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News Brief: Tax Plan Vote, 2 Women Describe Moore's Advances

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump is going to take the short trip down Pennsylvania Avenue today. He's going over to the Capitol, and I'm pretty sure he's hoping to do a victory lap of sorts when he gets there.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Well, it is a day when he can claim victory, though not yet the passage of a law. The House votes on big tax changes. Kevin Brady chairs the House tax-writing committee.

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KEVIN BRADY: It's about finally rewarding hard work, growing jobs and paychecks and allowing Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money to use on whatever is important to them.

INSKEEP: Rewarding hard work - it will also reward the hard work of ancestors - repealing the estate tax paid only by the wealthiest Americans. The bill repeals the alternative minimum tax paid by the wealthiest. And it also lowers taxes for people down the income scale, although it then eliminates or scales back many tax deductions so that some people would pay more taxes.

MARTIN: All right, so is this thing going to pass? And is the Senate version going to pass? Where are we with this? Domenico Montanaro joins us on the line.

Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: Fair to say Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's been looking forward to this day for a long time?

MONTANARO: Absolutely. This is something that he has looked forward to. He's worked on this for a long time, and it's certainly something that he'd like to get done.

MARTIN: It's a political priority for Republicans and for the president. So the House is going to vote today - likely to pass. But when you look at the Senate side of this, there is now at least one, even two defectors who've come out - Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Susan Collins. Clearly, this complicates the effort on the Senate side.

MONTANARO: Well, they can only lose two, so they can't get any further than that. And the biggest problem there is, you know, Susan Collins - has to do with the individual mandate repeal in the Senate bill. Ron Johnson is against it because of a different thing, which is - which has to do with these pass-throughs, which he says - the small businesses are treated much more unfairly than corporations because they don't quite get the same level of a tax break - so a very narrow window here for Republicans.

MARTIN: And what's interesting about what you just said - these are two important Republicans. They have different beefs with this bill. So let's unpack each of these. I mean, you say Ron Johnson doesn't like this. He hasn't liked it from the beginning because it benefits corporate businesses, not so much these small businesses, right? That's what you're saying.

MONTANARO: Right, and a lot of Democrats say that this is something like a Trojan horse because in seeing not just these small business changes - or rather, the small businesses not being treated the same as corporations - Democrats are also saying, you're treating small - big businesses in a very different way because they're making those tax cuts permanent, as compared to the individual tax rates, which are temporary, yeah.

MARTIN: Which get phased out, yeah - so then you look over at the health care aspect of this. All of a sudden, this tax bill is like another health care bill because they want to ditch the individual mandate. This is the foundation of Obamacare. This is what Susan Collins has an issue with. I mean, is it possible that the Senate could end up passing tax overhaul that would include a big blow to Obamacare?

MONTANARO: It's certainly possible. It could introduce further difficulty, though - thinking about Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain who all sank the Republican efforts on health care earlier this year. So we're all looking to them to see if they're going to make any changes, as well.

INSKEEP: And let's remember, Republicans are saying, we're desperate; we must pass this bill, even if you hate it. But they tried the same logic with health care, and in the end, did not get quite enough Senate Republicans to go along.

MARTIN: NPR's Domenico Montanaro this morning. Hey, thanks, Domenico.

MONTANARO: Hey, you're welcome.

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MARTIN: This morning, Alabama's Roy Moore is facing new allegations. Multiple women have said that Moore tried to date or even assaulted them when they were teenagers.

INSKEEP: The Republican Senate candidate accuses his accusers of lying, and now he has more women to refute. Two women who worked in shopping mall stores say the much-older Moore tried to pick them up in the 1970s. That's according to The Washington Post. The website AL.com carries the story of another woman who says Moore groped her in 1991, much later than the other incidents.

Moore's lawyer is trying to discredit yet another accuser whose evidence includes Moore's inscription in her high school yearbook. The lawyer, whose name is Phillip Jauregui, is demanding that she let a handwriting expert study that yearbook.

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PHILLIP JAUREGUI: Look at the 1977 after merry Christmas. Look at those two sevens. And then look below at the 77. And I want to ask you, do you think it was written by the same person?

MARTIN: All right, Don Dailey covers politics for Alabama Public Television, and he joins us now.

Hi, Don.

DON DAILEY: Good morning.

MARTIN: What'd you make of that press conference outside state party headquarters?

DAILEY: I think a lot of people were surprised. I think that maybe there were some who were expecting a little bit more from Roy Moore's people, given the allegations as they continue to mount. And some were...

MARTIN: More as in, some kind of a rebuttal or a defense that had more contours to it than what he has given so far.

DAILEY: Indeed. And then what they ended up getting was this attorney, Phillip Jauregui, who's saying that the Moore camp would like the lady, Mrs. Nelson, to turn over the yearbook to officials so that they can have a handwriting analysis of it done. They claim that there are inconsistencies in the signature, and they want to have a professional look at it.

MARTIN: Wow, so not addressing the substance of the claims but seizing on this small detail - how are voters there? I mean, you're there in Alabama. What are people telling you, especially his supporters - Roy Moore supporters?

DAILEY: Roy Moore supporters remain staunch in their defense of him, their belief in him. They have said all along since the first allegations broke last week that they will remain behind him. Roy Moore has weathered, as you may know, a lot of storms here in Alabama over the last couple of decades that he has served in public office here.

And despite these allegations, which, naturally, have gone national and have called for - calls for him to step down on the national level, they have not backed away at all. As a matter of fact, to hear some of them talk, that's - they say that support for him has even grown in the face of these allegations.

MARTIN: Well, does that mean they just don't believe the allegations or might they give them some credence, but they just think it's too important a race that they will just put those on the back burner and - because it's too important to get him in there?

DAILEY: I think it's a combination of all of them. I think, A, there is a large contingent who doesn't believe these allegations - that they were politically motivated, in their estimation. They questioned the timing of them, given that they come a month before the special general election here in Alabama. By the same token, there are some who say that the allegations are serious, but they don't have enough information to make a clear judgment on whether they should be grounds alone for Roy Moore to step aside.

INSKEEP: Some of his defenders have said this is a case of he said, she said. But we should recall, we're getting to the point where that's not correct. It's actually a case of he said, many people said many things.

MARTIN: Yeah. Don Dailey of Alabama Public Television. Don, thanks for being with us this morning. We appreciate it.

DAILEY: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

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MARTIN: Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has spent another day under house arrest.

INSKEEP: The country's only leader since its independence in 1980 is no longer calling the shots, as best we can tell. The military appears to have taken control, even if they don't call it a coup. So what is daily life like?

MARTIN: Let's ask Jason Burke of The Guardian. He's on the line. We've reached him in Harare on scar - on Skype, rather.

Jason, what's it like in Harare? What's the mood like?

JASON BURKE: Well, it's remarkably calm, actually. When you talk to people, they are pretty much resigned to a period of some uncertainty. Most people are fairly hopeful that something better will come to Zimbabwe in the coming days, weeks, months and years than they've experienced over the last years of Mugabe - Robert Mugabe's increasingly autocratic and increasingly incompetent rule.

There is a sense that the army who took power on Wednesday night need to start moving - sorry, Tuesday night to Wednesday morning - start - that the army needs to start moving a little bit faster and that some kind of clarity needs to be brought to the situation. But on the whole - people going around their business, and there isn't a major - any kind of major disruption.

MARTIN: So this is about - this is essentially a power struggle over who is going to succeed Mugabe. I mean, he's 93 years old. How do we know who's going to - I mean, clearly, this doesn't bode well for Mugabe's wife, who is on one side of this against the ousted vice president. It - does this mean the vice president is all set, that this is going to be smooth sailing for him?

BURKE: I don't think it'll be smooth sailing, but he's certainly in - the best-placed politician in the country at the moment to take power, certainly. His name is Emmerson Mnangagwa. He was vice president, as you said, until he was fired last week by Mugabe. And that act on the part of the aging dictator is what precipitated the current crisis.

The army, who have always supported Mnangagwa and who were increasingly concerned about the prospect of Grace Mugabe, the first lady, taking power, moved swiftly to make sure that that latter eventuality didn't come to pass, that there was no takeover by Grace and her close associates. So that means that, yeah, Mnangagwa, the former vice president, is certainly the one who is most likely to take power, probably as some kind of acting president. And at the moment, though, the talks are ongoing, and it seems that Bob is digging in his heels a bit and doesn't want to leave.

MARTIN: Would he make life with Zimbabweans better? In just seconds remaining here...

BURKE: Well, he certainly wouldn't make it worse, and that's what most people are saying.

MARTIN: Robert Mugabe clearly has had a long history of human rights abuses - so a lot to be determined there. Jason Burke of The Guardian, thanks for your time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.