Rebekah Entralgo Archive

Acting DHS secretary can’t explain how Trump’s tariffs on Mexico work

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday morning, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan wasn’t able to articulate how or when the White House will end its tariffs on Mexican goods.

McAleenan appeared on cable news to defend President Donald Trump’s decision to impose new tariffs on Mexico as a means to address migration to the United States. The longer apprehension rates along the U.S.-Mexico border continue to rise, the higher the tariffs.

As the White House announced last week, a 5% tariff is set to go into effect on June 10 if Mexico does not step up immigration enforcement measures. The tariffs would gradually increase — an additional 5% on the first day of each month for four months — to a maximum of 25% by October, unless “the illegal immigration problem is remedied.”

Tapper asked McAleenan at what point would the administration consider lifting the tariffs, but McAleenan had no concrete response.

“I guess one of the questions I would have is assuming these tariffs go through, and right now it’s just a threat, what specific benchmark are you going to be looking at to see if Mexico is actually doing what you want them to do?” Tapper asked.

“I think what the president said, we need a vast reduction in the numbers crossing,” McAleenan replied.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there were roughly 100,000 apprehensions in April — so what would a “vast reduction” look like to the administration? McAleenan couldn’t answer that either.

Instead, McAleenan recommended the administration ask the Mexican government to enforce its own southern border with Guatemala, put an end to the organizations that help transport migrants across Mexico, and work with the United States on creating new asylum policies.

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4 big questions Trump has to answer about his tariffs on Mexico

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United States will impose new tariffs “on all goods imported from Mexico” unless the country does more to stop migrants from reaching the U.S. border.

A 5% tariff is set to go into effect on June 10 if the country does not step up immigration enforcement measures. The tariffs would gradually increase — an additional 5% on the first day of each month for four months — to a maximum of 25% by October, unless “the illegal immigration problem is remedied.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador responded to the threats in a two-page letter to Trump Thursday evening, where he addressed him as a friend and warned that these kinds of punitive measures are not the answer.

“With all due respect, although you have the right to express it, ‘America First’ is a fallacy because until the end of times, even beyond national borders, justice and universal fraternity will prevail,” López Obrador wrote.

“Social problems don’t get resolved with duties or coercive measures,” he added. “I don’t believe … in ‘an eye for an eye.'”

In order to determine whether or not the imposition of this sort of punitive tariff on one of America’s most important trading partners would be effective or not, there are four major questions that need to be addressed first.

Isn’t Mexico already helping the U.S. on immigration?

The demographics of U.S immigration have been gradually shifting over the last five years. No longer are the majority of immigrants arriving at the southern border single men from Mexico looking for work. Instead, Central American families fleeing violence are making the dangerous journey through Mexico to apply for the asylum in the United States.

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The Pentagon can’t explain where $2.5 billion in border wall funding is coming from

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Military medical facilities and dining halls. A hangar for drones in South Korea. A wastewater treatment plant at West Point. All could lose money as the Trump administration shifts resources to pay for a border wall.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday delivered to Congress a list of military projects that could be impacted by Trump’s national emergency declaration. Shanahan’s list to Congress is general and includes $12.5 billion worth of program funding that is up for grabs. Funding could also be siphoned away from facilities that affect everyday life on domestic and international U.S. military bases, including dining halls, medical facilities, and roads.

Trump’s national emergency declaration allows him to divert $3.6 billion worth of funding from the programs Shanahan identified, in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It isn’t known when the White House will make the $3.6 billion cut and from which Pentagon programs.

But Shanahan’s list doesn’t account for an additional $2.5 billion in funding that Trump requested for his wall.

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U.S. banks raked in record profits thanks to GOP tax bill

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

The Republican tax bill helped U.S. banks gain an extra $28 billion in profits last year, according to new data released Thursday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

In total, the nation’s 5,406 federally insured banks took in $236.7 billion in 2018, a 44 percent increase of $72.4 billion from 2017. Without the Republican tax bill, the FDIC estimates 2018 profits would have been $207.9 billion.

“Once again, the banking industry reported a strong quarter. Net income improved on higher net operating revenue and a lower effective tax rate,” FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams said in a statement. “The current economic expansion is the second-largest on record, and the nation’s banks are stronger as a result.”

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans marketed their bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as a gigantic boon for the middle class — even promising the average family would receive a $4,000 pay raise. In spite of the economic boom in the corporate and banking sectors, the American middle class has been largely unaffected by the measure, which passed in December of 2017. Meanwhile, corporations and big banks are rolling in cash.

Hourly wages have basically remained stagnant while corporate profits have skyrocketed. While the U.S. economy added over 300,000 jobs in January, workers got what amassed to just a 3-cent hourly raise.

“Donald Trump said he would tax Wall Street and stop them from ‘getting away with murder.’ It was all a con,” Seth Hanlon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told ThinkProgress in an email. “His tax plan shoveled tens of billions of dollars to Wall Street and the financial sector. At the same time, he’s rolled back the reforms to protect consumers and prevent another financial crisis. There is no clearer example of how he sold out American workers.” (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.)

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Recovery efforts in Puerto Rico would take a hit if Trump siphons funds to pay for his border wall

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump is considering siphoning billions of dollars from disaster relief programs in order to help fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, following a discussion between the president and top defense officials during Trump’s trip to the southern border Thursday.

Bypassing Congress, Trump could declare a national emergency and use $13.9 billion of Army Corps funding to build 315 miles of barrier, NBC News reported. Under the proposal, the pot of money Trump could dip into includes $2.4 billion allocated to water projects in California and $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico. Both areas are still reeling and rebuilding from devastating wildfires and a catastrophic hurricane, respectively.

In a statement this week, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, called the potential move an “obscenity” and vowed to stop the president should he attempt to follow-through on it.

“Any suggestion that he use these funds to construct his wall is an obscenity. These funds were intended by Congress to be used for real emergencies and to help millions recover from hurricanes and other disasters,” Rep. Thompson said. “Under no circumstance are these funds to be used to fund the President[‘s] pet project so he can claim a win. There is no emergency on the border. If necessary, my colleagues and I will use every available method to stop him in this effort.”

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Trump didn’t know the GOP tax bill incentivizes business to offshore jobs

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump was apparently unaware that a provision in his biggest legislative accomplishment encourages corporations to offshore jobs.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) spoke with Trump Wednesday night about the closure of at least five General Motors plants, including one assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and filled him in on how the GOP tax bill is partly to blame.

“I reached him last night, he said he wanted to help, I said the first thing you could do is you could take away that tax provision in his tax bill that gives a company a 50 percent off coupon on their taxes,” Brown told CNN’s New Day Thursday. “If you’re producing in Lordstown you pay a 21 percent tax rate, if you move to Mexico you pay a 10.5 percent tax rate, and I told the president to get rid of that tax break that encourages jobs to move overseas.”

The president apparently did not know that was in the tax bill.

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Minimum wage increases pass in Arkansas and Missouri

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Voters in Arkansas and Missouri have approved a ballot initiative that would significantly raise the minimum wage in their states, affecting nearly 1 million workers.

Despite President Donald Trump carrying both Arkansas and Missouri during the 2016 election and disapproval from Republican state legislatures, voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of a minimum wage hike, with 68 percent in favor in Arkansas and 61 percent in favor in Missouri.

In Arkansas, the current $8.50/hour minimum wage will be gradually increased to $11/hour by 2021, while in Missouri, the state’s measly $7.85/hour minimum wage would slowly reach $12/hour by 2023. That amounts to $455 million more in pay for Arkansas workers by 2021 — an average of $1,520 each — and more than $1 billion for Missourians by 2023, a total of roughly $1,485 per worker.

According to Rewire, the people most affected by the ballot initiatives are working women and mothers. Amy Wilson, a single mother of three children, works as a school custodian in Russellville, Arkansas and told the publication that an extra $1,520 in her pocket means a lot. She said she would be able to take care of “a lot of minor needs [that] add up over time,” like replacing car tires or buying clothes for her children somewhere other than Salvation Army.

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Fact from fiction: What you should know about the migrant caravan making its way to the U.S. border

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

As many as 7,000 Central Americans are making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border, and along with them are a wealth of misinformation and conspiracy theories regarding their motives and character.

While this isn’t the first migrant caravan to make its way to the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration, it is the largest — and with midterm elections only two weeks away, this one has elicited the most strident response from Republicans and the White House, who are leaning on the caravan to stoke anti-immigrant fears in the minds of voters.

To clear the air, here’s what you should know about the caravan itself, and the people in it who have left everything behind in search of a better life.

Who is traveling in the caravan?

Thousands of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons from Central American countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala are among the estimated 7,000 members of the caravan.

The majority are leaving their countries of origin in search of greater economic opportunity and fleeing gang violence that has made life at home unlivable.

“We’re traveling to find a better future for my daughters,” Fanny Rodríguez, a Honduran woman traveling with her husband and their two young daughters, told The New York Times. “We aren’t going because we want fancy things. I don’t have to give them luxuries, only what’s necessary — that my daughters don’t lack food, that my daughters don’t lack clothes. Things like that.”

“No one is capable of organizing this many people,” Irineo Mujica of Pueblo Sin Fronteras — the group supporting the caravan — said. Instead, Mujica said, they are motivated by two factors: “hunger and death.”

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Ohio Democratic campaign staffers fight the state party for a fair contract

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Democratic field organizers in Ohio working roughly 60-84 hours hours a week are fighting their own state party as they attempt to negotiate a fair union contract.

More than a month ago, the Ohio Democratic Party, with 90 percent support, recognized a union of coordinated campaign staff that collectively bargained with the help of the Campaign Workers Guild. Now, however, staffers say the party isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.

“After several day-long bargaining sessions, the ODP has made it clear to us that they are not serious about negotiating a fair contract that lives up to our Democratic values,” union leaders wrote last week in a letter to Ohio county party chairs across the state.

“We were so excited to see our party stand for working people by ultimately recognizing our union,” they continued. “Unfortunately, this excitement has not held at the bargaining table, where we’ve been continually disappointed and angered as the ODP has refused to present proposals that ensure us the union protections and provide us the working conditions we need and deserve.”

While the negotiations are still ongoing and a bit rough at the moment, it is still extremely early in the negotiation process. The party only recognized the union five weeks ago and most contract negotiations take months.

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There is more than meets the eye when it comes to the most recent jobs report

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Many economists were pleasantly surprised by the Labor Department’s August jobs report Friday morning.

201,000 jobs were added last month when economists only expected a gain of about 190,000 and the unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent. The number that shocked most experts, however, was that wages grew 2.9 percent faster than last year, making it the fastest growth rate since the recession.

But there is more than meets the eye when it comes such a glowing jobs report, especially when it comes to wage growth. The White House will likely point to these numbers as tangible evidence that the Trump administration is putting more money into the pockets of everyday Americans.

While on paper 2.9 percent wage growth is impressive, when calculating for 2 percent inflation, it’s still quite slow.

In what might have been a preparation for the August jobs report, the White House sent out an email Thursday titled: “The latest Trump Economy myth: Wages are stagnant.” In it, the administration goes on the defensive, offering a full-throated defense of the Trump economy and saying the economic results of the Trump presidency are “undeniable.”

The White House specifically calls out ThinkProgress’s reporting in the email: “Looking for a new talking point, the left found one: Jobs, stocks, and economic growth may be soaring, but pay is not. ‘Worker wages remain stagnant,’ ThinkProgress declared in July.”

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Republicans admit they’ll slash Medicare, Social Security to pay for their tax cuts

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Slowly but surely, Republicans that supported the trillion dollar Trump tax bill are revealing their true motivations: slashing Medicare and Social Security.

During a Sunday interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) urged entitlement reform as the deficit continues to balloon as a result of the GOP tax cuts.

“I do think we need to deal with some of our spending,” Stivers said. “We’ve got try to figure out how to spend less.”

Stivers, who also serves as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), is a self-proclaimed “budget hawk” and frequently criticized national debt levels under the Obama administration. Despite his previous trepidation at increasing the deficit, he voted in favor of a costly tax bill that even the White House admitted would not pay for itself over time.

In his interview with CNBC, Stivers admitted this as well saying, “I don’t think that tax cuts, themselves, can grow the economy for 20 or 30 years.”

But Republican politicians did not go into the tax bill vote blind. There were multiple studies released after the bill was drafted that showed massive tax cuts for the wealthy would only add to the deficit.

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GOP farm bill will be a nightmare for state SNAP programs

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

The House Agriculture Committee farm bill currently snaking its way through the House of Representatives will likely be huge migraine for states, according new analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

According to the CBPP analysis, under the current farm bill, states would have to jump through hoops in order to provide their most vulnerable residents with the means to feed themselves, no doubt impacting low-income families and individuals and making their lives harder than they are already.

The primarily GOP-backed farm bill also unravels nearly two-decades-worth of progress toward streamlining and simplifying SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. States would be required to collect monthly information from 7 million SNAP recipients, detailing how many hours they worked at a job or work program. Currently, most states collect data on a participants’ income only every six months or when a major change occurs that could affect the household’s eligibility, but don’t track small changes in work hours or earnings.

Reporting hours and earnings on a monthly basis could dramatically impact SNAP participants who work low-wage service industry jobs, where workers aren’t entirely in control of their hours. The House farm bill imposes harsh penalties on participants who fail to meet the number of hours required, meaning an individual could be lose SNAP benefits for 12 months if they failed to meet the 20 hour requirement. After a second month of non-compliance, a SNAP participant could lose their access to SNAP for three years.

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Amazon puts 7,000 jobs on hold because of a tax that would help Seattle’s homeless population

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has more money than he knows what do deal with.

While visiting Germany in late April to pick up the Axel Springer Award for innovation, Bezos gave an exclusive interview to Business Insider about how it feels to be the richest man in the world.

Bezos, who has a net worth of $130.8 billion, told the outlet that the only logical way to spend his money is by funding space tourism through his spaceflight company, Blue Origin.

“The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it,” Bezos said.

What Bezos does not want to spend money on at all is helping the homeless population in the city where his company is located.

On Wednesday, Amazon announced the company would halt the construction of a new building in downtown Seattle it was planning to build, jeopardizing some 7,000 jobs.

Why? Because the company opposes a tax being considered by the City Council.

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Corporations, not workers, are receiving the greatest benefits from GOP tax bill

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Four months after Republicans in Congress passed the largest tax code overhaul in three decades, American corporations have gotten a huge tax cut.

New analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness, however, suggests these corporations aren’t using their recently freed up cash to help middle class workers like the administration said it would — more than 84 times.

The organization analyzed corporate data from primarily Fortune 500 companies, whose revenues are two-thirds of the entire gross domestic product (GDP), in addition to news reports and independent analyses of top U.S. companies. What they found was that these powerful corporations have spent a total of roughly $238,244,348,330 in stock buybacks since December 20, 2017 when the tax bill passed.

Working class Americans won’t see a penny of that.

Stock buybacks help those who own corporate stock, which typically means the already-rich. The wealthiest 10 percent of American households own 84 percent of all shares, while the top 1 percent own 40 percen. Roughly one-half of American households don’t own stock at all.

According to the data, few corporations have decided to use the savings from the tax bill to benefit their workers directly. Out of the over 1,500 companies from which Americans for Tax Fairness collected data, just 359 of them actually promised to increase wages for their employees. Of those that have, the majority only offered a bump of $15 an hour in entry-level pay — which, by all accounts, should already be what companies pay entry-level employees in a tightening labor market.

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22 Democratic senators want to know how sexual harassment financially impacts women

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Twenty-two Democratic senators are calling on the Labor Department to collect additional, better data regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.

The senators sent a letter to the department, signed by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and co-signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), among others. Not a single Republican senator attached their name to the letter.

“What is known is that harassment is not confined to industry or one group. It affects minimum-wage fast-food workers, middle-class workers at car manufacturing plants, and white-collar workers in finance and law, among many others,” the senators wrote in the letter, provided to Buzzfeed. “No matter the place or source, harassment has a tangible and negative economic effect on individuals’ lifetime income and retirement, and its pervasiveness damages the economy as a whole.”

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The Trump administration’s long-awaited analysis of the GOP tax plan has bad news for Republicans

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department finally released its analysis of the GOP tax plan: a single page report that essentially concedes the analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation is correct.

According to the Treasury analysis, the tax plan will cost an estimated $1.5 trillion dollars, while raising only $408 billion in revenue, leaving the country $1 trillion in the hole. This eviscerates any notion that the GOP plan will pay for itself, as previously suggested by administration officials like chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The Treasury Department also took its analysis one step too far, assuming 2.9 percent economic growth over the next decade, without providing any actual analysis for it. A Treasury memo released on Monday “modeled the revenue impact of higher growth effects, using the Administration projections of approximately a 2.9% real GDP growth rate over 10 years contained in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget.”

The 3 percent growth projected by the Trump administration’s 2018 fiscal year budget has been debunked and labeled a “fantasy” numerous times.

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Marco Rubio says he won’t vote for the GOP tax bill unless he gets what he wants

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

One of Congress’ most spineless senators has thrown a wrench in the Republican Party’s plan to overhaul the tax code before Christmas.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a no on the GOP tax bill unless the child tax credit (CTC), for which he has previously advocated, is extended to lower-income families.

Rubio has hinted he might vote against the bill in the past.

His disapproval intensified after Republican leaders announced Wednesday they had reached a final decision on the specifics of the GOP legislation. The full text will be released on Friday, but key details include lowering the top individual income bracket to 37 percent and cutting the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, rather than the 20 percent originally proposed by the White House.

This no doubt frustrated Rubio, who co-sponsored an amendment with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that would have extended the child tax credit (currently expanded to $2,000 in the GOP Senate bill) to lower-income families who don’t make enough to pay taxes on their income, but rather pay taxes on their payroll. Rubio and Lee proposed Congress could pay for the change by increasing the corporate tax rate to 20.94 percent.

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Republicans finally find something more important than a 20 percent corporate tax rate

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

If there was one part of the GOP tax framework President Donald Trump was adamant about, it was a 20 percent corporate rate.

House and Senate Republicans, however, decided today they aren’t so set on it.

Republicans in both chambers have reportedly reached an agreement on the final version of the bill, which includes a 21 percent corporate tax rate. The change in the corporate tax rate will help pay for lowering the top individual tax rate from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, a provision that would benefit millionaires.

At one point, Republicans were so set on a 20 percent corporate tax rate, that while the Senate was in the throes of negotiations two weeks ago, the party collectively struck down an amendment that would have actually provided marginal middle class tax relief to a tax bill that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy.

Under the current proposed Senate bill, the child tax credit is expanded to $2,000, but isn’t refundable, meaning lower-income families who don’t make enough for income taxes and instead pay only payroll taxes wouldn’t qualify for the full tax credit, with many only receiving an additional $75 per child annually. The amendment written by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) proposed lowering the level of income at which the tax credit kicks in, extending the benefit to more lower-income families. Rubio and Lee suggested raising the corporate tax rate two percentage points in order to pay for the change, which would have cost around $70 billion dollars.

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Senate Republicans refuse to believe the official analysis of their tax plan

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

A key analysis of the Senate Republican tax plan released late Thursday afternoon threw a wrench into the GOP leadership’s rush to pass tax reform this week. In response, Republican lawmakers are choosing to simply ignore the report’s findings.

Just as the Senate was about to vote on Thursday on whether to advance their tax plan, the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation released a troubling report. The JCT report found that the $1.4 trillion dollar tax plan would generate around $400 billion dollars worth of growth, leaving the total net cost of the plan to be $1 trillion dollars — completely eviscerating any notion that the plan would pay for itself, a key White House talking point.

“We think we can pay for the entire tax cut through growth over the cycle,” said Chief White Economic Adviser Gary Cohn told CNBC in September.

In reality, according to the JCT, the plan won’t even make up for a third of what it costs and increase GDP by 0.8 percent over the next decade.

In the face of such bleak numbers, rather than sending the legislation back to committee to keep working on it, Republicans have decided to brush aside the analysis. Multiple Republicans are now saying the JCT’s findings can’t be trusted because the report underestimates the economic growth lawmakers are confident will result from tax reform.

“I think it’s pretty clear they’re wrong,” Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said in reference to the JCT’s findings, telling reporters he thought the JCT had “lowballed” economic growth.

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The GOP has a problem with paying for kids’ basic care

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Fifty-six days after Congress failed to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), some American children are at risk of losing their health insurance. The deadline to renew the program’s funding was Sept. 30, and Congress hasn’t granted the program $15 billion to continue.

As a result, the popular state-level insurance program for low-income children and pregnant women is facing a funding cliff. While some states may be able to keep the program going through some of next year, half a dozen are projected to run out of funding by late December or early January.

It takes time to make program changes and alert families they’ll be left in the lurch, so states are starting to take action now. States closest to the funding cliff are preparing to warn customers that funding might disappear, leaving kids in the lurch. There are a few options for those families who rely on CHIP once the funding disappears.

States decide if those families could be enrolled in Medicaid or covered through Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace offerings. But Republicans — Trump in the executive and members of his party in Congress and at the state level — have tried hard block access to both of those alternatives, by sabotaging Obamacare, eliminating support for enrollment, blocking Medicaid expansion, etc.

The program has historically enjoyed bipartisan support, but Republicans, in control of both chambers of Congress and steering a massive tax bill through a lightning-fast approval process, are now unable to the program the funds it needs to survive.

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