Rubio a ‘no’ on tax reform unless child tax credit expanded

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will withhold his vote from the final Republican tax plan unless it includes an expanded child tax credit, he said Thursday.

“I can’t in good conscience support it unless we are able to increase the refundable portion of it, and there’s way to do it, and we’ll be very reasonable,” Rubio told reporters.

Refundability allows people to get a tax refund even if the amount of the credit exceeds what they owe in taxes.

He said he’s received no assurances his concerns will be addressed, though he said President Donald Trump alluded to them Wednesday in a speech.

Asked of the likelihood of Republican leaders making changes to address his concerns, Rubio said, “We’re about to find out.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We’re going to continue working with the senator.”



White House says Moore concession ‘should have already taken place’

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that a concession speech from defeated Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore “should have already taken place.”

Moore, who lost Tuesday to Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s special election to fill the seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has thus far been unwilling to concede the race and released a video late Wednesday night saying he was waiting for provisional and military ballots to be counted.

“It probably sounds like it may have, should have already taken place,” Sanders said when asked at Thursday’s press briefing if Moore should deliver a concession speech. “Look, the president’s already called and congratulated Doug Jones and expressed his willingness to work with him and to meet with him when he arrives in Washington.”

Moore has indicated that he might call for a recount in Tuesday’s race, even though Alabama law only calls for one to be triggered automatically if a race’s margin is less than 0.5 percent. Jones beat Moore on Tuesday by about 1.5 percent, or slightly less than 21,000 votes.

Jones, in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday, also called on Moore to concede the race.

“Well, I understand the frustration a little bit. It is a close race. But I’d say, look, it’s time to move on. I mean this is — every race is tough. It’s bitter sometimes. I think this one was one that people of Alabama have now spoken a little bit, and they decided to heal,” he said. “I think he would do well to just go ahead, let’s get this behind us, so the people of Alabama can get someone in there and start working for them.”


Haley says U.S. has evidence Iran is violating UN resolution

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, standing before military debris that she claimed to be of Iranian origin, offered Thursday what she presented as “indisputable” evidence of Iran’s UN resolution-violating actions in the Middle East.

“The nuclear deal has done nothing to moderate the regime’s conduct in other areas. Aid from Iran’s revolutionary guard to dangerous militias and terror groups is increasing,” Haley said at a press conference at Joint Base Andrews, where reporters were invited to inspect the evidence on display behind her. “Its ballistic missile and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones across the region. It’s hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.”

Haley’s accusations were the latest in a series of actions the Trump administration has taken to try to raise international pressure on Iran, including ramping up sanctions on the Islamist regime in Tehran.

Trump’s critics warn such moves could lead to an eventual military confrontation between Washington and Tehran, and some say the U.S. rhetoric and actions on Iran have echoes of the Bush administration’s build-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Still, although most of the international community supports keeping the Iran nuclear deal intact, there is growing concern among U.S. allies in Europe and beyond about Iran’s non-nuclear activities in the Middle East.

The U.S. ambassador said Thursday that the debris she offered as proof of Iran’s inflammatory behavior was not directly related to the nuclear deal but was a violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231, which, among other provisions, prohibits Iran from progressing its ballistic missile program in certain ways and bans Iran from weapons transfers.

“We have said everything doesn’t have to be tied to the nuclear deal, but it does have to be tied to the security council resolutions. This is blatant violation of what they are not supposed to be doing,” Haley said. “Everybody has tip-toed around Iran in fear of them getting out of the nuclear deal, and they are allowing missiles like this to be fired over to innocent civilians.”

Last October, President Donald Trump announced that he would decertify Iran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal but not pull the U.S. out of it, declaring that the Islamic Republic had not lived up to “the spirit of the deal,” in part because of its non-nuclear activities.

Behind Haley on Thursday was debris that she said included a rocket with distinctive features that only Iranian models have that she said had been fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen at a commercial airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Also included in the display, Haley said, was material from an anti-tank guided missile, an explosive boat and a so-called “kamikaze drone,” all of which she claimed had parts from Iran.

Some of the material had been declassified by the U.S. government, which Haley noted was an unusual step, and presented to the UN secretary general, whose report on Iran’s actions Haley cited in her remarks.

Houthi rebels, increasingly backed by Iran, have been engaged in a brutal conflict with the Yemeni government and the Saudi military that is backing it. The Yemeni civil war is widely considered a humanitarian disaster and a proxy war against the Iranian government, with significant civilian casualties inflicted by Saudi forces, who have been backed by their U.S. counterparts.

Haley said the U.S. would invite every member of Congress to view the debris as well as every member of the UN Security Council. Beyond building a “coalition” to put increased pressure on Iran, she offered little in terms of concrete steps.

“What I’ve seen from our foreign partners is that…now they actually see that the president was right,” Haley said. “Now they see that yes, there are problems. Yes, there are other activities because they’re feeling it in their own countries.”

Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.


Republican set to propose harassment response overhaul

The House Administration Committee’s GOP chairman is set to propose a draft bill next week that would overhaul the chamber’s system for handling workplace harassment complaints amid a drumbeat of bipartisan calls for change.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) said his forthcoming proposal would "focus on all aspects of" the 1995 law that created Capitol Hill’s current rules for policing misconduct at the office, "including the reporting and settlement process."

Sexual misconduct allegations forced three lawmakers to resign and two more to retire in recent weeks, with Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) facing pressure from some colleagues to follow,

Harper’s committee has held two hearings examining Capitol Hill’s harassment policy. Members of both parties have criticized the current system, which shields the identities of offices that use taxpayer money to settle complaints, as too secretive and prone to deterring victims from coming forward.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have offered legislation that would end the requirement for congressional employees alleging harassment to undergo counseling and mediation, as well as require lawmakers to personally pay if they are found liable for harassment, in addition to other changes.

It’s unclear how much Harper’s forthcoming draft legislation would incorporate from those proposals — Speier has 19 Republican cosponsors, while Gillibrand has yet to draw Democratic backers for her version.