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The "candy option" for tax reform

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

As full-blown tax reform looks more and more like an unreachable stretch, there's increasing conversation on the Hill about what's being called a "candy option" — all the goodies, with none of the pain.

That would mean lower personal and corporate rates, plus some limited repatriation, funded largely by deficit spending.

  • The case for: "It's something they can pass," said a Republican lobbyist who's deeply connected to all sides of the debate. "We need to junk our current tax code for one more suited to the modern economy. But the ability to accomplish that goal just isn't there."
  • The objection: Both House and Senate leadership sources tell us they don't think the "candy" route is feasible. "The problem with the candy option is it grows quickly," a senior Senate aide said. What he meant is that once you cut corporate rates, politically you have to also deal with pass-throughs for small businesses and also lower individual rates.
  • Then there's the "Ivanka credit" for child care. Pretty soon, you've racked up several trillion in revenue losses. And while you might not have angered anyone by taking away their goodies or imposing a new revenue mechanism (like the border-adjustment tax), you've still got a heck of a job convincing Republicans in either chamber to pass something that blows a hole in budget and is by definition temporary (since under reconciliation, you can't make the cuts permanent if they add to the deficit).
  • The bottom line: Speaker Ryan is still determined to go as big as possible and do real tax reform. But the White House needs to buy into it and get right behind it. Otherwise there'll be the same disaster as healthcare. A senior House aide said: "When it comes to real tax reform, there is no easy option."
Zachary Basu 11 hours ago
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What to watch for in Egypt's sham election

Sisi billboard
A billboard in Cairo voicing support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the upcoming election. Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images.

Egyptians will vote March 26-28 in a presidential election that is sure to see incumbent strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi handily defeat Mousa Mostafa Mousa — the sole challenger who hasn't been jailed or intimidated into dropping out.

The backdrop: Sisi, the former minister of defense and commander-in-chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, led a military coup to topple President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. He formally came to power in 2014 after winning 96% of the vote in the presidential election, but has since seen his popularity wane under deteriorating economic conditions and an oppressive human rights record.

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Trump: Transgender people "disqualified" from the military

SecDef Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford. Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images

President Trump late Friday issued an order disqualifying most transgender people from serving in the military.

"[T]ransgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria -- individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery -- are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances."

Why it matters: Anything short of an inclusive policy for transgender troops will be viewed as a continuation of the ban Trump announced on Twitter in August.