National News

National News at a Glance

Posted December 13, 2017 9:44 p.m. EST
Updated December 13, 2017 9:45 p.m. EST

GOP Agrees On Final Tax Bill

The day after suffering a political blow in the Alabama special Senate election, congressional Republicans sped forward with the most sweeping tax rewrite in decades, announcing an agreement on a final bill that would cut taxes for businesses and individuals. Party leaders in the House and Senate agreed in principle to bridge the yawning gaps between their competing versions of the $1.5 trillion tax bill, keeping Republicans on track for final votes next week. In the end, more of the Senate bill appeared to be included in the final version, though lawmakers continued to make significant changes.

For Trump, a Moment of Defeat but Maybe Not Recalibration

Knocked to the mat in Alabama with the stunning loss of a Senate seat, President Donald Trump got right back up Wednesday and defiantly claimed that he had known his candidate would lose all along. Aides to the temperamental president reported being pleasantly surprised that he did not rage against the setback in private, as he is wont to do in moments of difficulty. But neither did he concede a mistake in backing the Republican candidate, Roy Moore, despite sexual misconduct allegations, attributing the loss to Moore and the national party establishment that abandoned him.

Justice Department Official Defends Mueller

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein adamantly defended the character and impartiality of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, as he came head-to-head on Wednesday with an increasingly aggressive campaign by Republicans to discredit the inquiry. But the swelling campaign to undermine Mueller’s investigation, which has dominated conservative media for days, appeared to have little effect on Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller. Rosenstein said he would only fire Mueller if he had cause under Justice Department regulations — and he said nothing that has happened so far met that standard.

Strong Demand for Health Insurance as Deadline Looms

More than 1 million people signed up last week for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, pushing the total in the federal marketplace to nearly 4.7 million, the Trump administration said Wednesday, days before the annual enrollment period is scheduled to end. The number of sign-ups on from Nov. 1 through Saturday was about 17 percent higher than the same time last year. But the final tally is likely to fall short of the 9.2 million who were in plans at the end of the last open enrollment period, which was twice as long as the current one.

Franken’s Minnesota Seat to Be Filled by a Democrat

Five minutes after being named as Al Franken’s temporary replacement in the U.S. Senate, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith of Minnesota said Wednesday that she would run for the job next fall, in an election for the two years left in Franken’s term. Smith’s appointment keeps a Democrat in Franken’s seat for at least a year, but also cues up a seismic 2018 election. Smith, a far less famous politician than Franken, whose resignation came amid accusations of sexual harassment, seemed eager to avoid being seen as a senator foisted upon Minnesotans.

Trump’s EPA Chemical Safety Nominee Withdraws

President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety division on Wednesday withdrew his name from consideration for the post in the face of mounting opposition. Michael L. Dourson, a longtime researcher whose studies often bolstered safety claims by manufacturers, had been working as an adviser to the agency while awaiting confirmation. But the Senate never scheduled a confirmation vote for Dourson, who resigned from his job at the University of Cincinnati in October. And in recent weeks, two Republican senators came forward to say they would not support him.

Video of Shark Being Dragged by Boat Leads to Arrest of Three

A 10-second video showing a blacktip shark being dragged behind a speedboat has led to the arrest of three men on charges of aggravated animal cruelty, Florida prosecutorssaid this week. The suspects, Michael R. Wenzel, 21; Spencer B. Heintz, 23; and Robert L. Benac III, 28, were the subjects of a four-month investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and state prosecutors after the video was widely seen online. In addition to two counts each of aggravated animal cruelty Wenzel and Benac were also charged with taking a shark from state waters using unlawful methods.