Hemp is Coming Back

Hemp will once again be a cash crop for the United States. There is a strong bipartisan push on Capitol Hill to legalize the plant, a close relative of marijuana with myriad industrial uses, and define it as an agricultural commodity.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is cosponsoring and fast-tracking a bill that would remove hemp from the federal list of controlled substances. The legislation would allow states to regulate the plant’s cultivation and sale and it would make hemp farmers eligible for federal crop insurance. Continue reading “Hemp is Coming Back”

Paul Ryan’s Exit Upends House GOP

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s pending retirement wasn’t unexpected. Given the raucous, de-centralized nature of the House Republican Conference, as well as the unpredictable, often strained relationship between GOP leaders and President Trump, his announcement this week that he won’t seek re-election was already in the works. The speakership, once the most coveted prize on Capitol Hill, has become a thankless job that some qualified potential candidates now shun. Ryan himself didn’t want the gig, reluctantly accepting the assignment in 2015 out of a sense of party loyalty after then-Speaker John Boehner’s ouster left the conference in turmoil.

Ryan’s self-imposed exile sets off a chain-reaction. For starters, Republicans are struggling to retain control of the House next year. Heading into its toughest campaign season in a decade with a lame-duck leader won’t make things easier for them. Continue reading “Paul Ryan’s Exit Upends House GOP”

Be on the Lookout for IRS Impersonators

Taxpayers, beware. While the tax filing season winds down, fraudsters continue duping unsuspecting taxpayers by posing as IRS officials. Seniors and newer immigrants are particular targets of the scam that the agency says is one of the most reported frauds in the nation.

In this scam, fraudsters contact victims via phone, mail or email pretending to be an IRS agent and demand immediate payment of allegedly owed back taxes. They frequently threaten victims with arrest, foreclosure or other adverse legal action. Scammers often instruct their victims to wire money or use a prepaid debit card. Continue reading “Be on the Lookout for IRS Impersonators”

Odds Fade For Last-Minute Flurry Of New Legislation

The last major legislative train of the year is about to leave Capitol Hill and a lot of high-profile cargo will be left behind.

Lawmakers had hoped to attach several significant and unrelated provisions to a massive government funding bill that Congress will address later this week. The $1.3-trillion omnibus bill is the last major “must pass” piece of legislation that Congress will take up until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, so lawmakers from both parties and chambers had hoped to use it as a vehicle to address everything from shoring up Obamacare’s health insurance markets to new gun control measures, immigration reform and protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Continue reading “Odds Fade For Last-Minute Flurry Of New Legislation”

Fake News Websites Proliferating

Beware of a growing trend in politics—websites masquerading as unbiased news organizations that are run by politicians, political parties or activists created to tout their partisan views.

Republicans have been particularly savvy in utilizing this technique to spread their messages and discredit Democrats. Continue reading “Fake News Websites Proliferating”

Don’t Believe The Hype. Congress Can’t Play Nice.

Next time congressional leaders suggest they’re ready to bury the political hatchet and work together in good faith toward a common goal, take their words with a grain of salt. In fact, make it a block.

Take this week’s immigration “debate.” When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) agreed to reopen the government last month, he did so on a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to debate a key Democratic agenda item: Legislation to protect the 1.8 million “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the United States illegally as minors. McConnell vowed an “amendment process that is fair to all sides.” Continue reading “Don’t Believe The Hype. Congress Can’t Play Nice.”

Democratic Win Inadvertently Helps Republican ‘Wildcards’ Gain Clout

Republicans’ loss in this week’s special election in Alabama strengthens the hands of a cadre of independent-minded Senate GOPers.

Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and John McCain, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Susan Collins of Maine, Tennessee’s Bob Corker and occasionally others have used the GOP’s tenuous 52-48 majority to their advantage, threatening to hold up major legislation unless they get certain concessions. Continue reading “Democratic Win Inadvertently Helps Republican ‘Wildcards’ Gain Clout”

GOP Optimism Grows For Tax Bill

There is growing likelihood on Capitol Hill that the Senate will pass its version of the Republican tax reform package this week, as party leaders offer changes in a scramble to win over a half-dozen holdouts.

It’s still difficult to predict the outcome with certainty, as ongoing horse trading is changing the dynamics of the tax reform landscape by the hour. But the belief among Senate Republicans that they’ll get the necessary votes for passage is much stronger than it was yesterday. Continue reading “GOP Optimism Grows For Tax Bill”

Consumer Watchdog Down But Not Out

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set to lose some of its potency. Although Republicans—who have opposed the agency since its inception—will succeed in extracting some of its teeth, the GOP won’t be able to totally defang it.

Now that CFPB Director Richard Cordray is stepping down at the end of the month, President Trump, a critic of the consumer watchdog, is free to nominate a more business-friendly replacement. The administration also will work with congressional Republicans, many of whom want to dismantle the agency, to revamp its structure and refocus its mission. Continue reading “Consumer Watchdog Down But Not Out”

Sizing Up The GOP Tax Plans

Congressional Republicans’ push to overhaul the tax code is centered around two basic principles: Providing corporations with a big tax cut while helping average Americans. But like almost every major issue lawmakers tackle, competing House and Senate bills aimed at achieving these goals aren’t as simple or clear-cut as their authors want the public to believe.

Independent analyses of the tax plans undercut the GOP’s rosy predictions for how much middle-income earners would benefit (especially the House version). Although Senate Republicans’ measure is akin to the one House Republicans are preparing to approve this week, they take significantly divergent paths. If both bills pass intact, Republicans will have to broker a compromise among themselves to advance final legislation to President Trump’s desk. Such an endeavor would be messy and contentious, with success far from guaranteed. Continue reading “Sizing Up The GOP Tax Plans”