Face the Nation December 17, 2017 Transcript

JOHN DICKERSON, HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION: It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Washington, as Republicans appear to have the votes to pass a mammoth tax bill this week, giving President Trump President Trump his Christmas wish.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a tremendous spirit for the tax reform. This is going to be one of the great Christmas gifts to middle-income people.

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DICKERSON: We will take look at winners and losers in the tax bill and talk to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders says the bill will help the rich and hurt the middle class.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: The very wealthy are becoming much more wealthy, while the middle class continues to shrink. And your solution is to give 62 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent.

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DICKERSON: We will ask him abut and what the next step is for Democrats after Doug Jones' stunning upset over Roy Moore in Alabama.

We will also talk to Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford, a member of the Intelligence Committee, which is conducting one of the investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russians.

We will also have plenty of analysis on all the news of the week and a look ahead to next, plus tell you how the tax bill might impact you.

It's all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I'm John Dickerson.

The Republican tax plan is in the home stretch. The final package will be voted on Tuesday in the House then moves to the Senate. At this point, it looks like Republicans have enough votes to pass it. The $1.5 trillion tax cut plan roughly doubles the standard deduction for both individuals and married couples. It cuts individual tax rates. The top income bracket drops from 39.6 to 37 percent. The corporate tax rate decreases, too. It goes from 35 to 21 percent.

The bill eliminates the Obamacare ban mate, with individuals no longer required to purchase health care. It could result in 13 million more people becoming uninsured. The Child tax credit is doubled to $2,000. The income level for those qualifying goes up to $500,000, and $1,400 of the credit will be refundable for those whose income is so low that they don't pay income tax.

The mortgage interest deduction is capped at $750,000, and the deduction for state and local taxes is shrunk to $10,000. According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, it will add $1.6 trillion to the debt.

And we begin today with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Welcome, Mr. Secretary.

Let me ask you a question about priorities in this. Throughout the discussion about this tax bill, it's been clear the corporate rate is going to drop significantly, all the way to 20. It fixed on 21 percent at the end.

In the end here for the middle class, they do get a tax cut. But for a president who dedicated his presidency to the forgotten man and who ran as populist, are the -- is the weighting here correct?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Absolutely.

And, first of all, let me just say, this is a historic event. People said we wouldn't get this done. We're on the verge of getting this done, the single biggest change to the tax system ever that President Trump is going to sign this week. And his priority all along has been fix a broken system.

Over 90 percent of people will be able to fill out their taxes on a postcard. The corporate tax rate going from the highest in the world at 35 percent to 21 percent makes us competitive. And more important, we fix a system where we now tax on U.S. income, which is all about creating U.S. jobs. We are going to bring trillions of dollars back onshore.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you, though, about on the -- the top rate is going down. The president at one point said the wealthy won't be getting a tax cut. Now they will, as it drops from 39.6 to 37.

Now, that balances out the deduction in state and local, but only for those people who live in high-state and local-tax states. So, again to this question of priorities.

Mark Sanford, Republican from South Carolina, said: "From a truth-in-advertising standpoint, it would have been a lot simpler if we just acknowledged the reality on this bill, which is, it's fundamentally a corporate tax reduction and restructuring bill, period."

What's your response to that?

MNUCHIN: Not the case at all. Pass-throughs have the lowest rates that they ever had since the 1930s. That's a huge part of engine of growth of small- and medium-sized businesses that are going to create lots of jobs.

And this is about hardworking families that are going to see starting in February tax cuts. We're already working at the IRS to update the tax forms and update the tax charts. And they're going to see this in their paychecks in February.

DICKERSON: I guess the question is, it's not that the middle class will get no tax cuts. They will. They will get a tax cut.

But it's the size of the tax cut relative to the emphasis and size of what corporations will get through. Not every middle-class family has a pass-through, obviously.

Tom Cole, Republican from Oklahoma, told John Harwood of CNBC this: "It just seems wrong" when -- he was talking about the lack of tax cuts, say, help with payroll taxes, or the fact that the carried interest loophole remains.

He said: "It just seems wrong. We'd be better off if there were more populist victories in there."

The president ran as populist. The argument is, there's just not as much as there could be for the middle class in this, not that they get nothing, but that the emphasis is skewed.

MNUCHIN: I think that is just not correct.

And people are going to see this in their paychecks. This is about the middle class. This is about working families. This is about child tax credits that are going up significantly, as you mentioned, refundable parts of the tax credits going up significantly.

People are going to see their paychecks go up. People are going to see their wages go up. That's what this is all about.

DICKERSON: On the wages question, how soon do you think -- the argument you make is that, with corporations, the tax is lower, they will pass it on to workers in their wages, and then also they will spend money on plants and equipment. How soon do you think that will...

MNUCHIN: I think we will see that this year.

You already see the stock market at record highs. You see people's 401(k)s up substantially.

DICKERSON: But that's not wages. That's...

MNUCHIN: No, no, I'm just saying you already see companies in anticipation in the market. So you're going to see trillions of dollars come back, and I think you're going to see this year wages going up.

DICKERSON: Because Kevin Hassett, who is the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said on this question of when businesses are going to pass this on to the middle class, he said: "If you go to the optimistic vied of the literature, it could take three to five years. If you go to the pessimistic side, it would about double that."

So that's optimistic three to five. So, this is being sold as a big Christmas present everybody is going to get, but really this benefit that will pass on in wages and plants and equipment, Kevin Hassett, the president's -- chairman of his economic advisers says three to five years in the best case.

MNUCHIN: Well, that's three to five years on this $4,500.

But you're going to begin to see it right away. So, you won't see it all come in. It will go in over three years, as Kevin anticipates.

DICKERSON: But for something that is being sold to people as wages are going to go up, happy days are here again, happy days, even in the best-case scenario -- and, obviously, there's lot of debate about whether this will even turn out the way you have argued -- even in a best-case, we're talking three to five years for broad shared middle-class prosperity as result of the theory this is based on.

MNUCHIN: Not the case at all.

You're going to see happy days starting in February, where hardworking families sees that they have more money. That's something that's absolutely critical. You're going to see cuts anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 for medium families with two kids.

This is going to have a huge impact in the economy, and it's going to have a huge impact on American jobs. You're going to see that right away.

DICKERSON: OK, difference between what people see in their taxes going down vs. the paychecks.

MNUCHIN: That's correct.

DICKERSON: But let me ask you this question.

The president, another thing he campaigned on central to his campaign was that he was going to drain the swamp, get rid of special interests.

Public Citizen reports that -- lobbyists have to disclose things they're working on -- 6,243 lobbyists have worked on tax-related issues. That's more than half the lobbyists in Washington worked on this.

For a president who promised to drain the swamp, that seems like a lot of people working on taxes.

MNUCHIN: Well, I think if it was up to the president, there would be a lot fewer of them.

I mean, the reason why there's so many people working on it is, we have touched almost every single part of the tax code. So...

DICKERSON: Have the lobbyists been defeated in this case?

MNUCHIN: Absolutely.

And if you look at the massive changes to this, we fixed a broken tax system. That's what this is all about.

DICKERSON: One -- Tom Cole talks about the carried interest loophole. That was something the president said that loophole let hedge fund managers get away with murder.

It's been tweaked a little, but it's still in there. Why was that worth keeping?

MNUCHIN: Again, that was up to the House and the Senate.

The president likes the overall bill. There's obviously little parts of this bill that he would have tweaked differently himself. The fact that it's moved from one year to three years is definitely a step in the right direction, and the fact that it impacts a lot of small real estate developers.

But, as you said, the president couldn't get every single little detail he wanted. That was one of them that got left out.

DICKERSON: OK. That's it. We're out of time. I really appreciate it, Mr. Secretary.

MNUCHIN: Great to see you. Thank you.

DICKERSON: Thanks for being with us.

And we're joined now by Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders. He's in Burlington.

Welcome, Senator.

This looks like it's going to get passed through the Senate and the House and signed by the president, this tax cut bill. Is there anything more that opponents like you could have done to stop this?

SANDERS: Well, I think we did everything that we could.

But at the end of the day, what you had is people like Mr. Mnuchin, who himself is worth $300 million or $400 million, the president of the United States, who is worth several billion dollars, as you mentioned, some 4,000 or 5,000 lobbyists doing everything that they could to write a bill which significantly benefits the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations.

The latest analysis that we have seen suggests that 72 percent of the benefits go to the top 5 percent. My guess is that 60 percent of the benefits will go to the top 1 percent

And at the end of the decade, because the benefits for the middle class are temporary, while the corporate benefits are permanent, at the end of the decade, over half of the middle class will be paying more in taxes.

What we are seeing here is a real massive attack on the middle class. And what I worry very much, John, is that if you listen to what the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, is talking about, what he is saying is that, as a result of this bill, the deficit will go up by $1.4 trillion.

And what Ryan, in my view, will come back with are massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to offset that deficit.

DICKERSON: Let me ask...

SANDERS: So, massive tax breaks for the rich, cuts to Social Security, this is a grossly unfair tax bill.

DICKERSON: I want to get to the entitlements in just a moment, but on that question of the middle class, what the administration says and Republicans say is that, yes, those tax cuts expire for middle class, but knowing politics as they do, that nobody is going to vote to have let them expire, that those will essentially be capped.

That seems pretty reasonable in the way Washington works. So, is it really fair to say they're going to expire?

SANDERS: Well...

DICKERSON: Go ahead.

SANDERS: Well, they are. I mean, the way this bill is written is the tax breaks for corporations are now permanent.

Why weren't the tax breaks for the middle class made permanent? Because it has to do with the priorities of the folks who wrote that legislation. And their job is to represent multinational corporations, and not working families. That's where we are today.

DICKERSON: And let me ask you. There's lot of talk about politics here.

If the Democrats take control of the Senate -- and you caucus with the Democrats -- what is the promise to America about what will be done to reverse the state of affairs that you're so unhappy with?

SANDERS: Look, at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, where the people on top and large corporations are doing phenomenally well, our job is to pay attention to the needs of working families.

We talk about a child care tax credit in this bill. Truth is that, depending on where you live in America, good, quality child care can cost $12,000, $15,000, $20,000 a year.

Our job is to move to universal child care, so that every working family in this country knows that their kids have good, quality care. Right now, John, this is really quite unbelievable. While the Republicans are spending all of their time providing massive tax breaks to the rich, there has been no discussion, public discussion, about the dreamers, the needs of the dreamers, 800,000 young people born and raised in America, who are going to lose their legal status very shortly.

And what about the CHIP program?

DICKERSON: And let me get...

SANDERS: Nine million kids Gates lose their health insurance.

DICKERSON: Let me get to that in a second.

If you, Democrats take control, are corporate taxes going up?

SANDERS: I think we're going to take a very hard look at this entire tax bill and make it a tax bill that works for the middle class and working families, not for the top 1 percent and large multinational corporations.

DICKERSON: But there's no question that in order to achieve all of the things you want, taxes are going to have to go up on corporations? If they're down to 21 a result of this legislation, you can't find the money anywhere else?

SANDERS: Absolutely, yes, in my view, absolutely.

DICKERSON: So, OK.

All right, let's go on to now the budget and spending question. The Republicans, when Democrats have said Medicare is going to have to be cut because of the so-called pay-go rules, what Republicans say is, Democrats are going to waive those rules next year, that those pay-go rules are always waived, and so it's kind of a false attack to say that there are going to be automatic cuts for Medicare.

Your response?

SANDERS: No, what is not a false attack, John, is simply listening to what the speaker of the House has said.

And what he has said is, after they do this tax bill, the next order of business is so-called entitlement reform. And please understand that, when Republicans talk about entitlement reform, what they are talking about are massive cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

In the budget that they already passed, they propose a trillion- dollar cut to Medicaid, which would be disastrous for people who have loved ones in nursing homes, for children and for working families who are on Medicaid.

This is what they have already proposed. So they are going to come back, in my view, in order to offset this deficit with terrible cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

DICKERSON: So, that's slightly different, though, than following through on restrictions created by pay-go, which they say you will waive.

But let me ask you this question about the spending bill, keep the government open. What is your message to Democratic leaders about how tough -- how and what they should fight for in terms of keeping -- funding the government?

SANDERS: Look, right now, it is no secret that the middle class is hurting.

The Republicans have been unable to reauthorize, for example, the Community Health Center Program providing health care to 27 million Americans.

The CHIP programs, the Children's Health Insurance Program, they have ignored that, for three months, the CHIP program for nine million children in this country has not been funded. We have a crisis in pensions in this country. A million-and-a-half hardworking people who are promised their pensions are going to see their pensions reduced by 50 or 60 percent.

We have a rural infrastructure crisis, where people can't get even get broadband. We have 30,000 vacancies in the Veterans Administration that have not been filled.

Our job is to take care of the needs of working families and the middle class, not just worry about the 1 percent. So, I believe that, as we talk about the new spending bill, those are the issues we must demand that Republicans address.

DICKERSON: All right, we're out of time.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

And we will be back in one minute.

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DICKERSON: We turn now to Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford. He joins us from Oklahoma City.

Welcome, Senator.

I want to talk with this tax cut bill. You have talked about the debt and the deficit throughout your career. All of the independent analysis says that this tax cut bill will add a trillion or more to the debt. Why then is this a bill you can support?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R), OKLAHOMA: Actually, all the independent analysis doesn't note that. The Joint Committee on Tax does note that, but the Tax Foundation doesn't. There's a lot of others.

We have 130 different sets of economists that are out there, and part of the challenge is always looking at which one is right. All of them are putting a forecast out there. All of them have different numbers. We have some as high as a 5 percent growth. We have some as low as 0.8 percent growth. All of them show economic growth.

The guess is, how much economic growth is in the bill itself? The target of any time you do tax reform is to try reduce taxes on individuals and on businesses, so they have more money to spend, they can spend that money. That encourages the economy to grow. We know it will grow. Now the guess is how much.

DICKERSON: That's right. And the Tax Foundation is still around $500 billion to the debt, and there are -- the majority of independent analysis shows even larger.

And that bet you're making, isn't there a big downside risk that you have talked about throughout your career, which is that the negative effects of increased debt kill the growth that you're trying to create?

LANKFORD: Absolutely.

The biggest issue that would have if we have accelerating debt is to have the issue of continued investment from the federal government into more and more interest payments. We have to get the economy growing, though, to actually get on top of this.

We have said for years the debt has become so large, the only way to be able to get on top of this debt and deficit is a growing economy and limiting your spending.

We have limited spending over the last several years. It's been very small in its growth for spending, but the economy has also been flat in the last decade. We have not had a decade like the last decade since the 1940s.

So, we have got to get the economy growing again. We're not growing again. We never do get on top of the debt and deficit without that. So you're right. This is something that's designed to be able to energize the economy. It should work. A lot of people that we looked at and examined independently say it will work. And so the focus for us is, let's get this economy growing.

DICKERSON: Well, if that doesn't work, then you will have compounded problems.

And when you talk about spending, based on what you have seen from the way this tax bill put together, the intellectual rigor, the timing and pacing, do you have confidence that spending reductions can be done in a methodical and sensible way that will actually create good policy, or that will create a rush that might create more problems?

LANKFORD: No, I don't think it's going to create more problems. This tax bill itself has been over a year in the works.

In fact, if you go back to the original draft of it, it was about three years ago, coming from the camp plan. The House released out their proposal on tax reform in January of this year, the White House early in the summer.

This has not been a rushed process. This has literally been 12 months in the making and multiple hearings over the past year, and then leading back to earlier work even that was done several Congresses ago.

So, I know that the theme of this has been it's been rushed. And I think it's because lot of people haven't started paying attention until the very end. But the process has been long and methodical.

Now, the flip side of that is the spending side, because we have got a budget bill to take care of this week as well. I have had great frustration with budget process. The budget process was designed in 1974. It's only worked four times. I have been one of several to be able to say over and over again we have got to fix the way we do budget process. We will never get ahold of our spending until we do.

DICKERSON: Well, and that's the big question that remains from a process.

Let me, though -- we have got to switch to talk about the Intelligence Committee and the work you're doing. You have looked at this question of Russian interference in the election. Are the Russians still interfering and how are we going to protect the next election?

LANKFORD: Yes, there's no doubt the Russians not only engaged in our past election, but they're still trying to find ways to be able to do that.

We have noted several ways publicly in the last couple of months that they're still engaging in social media, trying to stir up the United States' controversies.

I compare it to, if you have got two kids in playground that are in a fight there's always somebody on the edge screaming fight, fight, fight, trying to bring a bigger crowd to it. That's what the Russians are really trying to do. They're not starting it. They're just trying to add fuel to the flame any time.

The key thing that I think needs to be done right now is a bill that is actually a bipartisan bill I'm working on to be able to finalize hopefully this week to be able to drop dealing with election security helping states protect their own election security. The FBI was much too slow and Homeland Security were much too slow in notifying our states the last time that the Russians were trying to probe election systems. We have got to be able to do that faster. We've got to help states have a good, reliable, auditable election system that they can actually do themselves, and that the federal government and that all entities from those states can trust those election results.

DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the texts that were released this week from investigator -- an investigator on the Mueller team.

What is your opinion about those texts, one of which referred to an insurance policy? There's a lot of debate about that text and what exactly was meant by it. But how serious do you think this is in the context of the larger investigation that you know something about?

LANKFORD: I think it's serious any time you have an investigator within an investigation has an obvious political bias, whichever direction that goes.

It's clear this individual within the Mueller team that was also on the Clinton e-mail investigation team on the FBI, in their leadership, had a strong bias against now President Trump when he was candidate Trump and was very clear about that.

When that was discovered by the Mueller team, they fired him, appropriately so, and took him off of that team. But that is a big consideration. We expect the Justice Department to be blind and be fair to all sides, not have a clear political bias and express it so strongly.

DICKERSON: But given that Mueller took him off the investigation, do you think this taints the larger project he's doing, since you know the scope of that larger project?

LANKFORD: Yes, it's very serious to be able to have someone inside.

What they have got to determine is, was he directing the investigation one way or the other while he was on the investigation? Is that something they can go back and repair and look and see if there's any kind of bias that is in it.

Obviously, I don't think it taints the entire process, but it certainly taints that season of it, and it's something you should look at with any political investigation that he was on at the time.

Again, we want our FBI agents to be neutral and to be nonpolitical, not very actively engaged politically.

DICKERSON: All right, Senator Lankford, thanks so much for being with us.

LANKFORD: Thank you.

DICKERSON: And we will be back in a moment.

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DICKERSON: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION and take a look at the record that is about to be broken with tax cuts in the Senate.

Stay with us.

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DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

For a closer look at the Republican tax bill and what it will mean for you, we turn to Richard Rubin. He covers U.S. tax policy for "The Wall Street Journal."

Welcome, Richard.

I've been reading everything that you've been writing.

So let's start just with the winners and losers at the end of the day here. Who are they?

RICHARD RUBIN, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": So, in the big picture, the winners are corporations. Like you talked about before, the corporate rate is going to go from 35 percent to 21 percent. That's a real big win for kind of the companies that have been paying close to that level. Think domestic retailers.

Pass-through businesses also really win under this. Those are partnerships, sole proprietorships, s corporations. For a lot of them, they're going to get basically a 20 percent discount on their tax rate. If they pay individual rates now, they still will, but they'll have a big, new deduction.

And then as Secretary Mnuchin talked about, and Senator Lankford talked about, middle class households, especially households with children, will have tax cuts. They'll see those in paychecks in February. They'll see those on the tax return they file in April of 2019. Those tax cuts are temporary. They expire at the end of 2025. And so that's something that I'm sure Congress will fight over for the next eight years or so.

DICKERSON: The secretary also mentioned that 90 percent or -- would be able to fill their taxes out on a card. This is one of the big goals, simplification. What do you make of that claim?

RUBIN: So what he's talking about is the number of people who would be able to move from itemizing to the standard deduction. Right now about 70 percent of people take the standard deduction. This will push that up closer to 90 percent, because the standard deduction will be larger and there will be fewer itemized deductions that cap on state and local income taxes of $10,000 will limit that.

That doesn't necessarily mean everyone's filing on a postcard. So it's much -- it's simpler for those marginal itemizer you can think of, like people who itemize now and won't under the new system, it will be simpler, but some of those people in that group might actually be -- end up paying more. So that -- so it will be easier. If you want to keep track of your deductions, your ultimate tax bill might end up being higher. And so that's a trade-off -- I don't know, is that a trade-off you want to make? That's up to them.

DICKERSON: And there's also work that you have to do before you get it on the card.

RUBIN: Yes, look, I mean, when you talk about a simpler system, the simplicity is really about, what is a child that's eligible for the child tax credit? How do you calculate the earned income tax credit for low income families. That's still really complicated. And you can have a simple form but behind that is a whole bunch of definitions and worksheets.

DICKERSON: What about on the corporate side and the pass-through side? There were a lot of claims about things that were going to be removed from the code. Have -- is there simplicity on those two parts of this story?

RUBIN: Look, the business side of the tax code is complicated because the world is complicated. You have to figure out what -- you know, how you should treat capital expenses. So there is some simplicity there in the sense that we've got these long -- these complicated depreciation schedules. At least for the first five years, companies can write off investments right away, that is a big simplification. Getting rid of the corporate alternative minimum tax, that's a simplification.

But the international provisions are new and novel and will take a lot of time for companies to figure out. The same with the pass- through businesses, who's eligible for that break and who's not. There's going to be a lot of work for tax accountants and tax lawyers in the days ahead.

DICKERSON: What did you make of covering this process? What -- give us your narrative story of how this -- this went from the original promise that were made about it until the final stage we're in here now?

RUBIN: I think that we saw is a lot of those original promises, the ones we saw during the campaign in 2016 and the early part of 2017, a lot of them happened but a lot of them -- some of them get jettisoned as they got toward the reality of needing to pass something. The failure on health care earlier in the year, I just don't underestimate how much that changed the Republican mindset in Congress. It went from, we need to pass our ideal tax plan to, we need to pass something. And the desire to get to yes for lawmakers was high.

So you had things like repealing the estate tax, repealing the alternative minimum tax for individuals, putting it in three tax brackets instead of seven. None of those things happened. They were willing -- making it revenue neutral, not adding to the deficit, which they had talked about repeatedly earlier in the year. They just pushed those things aside and said, we've got to get something done and this really became the art of the possible, not the art of the ideal for them.

DICKERSON: At the end of the stage, Marco Rubio seemed to kind of grab his moment, asked for the child tax credit to be refundable for those people who don't pay income taxes. First of all, how much of a policy difference did his stance make? What's the difference between what it would have been and what it is now? And then just kind of, what did you make of that last little piece of drama?

RUBIN: So, what they did on policy is, the proposal in the Senate was to allow the child tax credit for 17-year-olds, right now it's capped for 16-year-old. And so they kept the current law version of that and then expanded how much would be refundable for not the very lowest income families, but lower, middle income families. So you can think of what Rubio did as taking billions of dollars from all 17- year-olds and directing them to a lot of lower, middle income households. You can judge the merits of that however you want.

And, look, he -- he and Mike Lee of Utah were struggling with how to do this. They didn't seem like they wanted to take down the entire bill. They had the leverage to do that when it was in the Senate. But at that last moment they were able to get more.

Republican leaders did not want this in the bill initially. They didn't put it in the House bill or the Senate bill. And so that was a change that they were able to get at the end as part of getting everybody on board.

DICKERSON: And another person who got on board was Senator Corker of Tennessee who voted against the Senate bill because of the effect on the deficit and debt. Why did he change at the end?

RUBIN: You know, he basically -- I mean his statement basically said, well, I've looked at it again and I talked to people and I heard from constituents and maybe it will add to the deficit, but it's worth the risk. And that's -- you know, it's -- which is in some ways sums up what we're just talking about, that Republicans really got to a point, even the Republican who said he was opposed to it now is voting for it because they are just really eager to have some sort of accomplishment, something they can point to going into the -- into 2018 and the midterm elections, even though this bill is unpopular with the public.

DICKERSON: Final question is on the -- on the lobbyist. The secretary of treasury said this was a defeat for the lobbyists. How did you see their role in this and then -- and what -- whether they're -- I mean obviously there are over 6,000 of them, so they've got varied interests. But since it was such a central and important part of the campaign getting special interests out of the process, how do you evaluate that here?

RUBIN: So there are some special interests who lost. Home builders and realtors really fought to -- against -- and charities fought against that bigger standard deduction because it will -- it makes the incentive to itemize, the incentive for mortgage interest and charitable contributions smaller. And so they're not happy with the end product. So those lobbyists aren't happy.

The lobby -- corporate lobbyists, who have been pushing for a much lower corporate tax rate for many years, for a territorial system on foreign income that, you know, lets it be easier for U.S. companies to earn profits aboard and bring them home, they're really happy. This is -- this is what they've been pushing for for a long time and they had this magic lineup of Republicans controlling Congress and the White House to get it done.

DICKERSON: All right, Richard Rubin, thanks so much for being with us.

And we'll be right back with our political panel.

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DICKERSON: We turn now to our political panel to unpack the news of the week.

Amy Walter is the national editor at the "Cook Political Report." Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor in chief of "The Atlantic." We're also joined by "Slate" magazine's chief political correspondent and CBS News political analyst Jamelle Bouie. And Ben Domenech is the founder and editor of "The Federalist."

Before we get to policy, Ben, I want to ask you a question about Senator McCain, who's your father-in-law. How's he doing?

BEN DOMENECH, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, John, I'm happy to say that he's doing well. The truth is that, as anyone knows whose family has battled cancer or any significant disease, that oftentimes there are side effects to treatment that you have. The senator's been through a round of chemo and he went -- and was hospitalized this week at Walter Reed.

Our thanks to the doctors at NIH and Walter Reed who have been treating him. He is doing well. He's in good spirits. And he's looking forward to heading back home to Arizona for the holidays. Our thanks to everyone who has been sending thoughts and prayers to the senator this week. We greatly appreciate it. And he remains one of the toughest men on the face of the earth, as you know.

DICKERSON: That we know.

So, we'll send them again, our prayers to him and to the whole family.

DOMENECH: Thank you.

DICKERSON: So -- thank you.

All right, so now to this week. Let's start with the tax bill.

Jeffrey, it's going to pass. It's going to get signed by the president unless something really crazy happens. So --

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, "THE ATLANTIC": Which is not impossible in this America.

DICKERSON: Right.

GOLDBERG: But, you're right, it's going to probably pass.

DICKERSON: That's right. And so give us your sense of that -- what that means?

GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, I think, in the broadest political sense, I think that this takes Donald Trump's pretty bad year and might move it into the not bad category in the following sense.

You know, he started the -- his term, his first year, with a Supreme Court victory. He might end it with a -- with a tax cut victory, a tax plan victory. It's a legislative victory. It might not be possible with a broad swath of Americans, but it counts as a victory.

ISIS, by the way, is on its back foot in Iraq and Syria. If we didn't have all of the noise and craziness, the Russia investigation, the early morning tweeting, all of the -- the race-baiting and everything else that's been going on, you would look at this year and say, you know what, not the worst year for a first-year president. It's very interesting to think about it in those terms.

AMY WALTER, "COOK POLITICAL REPORT": Yes, and especially on the economy, which is the economy is doing very well. People are feeling better about it. The secretary of the treasury came on and talked about people's 401(k) improving. All of that is true. And yet none of that is translating the way it normally translates to a president, which is if the economy's doing well, usually the party in power, their approval ratings, do well.

And so figuring out where that all stands, as Jeffrey pointed out, is really about the fact that, are voters right now going to focus on the economy that they feel is doing better, and they personally are doing better, or are they focusing on the things about the president, his temperament, his behavior that they don't like? Right now they're focusing, politically at least, much more on what they don't like about the president than what they do like about the economy.

DICKERSON: It is fascinating to watch the president, who ran against Wall Street in part talking about the health of the -- the stock market.

Jamelle, the polling for this tax bill is not good. So does -- McConnell's -- Senator McConnell's argument is, it's going to get better once people start feeling this tax cut. Do you buy that argument?

JAMELLE BOUIE, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: I -- I'm not sure that I do. That is -- reminds me quite a bit of the Democratic Party's argument in the run-up to the Affordable -- or passing the Affordable Care Act, that once voters understood the benefits they got, they would like the bill. And as it turned out it took a good three or four or five years before the public was ever positive about that law. And they largely became positive about that law because of the prospect of losing that law and losing specifically the Medicaid expansion.

And there's -- you know, for -- although the Republican tax bill does deliver some benefits, it doesn't deliver anything as concrete as something like the Medicaid expansion did that might create the same kind of bond with voters.

And if you look at polling so far, even, you know, suburban voters, the kinds of people who you think would support this kind of tax policy, are skeptical about it. So I'm not -- I'm not sure -- I appreciate Senator McConnell's optimism, but I'm not sure it's going to actually play out that way.

DICKERSON: Ben, get -- let me get your thoughts, more generally, but also kind of playing off of what Jamelle was saying. Senator Sanders just said that basically his message is, corporate taxes are going up if Democrats get in control. How do you think that plays in this context?

DOMENECH: I think Republicans are actually going to be very confident running on this measure as sort of their key signature legislative success in 2018. I think that you will see a tick up in terms of people's attitude towards it once they actually see their paychecks go up.

You know, one of the things about this in terms of how unpopular it is, is that when you simply get past the initial numbers, it's the people think that they're not going to benefit from it, that they're not going to see a benefit that their taxes are actually going to go up and not down. I think that when people see their paychecks actually have more money in them, they're going to have a more positive attitude towards it.

But the simple fact is that Republicans want to be talking about this. Democrats are going foe be talking about getting rid of this president and his unpopular policies. They're going to be -- so many different Democrats and frankly base forces who are pushing Democrats towards turning this into an impeachment election where they are going to be getting this president out of office. And I think it's actually going to be difficult because the Democratic leadership would much prefer to be talking about, well, look at what he just gave to corporations and things along those lines. Nancy Pelosi's lines about this being apocalyptic, you know, end of the world sort of tax scenario I think are something that would actually cater to what they would like to be talking about. Instead, the base of the Democratic Party is going to drive this into a much more, I think, significant and extreme direction.

GOLDBERG: It does -- it does just seem, though, that the Republicans have a hard lift here, which is, it is -- it is impossible not to say that the greatest beneficiary in this plan, the corporations --

DOMENECH: Yes.

GOLDBERG: If you believe that corporations are people, then people are benefitting. If you don't, the Democrats have a very potent weapon. And I don't know -- I mean it will take -- if it takes time -- it will take time to get people around to this, but I don't know if you can ever get around to this, because that's the -- that is the top line observation.

BOUIE: And --

DICKERSON: And to -- go ahead, Jamelle.

BOUIE: And just to Amy's point from earlier, all of this interacting in an environment where voters are quite angry at the president's behavior. So even if there are material benefits from the tax bill, there's no -- there's no guarantee that that will -- that will interact with voter attitudes in a way to produce a political benefit for the Republican Party.

DICKERSON: And, Amy, what about the Democrats seizing this moment? The ability, obviously, that they haven't been able to stop it through Congress. But as a political matter, to Ben's point, I mean this used to be the bread and butter of the Democratic Party, how to talk to working people.

WALTER: Right.

DICKERSON: They've got some ammunition they could use here. What's your assessment on their ability to actually use it to make a case to people who already -- they've talked to, you know, about income equality overall all these years.

WALTER: Right. The best thing that Democrats have going for them right now is that they're not in the White House. And they are the party of the opposition. It's so much easier to be the party of opposition than to be the party actually making policy.

And what we found, especially in these midterm or early midterm elections and special elections is that what the party has struggled with for the last eight years in the era of Obama was getting their base, that Obama electorate, excited and energized, voters of color and younger voters. They couldn't do it when Obama was in the White House. Hillary Clinton couldn't do it. You know who's turning out the Obama coalition? Donald Trump. Donald Trump personally is a great motivator.

And to the point about whether they can talk about these issues, I think they make a very -- I think we're going to see this over and over again, the point you made about, thousands of lobbyists worked on this bill, tax cuts for corporate America. Whether people are feeling it or not, I think becomes less important than the overall argument that this president and Republicans said they were going to help the working people. This is really the same old, same old, helping corporations.

And, again, if the issue was, do I feel it in my paycheck, the biggest group of people that are souring on the president live in suburban America. Their 401(k)s are doing great right now.

DICKERSON: Right.

WALTER: So if it were really just about the economy, they would be on board.

GOLDBERG: The biggest -- the biggest question heading into 2018, I think, is whether there is a learning curve in the White House.

WALTER: Yes.

GOLDBERG: If he comes out of this realizing, wait, I got an actual traditional political Republican victory and learns to get out of his own way in 2018, then he's doing pretty well heading into the midterms. But this is Donald Trump we're talking about, so there's no guarantee that there's a learning curve and that he'll return to form, even with proof that behaving in a traditional way actually has benefit.

DICKERSON: Although --

DOMENECH: And you saw that -- and you saw that in Alabama in the sense that you -- you have, to Amy's point, you know, a candidate in Doug Jones who is more than 90 percent of what Hillary Clinton achieved in Alabama and a candidate in Roy Moore who got less than 50 percent of what Donald Trump achieved.

The truth is that Trump, since he got into the White House, has effectively been offering his voters circuses without the bread. He's been giving them the same level of entertainment that they experienced during the 2016 election without actually delivering on a lot of his populous promises when it came to shifting the way that the Republican Party would prioritize things.

And I think you see that totally with this tax bill. That is a very traditional Republican approach. It's not a breakaway from the kind of approach that you might have seen under a President Jeb Bush. And that's something that satisfies Mitch McConnell, satisfies Republican donors, but is not necessarily going to satisfy the same voters who said that Donald Trump was the kind of shift they wanted to see in the GOP.

BOUIE: But what's interesting is that in Alabama the voters who turned out for Roy Moore are the voters who are this working class, populist base.

DOMENECH: Yes.

BOUIE: They turned out for Roy Moore. The ones who didn't are these suburban voters. They're the ones whose support completely collapsed. And so I think there is an interesting question here of the degree to which the material circumstances of these white suburban voters in places like Alabama and Virginia will see -- or else next year seems to not matter as much for their political choices. That they're angry at Donald Trump for reasons that don't have anything to do with how they're doing in the pocketbook.

WALTER: Yes.

DICKERSON: Right. And, so, Amy, could we have a -- basically a policy-free 2018 which would be disaster because for Democrats they want to drive down those suburban numbers, which means reminding everybody of the most outrageous thing the president did recently, and because the base of the Democratic Party gets energized, as you already argued. So why -- I mean don't they want to basically keep the focus entirely on Donald Trump and his --

WALTER: They can make it on Donald Trump, but really they don't have to talk to their base and remind them why they don't like Donald Trump. The base is already pretty clear about how they feel about him. But it's making the case that the policies that the administration, that Republicans in Congress have passed haven't -- have been out of step with you, main street, whatever they want -- however they want to address it, whether it's the focus on corporate tax cuts, whether it's on the administration and the changes that have been made on issues like the environment, labor standards, et cetera. You can kind of go down the list. It's been a pretty -- it's -- conservatives should be happy. They've gotten a great agenda through, conservative judges getting through, regulatory reform, rolling back a lot of Obama-era --

GOLDBERG: Regulatory reform is the revolution here nobody's talking about because of the circuses.

WALTER: Yes.

GOLDBERG: But they're moving their agenda in a big day.

WALTER: (INAUDIBLE).

The one thing I do also want to say is that the focus so much for the president -- we saw a story today that the president's going to go out and do more of these alleys in 2016 -- I'm sorry, in 2018. The challenge for him is not getting those people in the rallies to vote for him. The challenge is to get the people who never showed up to the rallies but ultimately voted for him to continue to vote for him. Those people who were reluctant Trump voters. They didn't necessarily like him in 2016, but they disliked Hillary Clinton more. They thought he was the change candidate, she was the status quo. Those are the folks that are sour and souring on the president.

So their -- the number of rallies he does and keeping that business energized isn't the challenge. The challenge to Jeffrey's point is, going back to those people who were reluctant Trump supporters, but who want to see progress made without all the other drama.

DICKERSON: The people Jamelle said were souring in Alabama.

Ben, a Republican I talked to this week in assessing Alabama said, we don't think we're going to have anybody who has been credibly accused of, you know, sexual assault on a child in any other republican race. So, in other words --

DOMENECH: An optimistic view, right.

DICKERSON: In other words, let's not over read Alabama.

WALTER: Yes.

DICKERSON: That makes sense to me.

DOMENECH: Well, it does -- it does make sense to me, too, John. But I think in -- I mean, honestly, Republicans in the Senate were breathing a sigh of relief after Alabama. They did not want to be dealing with Roy Moore, particularly the certain that lot of the different staffers share were --

GOLDBERG: They'd have to shake his hand.

DOMENECH: Who were expressing was, once he gets in here, will we ever be able to get rid of him. And they didn't feel like they could.

You know, but the situation I think here is one that deserves a little bit more attention than just, we're not going to nominate someone like that in another race, because there was a series of decisions that were made by a number of different Republican politicians along the way that led to Roy Moore. Mitch McConnell has been of the belief for a long time now that there are two kinds of politicians. There are politicians he likes and there are politicians who will lose.

This ignores the third kind, which is politicians he doesn't like who could win. The fact is that if McConnell had not parachuted in millions of dollars to nuke (ph) Mo Brooks, a conservative in the primary, that he very well could have been the nominee in this situation and might be a senator today. Now, he has his own health issues, of course, but I think this is one of those things where McConnell needs to look hard at sort of the challenges that are not -- that are going to going -- be at the fore in a lot of these different primaries where he may need to make a choice about, do I have kind of a winnable candidate who's a conservative, or do I have someone who can.

DICKERSON: OK, we're going to have to end it there. And we'll be right back in a moment.

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DICKERSON: In all the swirl of news this week, it might have gone unnoticed that with the naming of Tina Smith as Al Franken's replacement, the number of women in the Senate will reach a record high. Twenty-two women will serve next year.

The culture of American life is changing at a rapid pace, from Hollywood to the restaurant kitchen, to the corporate board room. Politics takes a while to catch up, but change is taking place there too. Roy Moore lost in Alabama and there have been other ripples.

Change will continue. So far, there are 374 women potentially running for the House in next year's election, 305 are Democrats, 69 Republicans. And so far there are 42 women exploring a senate run, 28 Democrats and 14 Republicans, according to the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics. That's four times as many women challenging House incumbents this time compared to the same period in 2015, and ten times the number of women challenging incumbent senators compared to 2012 and 2014. And we're just under 11 months from Election Day.

The door is closing on the era that protected powerful men in Washington. And based on these numbers, it appears another door is opening.

We'll be right back.

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DICKERSON: That's it for this week. Join us again next week. For FACE THE NATION, I'm John Dickerson.