Happy Wednesday. 51-48 in the midnight hour: The Senate cleared the tax bill, which now heads back to the House for a final vote, after a procedural hiccup forced last-minute changes to the legislation.

THE NEW TAX BILL JOKE — The bill so nice they’ll vote on it twice!

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THE WHITE HOUSE expects some sort of event late this afternoon — but not at 1 p.m., as the president originally said, because the House might still be voting. PRESIDENT TRUMP will not be able to sign this bill for several days, we’re told.

PAUL RYAN takes a victory lap after 20 years of trying to get tax reform done. He’ll be on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “CBS This Morning,” NBC’s “Today Show” and “Fox and Friends” on Fox News Channel this morning.

THREE DAYS TILL SHUTDOWN … GOVERNMENT FUNDING UPDATE — Everything is changing by the hour, it seems. LET’S REVIEW…

— ON TUESDAY MORNING, House Republicans planned to pair the $81 billion supplemental spending with a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open through January, and the Defense Department funded through the end of the year. They also planned a vote on extending a key section of FISA — the federal surveillance law.

— BY TUESDAY EVENING, the GOP had settled on a new plan. Three votes: one to fund government, one to approve the disaster money and another to extend FISA. Nothing is finalized at this point. But nothing is ever finalized, right? Read John Bresnahan and Rachael Bade’s deeper explanation here http://politi.co/2B62014

THE TOUGH PART, as we explained yesterday: The Senate is expected to combine these, and try to add Alexander-Murray — language to bolster Obamacare — and send it back to the House. This caused an uproar in the House Republican universe. Both anti-abortion lawmakers and anti-Obamacare folks are upset at the prospect of having to vote on that package. It’s not clear Republicans will have the votes to add the Obamacare language in the Senate. Read Rachael Bade and Jen Haberkorn for more on the Obamacare clash http://politi.co/2oRibgV

WHAT DOES THE HOUSE DO IF IT GETS A BIG LEGISLATIVE BUNDLE IT DOESN’T LIKE? Well, whatever they can get the votes for. BUT … many people we spoke to feel like they’d have the votes to ignore the Senate package and send back a three-week stopgap bill with nothing else. THIS WOULD BE GOOD FOR PAUL RYAN. Why? He’d be seen as sticking it to the Senate, which — if we’re being honest — is what most House lawmakers care about anyway.

P.S. — TEXANS LOVE TEXAS: Texas Republicans — many of whom have long railed and voted against disaster funding — want even more money for disaster relief in their state. And some of them even asked for money to be earmarked for Texas — specifically.

AROUND THE TAX REFORM HORN, ONE LAST TIME, MAYBE …

— WSJ’S JANET HOOK: “The Republican tax-cut bill has grown more unpopular in the two months it has taken to usher it through Congress, and few people believe it will provide relief for middle-class families, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found.

“The poll also found that the GOP has lost its advantage on issues it has recently dominated. Americans now express more confidence in Democrats than Republicans to handle taxes, the economy and President Donald Trump’s signature goal of changing how Washington works.

“Republicans in Congress say the tax bill will become more popular once the tax cuts begin to take effect in February. They are hoping that the legislation will shore up the party’s political fortunes by giving the GOP its first major legislative accomplishment.” http://on.wsj.com/2BDsnMY

— BERNIE BECKER: “Confusion and chaos ahead as new tax rules take immediate effect”: “The most sweeping tax code overhaul in a generation will soon head to President Donald Trump’s desk — and Republicans are enjoying a victory dance. Now comes the real-world turmoil. America’s new tax system will go into effect in just 12 days, and payroll companies are bracing for confusion as they figure out new withholding rules that will affect millions of American paychecks.

“The Treasury Department and the IRS will have to quickly write new regulations to implement the new law, governing everything from the tax regime for businesses that don’t organize as corporations to the endowments of the nation’s elite universities and how multinational corporations are taxed on the profits they make abroad. And while the vast majority of taxpayers would see a tax cut next year, Americans who are considering selling real estate or other types of capital assets, paying property taxes, taking out a mortgage or incorporating their businesses will have to quickly calculate whether these actions will cost them more or less in the coming year.

“Already, state and local officials in high-tax states like New York and New Jersey are coping with a wave of questions from homeowners wondering if they can prepay their 2018 property taxes in the next two weeks to escape new limits on deductions.” http://politi.co/2B5YC6h

— “How Republicans Rallied Together to Deliver a Tax Plan,” by NYT’s Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport: “[I]n many ways, the bill represents a political and economic gamble for Republicans. A majority of Americans oppose it, and relatively few believe they will benefit personally from it, polls show. Economic analyses predict it will add more than $1 trillion to budget deficits over the next decade, an amount that would betray the party’s longstanding messaging that mounting federal debt will sap economic growth.

“Republicans spurned those concerns, rallying around what has been the animating ideology of their party since the Reagan era: that tax cuts will drive faster growth and national prosperity. More immediately, they followed an overwhelming desire to notch a legislative ‘win’ for the president, their donors, the restless voters of their party base and for their own political fortunes.” http://nyti.ms/2z2Jbdc

— TOP OP-ED: PAUL RYAN in the WSJ (the PAUL STREET JOURNAL!) — “Tax Reform Means Your Paycheck Will Grow: So will the economy, as the bill brings U.S. corporate taxes in line with the developed-world norm”: “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the House passed Tuesday, represents the biggest advancement for growth and opportunity in recent memory. It provides real relief to middle-income families and realizes policy goals conservatives have sought for decades.

“The centerpiece of the bill is the most sweeping pro-growth reform of our tax code since the Reagan era—perhaps ever. Once President Trump signs it into law it will deliver more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks for Americans from all walks of life. This is about helping a middle class that has been squeezed by a tax code that is expensive, complicated and skewed toward special interests. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck; nearly half say a $500 surprise bill or emergency would put them in debt.” http://on.wsj.com/2D7azu6

JOANNE KENEN: “The stealth repeal of Obamacare: The health law has been wounded in a year of Trump”: “Obamacare survived the first year of President Donald Trump, but it’s badly damaged. The sweeping Republican tax bill on the verge of final passage would repeal the individual mandate in 2019, potentially taking millions of people out of the health insurance market. On top of that, the Trump administration has killed some subsidies, halved the insurance enrollment period, gutted the Obamacare marketing campaign, and rolled out a regulatory red carpet for skimpy new health plans that will change the insurance landscape in ways that are harmful to former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. None of these individually represent a death blow. But in aggregate, the past year adds up to a slow, stealthy erosion of the law.” http://politi.co/2BFhOJm

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PALM BEACH POST: “Trump in Palm Beach: Melania and Barron already at Mar-a-Lago”: “Spotted tonight at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach: Barron Trump. The Palm Beach Daily News was at the club to attend a World Affairs Council lecture, and the reporter saw Trump’s son. An events director said that wife Melania Trump also was already at the club — no surprise since her son is there. …

“The White House has not announced Trump’s official plans for the holiday, but last week, the Federal Aviation Administration sent a ‘VIP Movement’ alert for Palm Beach for Friday through Jan. 1. The Town of Palm Beach is putting its traffic restrictions and road closures in effect on Thursday morning.” http://pbpo.st/2oYAukG

THE INVESTIGATION BEAT — @kyledcheney: “BREAKING: Judiciary and oversight committee chairmen @BobGoodlatte6 and @TGowdySC ask the FBI to make three agents — Andrew MCCABE, Jim RYBICKI and Lisa PAGE — available to testify as early as Thursday. Could be a precursor to subpoenas.” http://bit.ly/2kqo53X Kyle’s full story http://politi.co/2kqoTGh

THE LATEST ON ZINKE — “Interior reimbursed for Zinke Virgin Island fundraiser, but contributions unaccounted for,” by Ben Lefebvre: “Taxpayers have been reimbursed for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s participation in a political fundraiser last spring in the Virgin Islands — but questions remain about the donations he helped solicit, according to campaign finance records and interviews. The Virgin Islands Republican Party repaid on Oct. 5 the Interior Department $275 for expenses related to Zinke’s appearance, according to recent federal campaign finance filings.

“Despite its small sum, the reimbursement carries significant legal implications. And it came on the same day POLITICO first reported that Zinke was the featured guest at the March 30 fundraiser, where records indicate that donors paid as much as $5,000 per couple for a chance to pose for a photo with the secretary. The Virgin Islands Republican Party — a political action committee nominally based in the islands but run by a Washington-area GOP consultant — did not list any donations matching those amounts in its [FEC] reports for March and April. That make it impossible to know who may have paid thousands of dollars for access to a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, whose office has refused to provide advanced schedules of his travels and appearances.

“Still, the reimbursement may be enough to protect Zinke from accusations that his Virgin Islands appearance violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using taxpayer resources to advance partisan causes. Zinke is facing multiple investigations for his pattern of mixing politics and official business during taxpayer-funded travels.” http://politi.co/2B5pGCR

ON THE WORLD STAGE — “Haley Warns UN That Trump Is Watching Jerusalem Votes,” by Bloomberg’s Kambiz Foroohar: “Nikki Haley has a warning for her fellow UN ambassadors ahead of a key vote on Jerusalem this week: Donald Trump is watching. Still smarting from having to cast the first U.S. veto in the United Nations Security Council in six years on Monday, Haley is pressing other countries not to support a resolution in the larger General Assembly critical of President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv, according to four UN diplomats.

“In a letter to some countries — including key U.S. allies — Haley warned that ‘the president will be watching this vote carefully and has requested I report back on those countries who voted against us. We will take note of each and every vote on this issue.’ The letter was shared with Bloomberg News by one UN ambassador and confirmed by three others.” https://bloom.bg/2BQ3GPI

COMING ATTRACTIONS — “Senators, White House lay groundwork for Dreamers deal,” by Seung Min Kim, Heather Caygle and Elana Schor: “Top senators and White House officials are laying the groundwork for a major immigration deal in January to resolve the fate of young undocumented immigrants whose legal protections were put in limbo by President Donald Trump. At a Tuesday afternoon meeting with nearly a dozen senators deeply involved in immigration policy, White House chief of staff John Kelly pledged that the administration will soon present a list of border security and other policy changes it wants as part of a broader deal on so-called Dreamers, according to people who attended the meeting. The plan could come in a matter of days, senators said.” http://politi.co/2oXeCps

LEGACY WATCH — “‘He’s not weak, is he?’ Inside Trump’s quest to alter the judiciary,” by WaPo’s Phil Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker: “The collapse of three of President Trump’s judicial nominations in the span of a week has embarrassed the White House, revealed weaknesses in its vetting process and threatened to cause Senate Republicans to apply more scrutiny to the president’s picks. In their push to fill scores of vacancies on federal circuit and district courts at the historic pace demanded by Trump, White House officials have overlooked vulnerabilities in the backgrounds of some nominees. Critics allege that White House counsel Donald McGahn, who is overseeing the process, has sacrificed traditional qualifications for ideological purity and youth.

“But the downfalls of three nominees — Jeff Mateer, Matthew Petersen and Brett Talley — are also aberrations in what has been a quiet yet undeniable success for Trump: a year-long drive to permanently alter the judiciary by nominating and confirming conservative jurists to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. The president has told advisers that he is focused on three main criteria: that his nominees be young (in most cases under age 50, and preferably under 40), conservative and strict constitutionalists. … Typically when discussing potential nominees, [Leonard] Leo said, Trump asks one overarching question: ‘He’ll say, “He’s not weak, is he?”’ …

“At [a] recent conservative activists meeting, Trump joked that friends had asked to become judges now that he was president, according to two people in the room. The president said he recommended them to his staff, but his aides tossed out their names. The reason: They were too old. ‘I had to tell them no,’ Trump said of his friends, according to attendees. The president then paused, laughed and offered a clarification: ‘Actually, I had someone else tell them no.’” http://wapo.st/2BjRs2t

THAT WAS FAST — “GOP firm ends controversial media monitoring contract with EPA,” by Emily Holden: “Definers Public Affairs canceled its $120,000 contract with the [EPA] after a media backlash because of the company’s links to GOP opposition research firm America Rising. Earlier this year, America Rising filed several Freedom of Information Act requests for communications from EPA career staffers who had been critical of Administrator Scott Pruitt or President Donald Trump. …

“Definers described the decision to end the contract as mutual, although EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox would not say whether the agency or company initiated the cancellation. Definers President Joe Pounder said in a written statement that previous administrations paid more for slower services, but ‘it’s become clear this will become a distraction. As a result, Definers and the EPA have decided to forgo the contract.’ He added that the firm will not offer its services to any other federal agencies.” http://politi.co/2B32HIn

REMEMBERING CARDINAL LAW – Boston Globe’s Mark Feeney: “Cardinal Bernard F. Law, whose 19-year tenure as head of the Archdiocese of Boston ended in his resignation after it was revealed he had failed to remove sexually abusive priests from the ministry, setting off a scandal that reached around the world, died Tuesday. He was 86. … Cardinal Law was the highest-ranking official in the history of the U.S. church to leave office in public disgrace. … The attorney general’s office said the abuse extended over six decades and involved at least 237 priests and 789 children; of those, 48 priests and other archdiocesan employees were alleged to have abused children while Law was leader of the Boston archdiocese. The Archdiocese of Boston did not issue a statement Tuesday night.” http://bit.ly/2CKkLYa

THE JUICE …

— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: EMILY’S LIST tells us more than 25,000 women interested in running for office have contacted the group in 2017 — more than 25 times the number of women it heard from during the entire 2016 cycle.

WAPO’S DAVE WEIGEL on DE BLASIO in DES MOINES: “‘No,’ said Bill de Blasio. ‘I’m not running for president.’ … But de Blasio intended to spend many of those coming days helping elect progressive Democrats around the country — in New York, but also in any congressional district that would have him, ‘with a focus on economic populism’ to rebrand his party. In the afternoon gaggle, when asked how he could juggle his job and his campaign travel, de Blasio literally stuck a piece of gum in his mouth and began walking.

“‘It’s the only way we win back a lot of these seats we need,’ he said, pointing out that Iowa Republicans were defending two competitive districts in 2018. ‘I don’t care if some pundits want to read something into it. I’ve devoted my whole life to community activism.’” http://wapo.st/2DcI8Le

WHAT REPUBLICANS ARE READING — “A single vote leads to a rare tie for control of the Virginia legislature,” by WaPo’s Gregory S. Schneider in Newport News: “The balance of power in Virginia’s legislature turned on a single vote in a recount Tuesday that flipped a seat in the House of Delegates from Republican to Democratic, leaving control of the lower chamber evenly split. The outcome, which reverberated across Virginia, ends 17 years of GOP control of the House and forces Republicans into a rare episode of power sharing with Democrats that will refashion the political landscape in Richmond. It was the culmination of last month’s Democratic wave that had diminished Republican power in purple Virginia. Democrat Shelly Simonds emerged from the recount as the apparent winner in the 94th House District, seizing the seat from Republican David Yancey. … The final tally: 11,608 for Simonds to 11,607 for Yancey.” http://wapo.st/2z3l4Ln

A LOSS FOR BANNON — @John_Hudson: “Major personnel victory for Rex Tillerson: The White House has nominated Susan Thornton to become America’s top diplomat for Asia, defying efforts by China hawks close to Trump (Bannon/Navarro) to oust her from the State Department.”

— IF YOU CARE — PAGE SIX: “The Mooch rips ‘loser’ Steve Bannon at Hanukkah party” http://pge.sx/2BOPIxS

INTERESTING STAT – DAVID FRUM in The Atlantic, “Conservatism Can’t Survive Donald Trump Intact”: “In the spring of 2016, National Review published its ‘Against Trump’ issue. Twenty-one prominent conservatives signed individual statements of opposition to Trump’s candidacy. Of those 21, only six continue to speak publicly against his actions. Almost as many have become passionate defenders of the Trump presidency, most visibly the Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell and the National Rifle Association’s Dana Loesch.” http://theatln.tc/2DcyIPF

BRUSSELS HAPPENINGS — “Uber is a transportation company, Europe’s highest court rules,” by Politico Europe’s Mark Scott: “Europe’s highest court ruled Wednesday that Uber must comply with the region’s tough transportation rules, a significant setback for the ride-booking company that has faced a string of legal woes across the Continent and farther afield.

“The decision follows a years-long battle between Uber and EU taxi associations, many of which claim that the American tech company flaunts Europe’s transport rules and represents unfair competition for existing players. … The decision is a blow to Uber’s future expansion plans across the EU, but does not represent a knockout punch that many … had wanted. The ride-booking company already operates, and will continue to do so, in many European countries.” http://politi.co/2B92tiQ

FOR YOUR RADAR — AP: “9,000-plus died in battle with Islamic State group for Mosul,” by Susannah George and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Mosul, Maggie Michael in Cairo and Lori Hinnant in Paris: “The price Mosul’s residents paid in blood to see their city freed was between 9,000 and 11,000 dead, a civilian casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than what has been previously reported. The number killed in the 9-month battle to liberate the city from the Islamic State marauders has not been acknowledged by the U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi government or the self-styled caliphate.

“But Mosul’s gravediggers, its morgue workers and the volunteers who retrieve bodies from the city’s rubble are keeping count. Iraqi or coalition forces are responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths from airstrikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds between October 2016 and the fall of the Islamic State group in July 2017, according to an Associated Press investigation that cross-referenced independent databases from non-governmental organizations. Most of those victims are simply described as ‘crushed’ in health ministry reports.” http://bit.ly/2kthtlJ

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TRUMP INC. — “New York golfers avoiding Trump’s course: The president opened a big, beautiful course in the Bronx two years ago that players are increasingly shunning,” by Crain’s New York’s Aaron Elstein: “Rounds played this year at the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point were down 11% through mid-September, according to data from the city. The decline is nearly five times larger than the national trend and considerably bigger than the 3.5% overall drop in traffic at golf courses in the city through October.” http://bit.ly/2kqMMxa

MEDIAWATCH – “Carlos Slim Plans to Slash New York Times Holdings,” by Bloomberg’s Michelle Davis: “Billionaire Carlos Slim is planning to sell more than half of his 17 percent stake in the New York Times Co. to U.S. hedge fund investors, reducing his sway over one of the world’s most influential publishers. Slim’s businesses earlier this month sold $250 million of mandatory exchangeable trust securities in a private offering that gives the buyers a claim on a 9 percent stake in the New York Times, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The newspaper’s shares have surged more than 50 percent since Slim boosted his stake in 2015 and became the biggest shareholder.” https://bloom.bg/2Bmz1Kw

— FROM MORNING MEDIA: “JOHN HEILEMANN’S ‘SOLO ACT’: The political journalist spoke to Tony Kornheiser about his future without longtime collaborator Mark Halperin, whose career imploded over sexual misconduct allegations, leading to the pair losing book and TV deals for the 2016 version of their ‘Game Change’ series. Heilemann said he and Halperin had done ‘a couple hundred interviews for the book and were literally just about to start sitting down and actually writing’ it when the news broke in October. Heilemann said untangling their business relationship ‘is a complicated thing,’ but said he is hopeful he’ll ‘be able to take the reporting.’ …

“Heileman said he wants to use the material going forward ‘as a solo act,’ though ‘whether I’ll be able to do that or not is still ‘TBD.’’ He also expressed hope that ‘The Circus’ will return to Showtime, albeit ‘with a slightly reconfigured cast.’ (h/t Steven Shepard).”

SPOTTED at Charlie Palmer’s Tuesday night, at separate tables: Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) … Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke last night at Cap Lounge wing night with his old Hill staff.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Susan Neely, president/CEO at the American Beverage Association and a Bush 43 WH and DHS alum. A trend she thinks deserves more attention: “The stark reality of hunger faced by more than 300 million children worldwide. If we want to see more peace and prosperity in the world, we need to ensure that all children are nourished and educated. That is why I serve on the board of the Global Child Nutrition Fund that envisions a future where school meals sustainably nourish all children and help them, their families, communities and nations to thrive. I strongly believe that every child should have that opportunity, regardless of where they live or what their financial circumstances are.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2z4bBDH

BIRTHDAYS: Ag. Secretary Sonny Perdue is 71 … Jen Bendery, senior politics reporter for HuffPost … journalist Murray Waas is 49 … Alison Williams, former Bush 43 Homeland Security staffer and current chief of staff to Ark. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (hat tip: Ed Cash) … Snapchat’s Reid Kellam … Joshua New, policy analyst at ITIF’s Center for Data Innovation (h/t Samantha Greene) … former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) is 72 … AP’s Mary Clare Jalonick … Scott Feinberg, awards columnist at the Hollywood Reporter … Megan Nathan, alum of AIPAC and USGLC … Mandi Rogers Thorpe … Bo Creason, DCCC and DNC alum … Henry Hanna … Campbell Massie, senior PR manager at AT&T … David Pollak, an OFA alum … Donald Lathbury … Patrick Sims, founder and CSO at Legend, is 33 … Politico’s Wesley Merritt …

… Tamer El-Ghobashy, WaPo Baghdad bureau chief … photographer Jordan Emont … former Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.) is 84 … William Benedict of CreditSights … Hudson Institute’s Hannah Thoburn … Michelle Brooks … Bill Kloiber … Bush 43 WH alum Marisa Etter Mills, now with Burson-Marsteller … Marilisa Palumbo of Corriere della Sera … Scott Rickard … Kathy Albers … Mary Pat Moore … Stephen Crockett … Stephen Souza … John Herr … Jennifer J. Smith … Bob McDaniel … Megan Vilmain (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

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