Politics with Jennifer Brooks

Final tax bill may be unveiled today

Good morning from Washington, D.C., future home of senators Smith and Jones. So much happened this week, I never got around to refining a good Smith and Jones riff and for that I am truly sorry. I dropped the ball and got out-memed by Tina and Amy.

The Federal Communication Commission, surprising few and enraging many, repealed its net neutrality rules Thursday. As state attorneys general rained lawsuits down upon the FCC, the debate raged: Would deregulation mean that your broadband provider could slow your Netflix to a trickle unless you pay extra? Could providers block you from seeing some sites entirely? Did anyone besides FCC Chair Ajit Pai think his dancing net neutrality video was funny?

House and Senate negotiators are hoping to unveil the final version of the $1.5 trillion Republican tax bill today, setting the stage for final passage next week. But if the GOP wants to pass the sprawling package of tax cuts -- permanent for corporations, impermanent for people -- before Christmas, it’s going to have to get around a few senator-sized roadblocks.

Sen. Marco Rubio announced Thursday that he will vote no unless the bill includes child care tax credits for low-income families. Rubio has issued, then backed down from, threats like this before, but with Sens. John McCain and Thad Cochran dealing with health issues, and departing senators like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker less than thrilled with the bill, the party has very little wiggle room. When Alabama’s Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones takes his seat in January, the GOP margin will shrink even more.

It was a rough week for Trump administration judicial nominees. After the Senate narrowly signed off on an 8th Circuit Court nominee who had been unanimously rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association, the White House withdrew its nomination of two even more controversial district court picks.

Another would-be district court judge, Matthew Spencer Petersen, is probably wishing someone had withdrawn his nomination. Petersen was slow-roasted by Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy for his near-total lack of courtroom experience or knowledge of federal court legalese.

An excerpt:

Kennedy: Have you ever tried a jury trial?

Petersen: I have not.

Kennedy: Civil?

Petersen: No.

Kennedy: Criminal?

Petersen: No.

Kennedy: Bench?

Petersen: No.

Kennedy: State or federal court?

Petersen: I have not.

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted out the full five-minute ordeal: “Hoo-boy.”

Minnesota’s circuit court nominee Justice David Stras -- unanimously rated as well qualified by the ABA -- had a smoother confirmation hearing earlier this month and is working his way through the Senate Judiciary Committee paperwork. And as Stephen Montemayor tells us, the administration is closer to filling other federal vacancies in Minnesota: U.S. attorney, U.S. marshal and two district court seats.

As we head into the countdown to Christmas, let’s pause to acknowledge the fact that Vice President Mike Pence a) has a pet rabbit b) the rabbit has its own Christmas stocking that hangs over the fireplace at the vice president’s residence and c) the rabbit’s code name is BOTUS.

-- Jennifer Brooks