-- The TAKE with Rick Klein
It’s easier to be Santa than the Grinch.
The flurry of pre-Christmas activity in Congress confirms this as a fundamental of politics – something that even President Donald Trump hasn’t changed.
If all goes as planned, the government will stay open and a tax bill will (eventually) be signed. Somehow, though, Congress and the White House won’t have made any hard choices to accomplish its biggest accomplishments.
Republicans found unity in cutting taxes. But the “Christmas gift” to the American people may have to wait until after Christmas, mainly to avoid budget cuts that would kick in because of how the new law will impact the deficit.
The government will continue to stay open because of a “continuing resolution” – yes, another one. The political time bombs around children’s health insurance, immigration and the DREAMers, defense spending, and the debt limit all get nudged into the new year.
There is peace at this time.
But this season of giving will make way to a season where something has to give.
The RUNDOWN with John Verhovek
For the last two days, Republicans have been all smiles as they were poised to pass a massive rewrite of the U.S. tax code in what will be the first major legislative victory for President Trump.
But for all the high-fiving and back-slapping comes the political reality that despite the bill’s passage, recent polling on the bill shows it is largely viewed as policy that will likely help wealthy Americans the most.
The 2018 landscape is beginning to take shape, and with President Trump's approval rating still wallowing in the mid-to-low 30's, Republicans will no doubt make this tax bill a major plank of their re-election campaign, regardless of the polling.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier this week that the "results" from the tax bill will help win over skeptical 2018 voters.
For the GOP, those results can't come soon enough.
Recent polls from CNN, Quinnipiac, NBC News/Wall Street Journal and Marist have all shown Democrats with a double-digit lead on a generic congressional ballot.
Those results the Speaker was touting need to turn the tide fast, with the first 2018 midterm primaries now under three months away.
The TIP with Alexander Mallin
President Donald Trump took a break from White House activities to visit Walter Reed Medical Center to meet with wounded service members and their families on Thursday.
The president mingled with families and a few service members in a cafeteria-type area of the hospital. In one exchange, a vet in a wheelchair pivoted to show the president a 'TRUMP' sticker on the rear of his chair, Trump was visibly excited.
Separately, White House social media director Dan Scavino posted a video of the president awarding the Purple Heart to a wounded service member in his hospital bed.
The president grips the hand of the soldier, identified as a First Lieutenant, then pins the award to his shirt.
Watch the video here - http://bit.ly/2BLT4PE
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAYPresident Donald Trump heads off to Mar-a-Lago for the holidays at 10 a.m. ET. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. ET. The House and Senate passed a month-long extension yesterday to fund the government and avoid a shutdown just before the holidays. The bill includes a six month extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“This vote will be remembered,” U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday following the U.N. General Assembly’s 128-9 vote to condemn President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
NEED TO READTrump held Oval Office meeting with aides about 2018 midterm elections. President Donald Trump met Wednesday in the Oval Office with top aides -- including both current White House staffers and outside advisers -- to discuss the 2018 midterm elections, sources with knowledge of the meeting confirmed to ABC News. (John Santucci) http://abcn.ws/2Dtgny0 Details about Senate settlements emerge, but answer few questions. In the past 20 years, the Office of Compliance has awarded $1.4 million in secret payments to settle a total of 23 cases related to employment disputes within Senate offices, according to figures released by the Senate Rules and Appropriations Committees. (Ali Rogin) http://abcn.ws/2BOsHsh Obamacare enrollment down slightly despite drastic outreach cuts. Despite a shortened Healthcare.gov Open Enrollment period and cuts to outreach funding by the Trump administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma announced 2018 Open Enrollment numbers that are only down slightly from last year's numbers. (Meridith McGraw) http://abcn.ws/2CWPJg6 Threats against EPA head Scott Pruitt prompt additional security. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt recently had his office swept for listening devices and installed biometric locks on his office doors, the latest steps to increase security to combat what agency staff says are "unprecedented amount of threats." (Stephanie Ebbs) http://abcn.ws/2kBqmcU Checking Trump’s claims on the GOP tax bill. President Donald Trump and Republicans plan to ring in 2018 with an aggressive sales pitch for their $1.5 trillion tax cut plan. Ahead of the bill's passage this week, Trump repeated several notable claims about what it will mean for Americans. (Devin Dwyer) http://abcn.ws/2p9o8pM Vice President Mike Pence surprises troops in Afghanistan. Vice President Mike Pence has just landed in Afghanistan in a surprise trip to the troops before the holidays. (Alexander Mallin) http://abcn.ws/2zbezXg Russian ‘cyber war’ behind bipartisan push to protect elections, senator says. A bipartisan group of senior senators introduced a cybersecurity-focused bill Thursday designed to thwart foreign interference in U.S. elections, a direct response to the 2016 Russian interference in the presidential election. (Trish Turner) http://abcn.ws/2kTXPyD UN votes 128-9 to condemn US Embassy move to Jerusalem even after Haley's warning. The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly defied U.S. warnings and voted Thursday to condemn President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. (Meghan Keneally and Ely Brown) http://abcn.ws/2BjiCCM The Associated Press reports a New York judge ruled Thursday that restaurant workers, a hotel event booker and a watchdog group who say President Donald Trump has business conflicts that violate the Constitution cannot sue him. http://abcn.ws/2p8F3sr Vanity Fair reports on former chief strategist for President Donald Trump’s administration Steve Bannon and his political ambitions to run for president. http://bit.ly/2BY7aQe The Atlantic’s David Graham analyzes why, despite the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center finding that 80 percent of households will benefit in 2018, most Americans don’t believe they’ll be getting a tax cut. http://theatln.tc/2p5YfqJ
The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. The Note will be on hiatus from Dec. 25 - Jan. 2. Please check back on Jan. 3rd for the latest.