Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Senate is close to a final vote on the GOP tax bill — here’s what to expect

  • The Senate is expected to vote on the Republican tax plan in the next 24 hours.
  • The plan would dramatically reshape the US tax code for businesses and individuals.
  • Prospects for the bill’s passage have improved dramatically.

As the Senate continues debate the Republican bill to overhaul the US tax code, many details have not been finalized – but passage appears closer than ever.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) would slash taxes on corporations while giving benefits to various industries as well.

For individuals, most Americans would get a tax cut, and all income groups would get a cut on average. But, it would also increase taxes on millions of tax filers and the individual cuts would expire after 2025 absent subsequent legislation.

A vote on the bill is expected some time late Thursday or early Friday, as GOP leaders try to win over a few more Republican members to vote for the bill. Currently, lawmakers are adding amendments to the bill, with Democrats hoping to slow its progress and Republicans trying to push the bill through.

If you’re just now catch up to the Senate’s debate on the TCJA, check out the quick catch on the tax bill below and catch all of our coverage here.

And follow along here for live coverage as it heads to a vote.


What’s in the bill?

The TCJA contains substantial changes to both the business and individual side of the tax code. In total, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the bill will cause the federal deficit to increase by just over $1.4 trillion in the 10 years after is passes.

The business side

Perhaps the biggest change, on a macroeconomic level, would come from the slashing of the federal corporate tax rate. The current bill will bring down the rate to 20% from the current 35% starting in 2019. It would also require companies to repatriate assets, or bring back assets that are domiciled overseas, at a lower rate.

While the GOP has painted its tax bill as a simplification of the code, there remain still a bevy of quirks and cutouts in their bill. There’s a special tax cut for craft beer brewers, a tweak to clarify the code for private jet operators, and even a benefit for a fish processing plant in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa.

The bill also provides a benefit for so-called pass through businesses. These are businesses like limited liability corporations in which the owner takes the profits as income. In the bill, pass-through businesses would get a 17.4% deduction on their profit, but there is talk of raising this to 20% or more to win over Republican hold outs.

The individual side

The Senate TCJA would adjust the seven individual tax brackets in order to lower the rate on most Americans. (See a full breakdown of the new brackets here.) The bill would also double the standard deduction for all households and increase the child tax credit to $2,000.

A slew of itemized deductions would also be eliminated, the alternative minimum tax would be repealed, and the threshold for the estate tax would be increased from $5.6 million to around $11 million.

Due to Senate rules, the bill would sunset all of its individual tax provisions after 2025. So the brackets would snap back to the current baseline.

The bill also would eliminate Obamacare’s individual mandate for all people to buy health insurance. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this would leave 13 million more people without coverage in 10 years compared to the current system and cause health premiums to spike another 10% above the current trajectory.


How will it affect me?

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Thomson Reuters

The TCJA would affect different people depending on how they file their taxes.

According to the most recent analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, 61.7% of Americans would get a tax cut of $100 or more in 2019 if the TCJA passes, while 30.2% would see a change of less than $100 to their tax bill.

Some people, however, would see their taxes increase. According to the JCT analysis, 8.1% of Americans would see their taxes go up by $100 or more in 2019. This group would increase as time goes on – in 2023, 13.1% of people would see an increase.

(Business Insider’s Lauren Lyons Cole broke down how some people’s taxes will change in 2018»)

According to the JCT, after the individual changes expire, the increases would be significant. In 2027, the report said, 22.9% of people would see their taxes hiked, and 61.2% would see no change.

Other groups, like the Tax Policy Center, also agreed that most people would get a tax cut and each income bracket would on average get a cut. The groups also found that the tax bill would tilt toward wealthier Americans in the latter years and result in many middle-class Americans seeing a tax increase.

A variety of groups would benefit from or be penalized by the plan. People in states with high local taxes, such as New York and California, could get dinged because of the repeal of the state and local tax deduction. And those that rely on certain itemized deductions could see a tax bill increase, too.


How will the bill pass?

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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

GOP leaders only have to win over members of their own party, since the TCJA is going through the process known as budget reconciliation.

The process allows bill to avoid a Democratic filibuster and be passed with a simple majority vote. This means Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell only needs 50 of the 52 Republicans senators to vote for the bill, since Vice President Mike Pence can cast a tiebreaking vote.

It also means that the TCJA is subject to a provision known as the Byrd rule, which applies guardrails to legislation going through the reconciliation process.

The Byrd rule mandates that all provisions in the bill must apply to the federal budget, which eliminates extraneous provisions. Additionally, the bill can only add a certain amount to the federal deficit – in this case $1.5 trillion – in the first 10 years and no additional debt to the baseline after a decade.

The Senate parliamentarian, who determines whether the bill follows the reconciliations rules, has so far not released a public ruling on the TCJA.


Will the bill pass?

The prospects for the TCJA are looking increasingly positive.

At the start of the week, as many as 10 Republicans had concerns, but a few of those members have come around.

Republican skeptics like Sens. John McCain and Lisa Murkowski both said they are now supporting the bill.

Additionally, a number of skeptics such as Bob Corker, Ron Johnson, and Susan Collins appear to be softening on their stances against the bill while still demanding some changes. Here’s a quick rundown of the GOP holdouts and what they want:

  • The Deficit Group (Bob Corker, Jeff Flake): Both Corker and Flake are worried about the bill’s potential effects on the deficit and debt.
  • The Maine Moderate (Susan Collins): Since the TCJA repeals Obamacare’s individual mandate, Collins said she wants the Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization package to be passed in conjunction with taxes. Also, Collins says the bill must include the ability for people to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local property taxes from their federal burden.
  • The Small Business Group (Ron Johnson, Steve Daines): These two want a more generous benefit for pass-through businesses, which they say will make sure small businesses get the same boost as large corporations.

When is this going to happen?

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate is currently debating the TCJA for 20 hours, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

Following the debate, members can offer as many amendments as they want in what is known as a vote-a-rama. Typically, the party not in power (Democrats in this case) offer a slew of symbolic amendments to force the party in power (Republicans) to take seemingly politically toxic positions.

While McConnell has not laid out an exact timeframe for a final vote, it looks likely that it will come late Thursday or early Friday.

Trump’s favorite polling firm found the winner of his ‘fake news trophy’: Fox News

Donald Trump.

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Donald Trump.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

  • A right-leaning polling firm decided to test out which news network would win the “Fake News Trophy” proposed by President Donald Trump.
  • Fox News won.

The polling firm President Donald Trump once praised as “one of the most accurate in the 2016 Election” just found that the winner of his proposed “FAKE NEWS TROPHY” is Fox News, according to a survey released Thursday.

That firm, right-leaning Rasmussen, asked 1,000 likely US voters which major network they would choose as winner “if the broadcast media established an annual Fake News Trophy.” Respondents were allowed to choose between ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, or another network.

Of those surveyed, 40% said Fox News should be the winner of the first annual “Fake News Trophy.” Coming in second place was CNN with 25% support. The network was followed by MSNBC with 9%, ABC with 4%, CBS with 3%, and NBC with 2%. Another 6% said the award should go to another network while 11% were undecided.

The question came after Trump on Monday proposed the competition on Twitter – though he said Fox News should not be included in such a contest.

“We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me),” Trump wrote. “They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!”

The Rasmussen poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand gives donations from Russell Simmons to charity after sexual assault allegations

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand gave campaign donations from Russell Simmons to charity on Thursday after details emerged of new sexual assault allegations.
  • Simmons stepped down from his companies and will no longer be involved with HBO.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, gave campaign donations from hip hop mogul Russell Simmons to charity on Thursday, an aide to her Senate campaign confirmed to Business Insider.

The $2,000 in campaign donations received from Simmons were redirected to Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal and other assistance to military sexual assault survivors.

Simmons has been accused of sexual assault by model Kerri Claussen Khalighi as well as screenwriter Jenny Lumet.

The Hollywood Reporter published a letter from Lumet to Simmons detailing the allegations of sexual assault.

“I felt dread and disorientation. I wanted to go home. I said I wanted to go home,” Lumet wrote in the letter of the 1991 incident. “I didn’t recognize the man next to me. I didn’t know if the situation would turn violent. I remember thinking that I must be crazy; I remember hoping that the Russell I knew would return any moment.”

The embattled Simmons has since stepped down from his companies over the accusations. In addition, HBO severed ties with Simmons and announced they will remove his name from an upcoming comedy project, “All Def Comedy.”

Verizon plans to offer wireless home internet access starting next year — and it could shake up the broadband market

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam

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Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam
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Chris Hondros/Getty Images

  • Verizon will start offering wireless home broadband service in three to five cities in late 2018.
  • The company will deliver the service using 5G networking technology, the next-generation wireless standard.
  • Home wireless internet service like Verizon’s could increase competition, potentially leading to better pricing and performance.

You already go online via the cell phone companies’ wireless networks when you’re on your phone and away from home. Now Verizon wants you to get your house connected to the internet wirelessly too.

On Wednesday, the telecommunications giant announced it will start offering wireless home internet service in a handful of markets in late 2018. Verizon will offer the service using so-called 5G networking technology, a wireless standard that’s still in development but promises both faster speeds and less congestion than current 4G networks can deliver.

“This is a landmark announcement for customers and investors who have been waiting for the 5G future to become a reality,” Hans Vestberg, Verizon’s chief technology officer, said in a statement.

5g

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Shutterstock

Verizon offered few details about the new service

Verizon plans to launch its new service in three to five cities, starting with Sacramento, California. It didn’t say in which other cities it would offer the service, how much the service would cost, or how fast users would be able to access the internet, saying only that it would provide more details “at a later date.”

The company also didn’t discuss exactly how it would deliver the service to customers’ homes. However, its concept resembles that of internet startup Starry.

To get broadband access, Starry customers place outside their homes an antenna that communicates via 5G with nearby cellular towers. The antenna delivers those signal to a combination modem and Wi-Fi router inside users’ homes.

An antenna sticking outside a window from the startup Starry that's designed to receive 5G internet signals for your home.

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An antenna sticking outside a window from the startup Starry that’s designed to receive 5G internet signals for your home.
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Tim Stenovec/Tech Insider

The company already has some competition in the wireless home broadband market

AT&T and Google’s parent company Alphabet have also been testing their own wireless home internet services since 2016. Those also use 5G.

Wireless home internet service has potentially big benefits for consumers. Consumers typically have their choice of just one or two wired broadband providers. By contrast, they usually have far more choices when it comes to wireless providers. So, assuming wireless internet access can offer similar speed and reliability in the home as wired connections, it could bring with it more competition, which could lead to better prices and improved performance.

And adding wireless service to an area is typically less costly and less of a production than digging up streets or getting access to utility poles to string wires. That could allow wireless home internet providers to introduce service faster and more quickly expand it to additional customers.

starry internet fiber underground

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Starry

There are still some challenges ahead for 5G home internet service

However, to be truly comparable with wired service, 5G wireless service will have to overcome several obstacles. Traditionally, wired services have offered faster speeds than wireless ones and frequently cost significantly less.

And the 5G technology itself could have some potential challenges. Cell towers transmitting 5G signals generally have less range than those sending 4G LTE ones. As a result, wireless provides will likely need to install many more 5G cell towers to deliver strong signals.

Meanwhile, the type of signals 5G uses don’t do a very good job of penetrating obstacles. Indeed, objects as thin as leaves can weaken 5G signals, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Former Google exec Vic Gundotra had a ‘painful’ two-year process working with the FDA — and other startups should pay attention

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REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

  • AliveCor makes a portable EKG reader – the kind of electric heart monitoring that’s standard in hospitals – and it’s been FDA-cleared.
  • Former Google executive and current AliveCor CEO Vic Gundotra explains what he learned during a ‘painful’ two-year FDA clearance process.

Vic Gundotra embarked on his health tech startup journey with the confidence of a tech industry veteran boasting years of experience.

Despite leading high-profile projects at Google and Microsoft, Gundotra got a harsh reality check when he tried to steer his startup through a foreign and challenging regulatory landscape.

“I learned that as a former Google executive I was grossly misinformed about how medicine works and had to learn some painful lessons by making some mistakes that probably doubled the process,” Gundotra told Business Insider in an interview.

Gundotra’s startup, AliveCor, makes a $200 wristband that connects to the Apple Watch and allows users to take a medical heart reading, or EKG test. The KardiaBand, which was released on Thursday is the first Food and Drug Administration-cleared accessory for the Apple Watch.

Getting the FDA clearance was critical. And it was a lengthy process full of stumbling blocks, which Gundotra says took much longer than it should have.

“It was about a year and a half, two years ago that we announced the KardiaBand for the Apple Watch. That first-generation product got regulatory approval in Europe but we never got regulatory FDA approval in the United States,” Gundotra said.

“We’ve been working with the FDA building that product for two years now,” he continued.

“I’ll take blame myself,” Gundotra said. “Those errors that cost us the extra year is my fault.”

AliveCor

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AliveCor

Gundotra’s experience is one that may become increasingly common in Silicon Valley, as the tech industry seeks to transform new markets like healthcare and transportation. For starry-eyed tech execs accustomed to playing by their own sets of rules, the tightly regulated markets where the next big business opportunities lie present a special challenge.

One key to working with the FDA is that slide decks aren’t what the agency is looking for – it’s looking for clinical evidence.

“They don’t care about your word. They care about clinical evidence. You have to follow their process and don’t fool around with them. As a tech executive, it took me a year to make some mistakes and learn. I’ve been humbled through the process, but hey, we did it, we got there,” Gundotra said.

Another issue is that tech designers are creating products like KardiaBand and associated software that potentially have a wide range of applications, but the FDA is very specific about what it’s clearing.

“Our product allows you to get the electrocardiogram and send it to your physician, and your physician can make any diagnosis they want,” Gundrota said.

“Our software that automatically interprets and says ‘this EKG looks like this,’ that is only FDA-cleared for normal sinus rhythm and possible atrial fibrillation,” Gundotra said. “If I want to say something else, I can’t until I get FDA clearance. So we went after the most common arrhythmia,” he continued.

Lessons for Silicon Valley

Apple Watch

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Hollis Johnson

Other Silicon Valley executives may be going through the same learing process in the next few years as tech giants look to break into the medical world.

Gundotra’s old firm, Googl,e is making lots of bets on healthcare startups. And the giant that makes the platform he’s building on, Apple, for example, is running large-scale medical studies using its software, and is said to be looking to handle clinical data as the first step to a real attempt to break into the medical market.

Navigating the most difficult aspects of the regulatory process seems to be a priority for Apple, according to documents obtained through FOIA by MobiHealthNews.

“[Apple COO] Jeff [Williams] has asked me to lead the thinking (or at least the conversation) on the intersection of the regulatory landscape (as it currently exists and where we hope we might be able to influence its movement) and our products and platforms,” Robin Goldstein, a special projects attorney for Apple, said in an email seen by MobiHealthNews.

In 2015, Michael O’Reilly, an Apple employee, sent an email to an FDA official asking: “I have a question about FDA approval for apps that provide a diagnosis. Do you have time for a brief call today or tomorrow?”

O’Reilly works at Apple on “health special projects” and was previously Apple’s VP of medical technology, according to his LinkedIn profile.

New rules of the road

Vic Gundotra, CEO (1).JPG

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AliveCor

One of the biggest challenges for software companies eyeing the medical market may be forgetting old habits, no matter how well those habits have served them in the past.

In Silicon Valley, the most successful companies are those that have mastered the art of iterating. The idea is to ship a “minimum viable product” in order to be the first to market. Once the product is released, the companies move quickly to improve it, eradicating bugs and polishing imperfections – often based on feedback, or complaints, from users of the product.

That isn’t the way medicine works. And the big tech giants may eventually need to accept that fact.

“I have learned a lot in the last two years, painfully. Medicine is not ‘move fast and break things,'” Gundotra said, referring to the famous Facebook slogan.

Plans for Donald Trump to visit the UK in January 2018 have reportedly been dropped

Donald Trump and Theresa May

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Donald Trump and Theresa May
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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Plans for Donald Trump to visit the United Kingdom in January 2018 for a “working visit” have been dropped, according to a report from The Telegraph.

The news comes in the wake of an extraordinary spat between the President of the United States and British Prime Minister Theresa May, after Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos on Twitter originally posted by a far-right extremist.

In a rare criticism of a US president by a British prime minister, Theresa May it was “wrong” for Trump to have shared the videos. Trump fired back, attacking May in a tweet: “Don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.”

The plan had been for Trump to attend the official opening of a new American embassy in London as part of his visit, The Telegraph reported, but US diplomats have now allegedly shelved the idea.

The January 2018 trip would not have been an official “state visit.” Theresa May has previously invited Trump for a “state visit,” which would involve greater ceremony and meeting the Queen. On Thursday, May insisted the invitation still stands despite the row, though a date has not been set and seems unlikely in the near future.

There have been condemnation of Trump’s tweets from across the political spectrum in the UK, and calls for any potential visit to be cancelled.

New York Times executive editor says criticism of ‘sympathetic’ neo-Nazi profile was ‘the most ridiculous overreaction’

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, onstage at IGNITION: Future of Media at Time Warner Center on Thursday.

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Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, onstage at IGNITION: Future of Media at Time Warner Center on Thursday.
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Monica Schipper/Getty Images

  • The New York Times’ executive editor, Dean Baquet, dismissed criticism of a story that was seen as overly sympathetic to a neo-Nazi.
  • The Times previously tried to explain why the paper published the piece.

The New York Times’ executive editor, Dean Baquet, on Thursday dismissed outrage over a humanizing portrait of a suburban neo-Nazi.

On Saturday, The Times published a profile of an Ohio neo-Nazi named Tony Hovater with the headline “In America’s Heartland, the Nazi Sympathizer Next Door.”

The story laid out Hovater’s Nazi views but also described him as an average American adult who liked the ’90s television sitcom “Seinfeld,” ate at chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Panera Bread, and was “polite” with “Midwestern manners” that The Times said “would please anyone’s mother.”

The article drew critics who wondered why the paper profiled a relatively obscure white supremacist and who argued that it was too “sympathetic” to Hovater, who participated in the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August and stereotyped Jews, denied the Holocaust, and argued that Hitler was not that bad.

Speaking at Business Insider’s Ignition conference, Baquet said that while the story could have included more clarification about why The Times was covering the story, the criticism was largely overblown.

“My own view, and I suspect some people will disagree: It was the most ridiculous overreaction to a story,” Baquet said.

He continued:

“The story could’ve much more clearly said in a nut graf or in some form: ‘Dear reader: If you think neo-Nazis are guys who live in the hills of Alabama smoking pipes, in fact it’s much more complicated than that. Here’s what they look like, and they’re just as insidious.’ It could’ve said that more clearly.

“But I also think the, in my view, the overreaction from readers who we try to address and certain academics … who never have actually done much journalism, I think their reaction was too strong. It was not a mortal sin.”

The Times attempted to explain its reporting in a series of follow-up articles.

The piece’s author, Richard Fausset, wrote a first-person essay on Saturday about his frustration in trying to figure out what motivated someone to become a neo-Nazi. The Times also changed the online headline of the story to “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland” and removed a link from the original story to a website that sells Nazi armbands.

And in a response to reader comments, the Times editor Marc Lacey both defended the piece and apologized for offending readers, saying the paper “agonized over the tone and content of the article.”

“The point of the story was not to normalize anything but to describe the degree to which hate and extremism have become far more normal in American life than many of us want to think,” Lacey wrote. “We described Mr. Hovater as a bigot, a Nazi sympathizer who posted images on Facebook of a Nazi-like America full of happy white people and swastikas everywhere.”

He continued: “We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers. We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story. What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them. That’s what the story, however imperfectly, tried to do.”

The GOP tax plan is a ‘catastrophe’ that’ll make inequality ‘materially worse’

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  • The Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act isn’t just ill advised, it’s “mean-spirited,” ex-American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall tells Business Insider.
  • The plan would preserve many of the loopholes that help the wealthy both at the corporate and individual levels, analyses show.
  • “They want to tax poor people in order to give new breaks for the rich,” Crandall said.

The Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is widely and accurately perceived as heavily tilted in favor of wealth families and corporations, isn’t just bad economic policy – “it’s simply mean-spirited,” veteran businessman and former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall told Business Insider.

Crandall said the tax cuts, which look like they have a solid chance of making it through Congress on a narrow, partisan basis as early as Thursday night, will definitely not boost economic growth or employment in the way President Donald Trump has promised.

Worse, however, Crandall views the tax bill’s details, which include cuts to everything from medical spending on the elderly and poor to educational subsidies for low-income and middle-class Americans, as an effort to dismantle what is left of America’s post-Depression social safety net, including Medicare and Social Security.

“They want to tax poor people in order to give new breaks for the rich,” Crandall said. “Give me a break. The bill is a catastrophe. It’s built around making inequality materially worse.”

Crandall worries that the planned repeal of the estate tax, which affects only ultra-wealthy families like his own, is distinctly un-American.

Class society

“We created America in the first place because they wanted to escape a class society,” he said. “The estate tax repeal will save me $50 million – my kids are going to have it. They shouldn’t have the $50 million. The country needs it.”

Larry White, economics professor at New York University, is similarly concerned about the bill, which has been rushed through Congress with little time for debate or review.

He worries the bill leaves open many of the loopholes Republicans claimed they would close as a part of reforming the tax system.

“The reduction in the corporate tax rate probably makes sense – if all of the loopholes were closed,” White said in an email. “As it is, they want to lower the rate to 20% – but leave most of the loopholes, so the effective rate will be much less, just as currently the nominal rate is 35% but the effective rate is only 22%.”

“It’s an outrage that loopholes in the individual tax code – such as lower rates for ‘carried interest’ – are not being eliminated,” he added.

Elizabeth Warren is opening up a new front in her war with Trump over the top consumer watchdog agency

Elizabeth Warren.

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Elizabeth Warren.
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Mark Wilson/Getty Images

  • Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is seeking an inspector general investigation into Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) acting director Mick Mulvaney’s first moves at the helm of the agency.
  • In a letter provided to Business Insider, Warren wrote that those moves represent “a waste of taxpayer dollars and raises questions about whether Mr. Mulvaney has prevented the CFPB from fulfilling its congressional mandate.”

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is opening up a new front in her battle with the Trump administration over the future of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – the agency she championed in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Warren is now seeking an inspector general investigation into CFPB acting director Mick Mulvaney’s decision to put a moratorium on all enforcement actions that were imminent or in progress at the agency before he took the top job on Monday, according to a letter provided to Business Insider. On his first day at the helm of the bureau, Mulvaney announced a 30-day freeze on hiring and any “new rules, regulations, or guidance.”

“Anything that’s in the pipeline stops,” he said.

In a letter addressed to Mark Bialek, the inspector general of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and CFPB, Warren wrote that Mulvaney’s early moves to temporarily halt action at the bureau amount to “a 30-day shutdown of the CFPB.”

“This represents a waste of taxpayer dollars and raises questions about whether Mr. Mulvaney has prevented the CFPB from fulfilling its congressional mandate,” Warren wrote. “I am therefore asking that your office conduct a review of these orders by Mr. Mulvaney, consistent with your authority to ‘examine the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of … the CFPB’s programs and operation.'”

Warren asked Bialek to review the authority under which Mulvaney imposed the moratorium; a full list of actions frozen by Mulvaney and whether those actions had any effect in ongoing CFPB cases, investigations, or settlements; the rationale for the freezes; whether Mulvaney or other CFPB officials communicated with lobbyists about the moratorium in the days prior to its announcement; and the impact of that moratorium on consumers.

The Massachusetts Democrat highlighted one specific case as questionable when considering Mulvaney’s moratorium. On Friday, Reuters reported that the CFPB was preparing to sue the Spanish bank Santander for overcharging borrowers on loans “as early as Monday.” A subsequent story in the International Business Times reported that Mulvaney’s former chief of staff was hired by the bank as a top lobbyist.

Warren said that “would present, at minimum, a troubling appearance of influence-peddling.”

The latest episode of a week-long battle

The senator’s letter represents the latest salvo in this nearly weeklong battle over the independent agency’s future. The skirmish began on Friday when outgoing director Richard Cordray named his deputy, Leandra English, as acting director. President Donald Trump then announced Mulvaney, who is also serving as Office of Budget and Management director, as the CFPB’s acting director.

Both sides then battled over who had the legal authority to name the successor. Warren and her allies cited language in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act as proof that Cordray, nominated by President Barack Obama, was in the right, while the Trump administration and its allies said the 1998 Federal Vacancies Reform Act usurps Dodd-Frank.

Dodd-Frank says the bureau’s deputy director shall “serve as acting director in the absence or unavailability of the director.” The heart of the legal dispute is whether “absence” or “unavailability” in Dodd-Frank means a vacancy, as is the case here.

The general counsel for the CFPB sided with the Trump administration on the matter. And as a source inside the CFPB told Business Insider, the general counsel had made Cordray aware of that view prior to his naming English as his successor.

English filed a lawsuit in federal court on Sunday in which she called herself the “rightful acting director” and sought a temporary restraining order to prevent Mulvaney from fulfilling Trump’s appointment.

On Tuesday, a judge ruled in favor of the Trump administration. There are still other lawsuits pending in this matter, however.

Read Warren’s full letter:

Elizabeth Warren Letter to CFPBIG Re Moratorium 113017 by Brett LoGiurato onScribd

The Hispanic Caucus denied a Republican congressman membership because they use the group to strategize against Trump

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

  • The Congressional Hispanic Caucus denied membership to Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo earlier this month.
  • The chairwoman of the caucus said it was because the all-Democratic group needed to strategize against Republicans in the final months of 2017.

WASHINGTON – The chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said they denied membership earlier this month to a Republican congressman because the group has to strategize against President Donald Trump and having a Republican in the group would be counterintuitive.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham told reporters on Thursday that the decision to exclude Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican, from the caucus was “because we have strategies about the White House and we have strategies about those committees and we have strategies about who we are working on and leveraging with and that creates an environment where we stop having strategic discussions.”

The New Mexico congresswoman noted that end-of-the-year issues like negotiating protections for undocumented immigrants “were all-important issues that the caucus understood” needed certain leverage and that having a Republican in their midst could jeopardize that.

However, Grisham said that she wanted to “revisit” membership policies next year. Because there are so many tense policy issues in the final months of 2017, the caucus will use those political battles to assess Republicans.

“The most important issue for the end of the year and seeing where key Republicans are gives us an opportunity to think about shifting the way in which we have strategies in this Congress,” she said.

Joanna Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Curbelo, blasted the caucus in a statement to Business Insider.

“While the Congressional Hispanic Caucus continues to play petty partisan games, Congressman Curbelo has already said he would support any DACA solution that comes to the floor,” she said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allowed young unauthorized immigrants to stay in the country.

“Additionally, he is holding his party’s leadership accountable by refusing to support a long-term spending bill without a DACA solution before the end of the year, and he is working with common-sense legislators from both sides of the aisle and both Chambers in the Problem Solvers Caucus on a potential compromise,” she continued.

Rodriguez said Grisham had “confirmed what many already suspected.”

“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus puts partisan politics first and the advancement of Hispanic Americans last,” she said. “Congressman Curbelo stated before the Caucus and in multiple statements to media that he was more than willing to sit out of strategic/partisan conversations Democrats wanted to have. Again, the CHC has exposed itself as an organization that embraces discrimination and bigotry and that promotes the segregation of America’s Hispanic community.”

Grisham initially blamed the decision to not let Curbelo into the caucus on his voting record

Earlier in November, Grisham issued a statement that the decision not to accept Curbelo into the Caucus was based on his previous voting record.

“The CHC isn’t just an organization for Hispanics; it is a Caucus that represents certain values,” she said. “This vote reflects the position of many of our members that Rep. Curbelo and his record are not consistent with those values.”

As for whether the Hispanic Caucus will change its name to reflect its partisan direction, Grisham said, “If you were to ask that question individually to some members of the Hispanic Caucus, it would not surprise me that some members would prefer a Democratic-only caucus.”

“I do not think that that’s the best strategy,” she said.

“I would vote against that,” she added. “I think that the caucus would vote against that if that question was posed today. But I’m not asking for a motion of that nature and no one else has brought that in forms of taking a specific action. But I do think there are a couple members maybe, give or take, who think that would just solve these issues.”