turnout was essential for the Democrat.”

McConnell says ethics probe is ‘almost certain’ if Moore’s elected – Fox News: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News Wednesday that an ethics investigation of Roy Moore is ‘almost certain’ if the Republican is elected in next month’s Alabama runoff vote. McConnell, who backed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange against Moore in September’s Republican primary runoff, told ‘The Ingraham Angle’ that the Senate would ‘deal with the aftermath of the decision the people of Alabama make on Dec. 12.’ He declined to indicate whether the Senate would vote to expel Moore, saying only ‘it’ll be up to the [Senate Ethics] committee.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
State of the Union address set for Jan. 30 – Roll Call

Conway to head White House opioid effort
 – The Hill

House votes to expand rights of concealed carry permit holders – ABC News

NRSC poached donor data from House counterparts – Politico

Christie’s bid for legal book making heads to SupCo – AP

Former consumer protection boss Cordray said to be announcing Ohio gov. run soon – Dayton Daily News

Dems close to landing top recruit to challenge Rep. John Katko R-N.Y. – Syracuse.com

AUDIBLE: CARTEL YOU WHAT
 
“I didn’t do any crime or anything evil, but I feel like Pablo Escobar, and slowly it’s getting really annoying.” – Bahtiyar Duysak, the former Twitter employee who deactivated President Trump’s account for 11 minutes earlier this month, speaking to Tech Crunch.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“‘If someone figures out how to harness the dissatisfaction of the 71% of young people let down by the current system, they’ll have a winner.’ Trump figured out how to harness the dissatisfaction of the older generation, especially those who vote and don’t live in NY or CA.  He might repeat it with the young except for the constant hostile anti-Trump drumbeat of the mainstream media which is trying to stop young people from understanding the promising future that will be achieved by draining the swamp of taxation and regulation.” – John Hicks, Madison, N.J.

[Ed. note: A great deal of American politics, Mr. Hicks is about the competing interests between younger and older voters. And you are quite right that 2016 represented a triumph for older voters. Donald Trump trounced Hillary Clinton among voters 45 and older, who made up 56 percent of the electorate. That was up two points as a share of the overall electorate compared to four years earlier. The challenge for any youth movement in American politics, though, is that younger people are less likely to vote than older people and that as voters age, they tend to grow more Republican.]

“Wow!! I didn’t get past the first few sentences of your lead report today before I was blown away.  It was as if you were reading my mind and heart. I have long been advocating for a third political party because the two major parties seem to be in gridlock. They seem spend more time trying to defeat the other party, and trying to get re-elected, rather than doing the job they were elected to do.” – Eleanor Korf, Glendale, Ariz.

[Ed. note: I suspect, Ms. Korf, that if such a thing comes to pass, it won’t be a third party but rather, that one of the two existing parties will pass away. We have had third parties at numerous times in our history, but we always seem to regress back to two.]

“You note that Bloomberg reports that “Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they’ll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares” as they benefit from proposed changes in the taxes that corporations pay. That’s not all bad, since either of these alternatives will enable the Treasury to collect more income tax from the individuals receiving the higher dividends or profiting from the capital gains realized from the sale of stock repurchased by the corporation. The net effect could well be more taxes collected from the proceeds of reduced taxes passed through the corporations to their shareholders paying the individual rate than would have been collected from corporations paying the current corporate income tax rate. Of course, it’s impossible for the administration to defend the proposed changes on this basis because, after all, Jonathan Gruber was right.” – Bob Foys, Chicago

[Ed. note: Leaving aside Gruber’s opinion of the electorate, Mr. Foys, there is still the matter of the purpose of the legislation. While providing investors greater yield would stimulate the economy as those individuals spent and invested the proceeds, presumably. But the purpose of the corporate tax cut, we are told, is to spur hiring by the effected corporations directly. Slashing the corporate tax rate is intended to produce economic stimulus, not revenue. The Bloomberg article you mention raises a key concern among critics of the legislation, namely that companies will take profits and reward investors more than they will invest in job-creating initiatives.]

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A BURNING RIVER OF SCORN 
NESN: “One forward-thinking — and practical — Browns fan took the liberty of getting permits from the city for a parade in celebration of the team’s 2017-18 season. And no, he’s not painfully optimistic. The proposed parade would be in celebration of the Browns going winless this season, a real possibility as they sit at 0-9. And according to the fan’s Twitter timeline, it was a relatively quick process. Chris McNeil started a GoFundMe for $3,000 to make the parade happen. He says the $3,000 will pay for security, restrooms, medical personnel and other costs. McNeil started a similar campaign in 2016 in which he raised $10,591 which the Browns matched when they beat the San Diego Chargers in the final game of the season and as donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All proceeds will once again be donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank if the Browns win a game this season.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.

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