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Aide asks voters to unseat Republican congressman critical of Trump

White House director of social media called on voters to defeat big liability Justin Amash in new sign of division between the president and the party

A top aide to Donald Trump has called for a primary challenge to a Republican member of Congress.

In a tweet on Saturday, Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, called on voters to defeat congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.

Scavino wrote: @realDonaldTrump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.

The libertarian-leaning Amash, who was first elected to the House in 2010, is a member of the hardline Freedom Caucus and has long been critical of Trump.

The direct intervention by Scavino, who has worked for Trump since caddying for the then-real estate developer as a teenager, is however a new sign of division between Trump and congressional Republicans.

The president this week used Twitter to criticize members of the Freedom Caucus for their role in blocking the American Health Care Act, the House bill that aimed to replace Barack Obamas healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

The AHCA was pulled from the House floor shortly before a scheduled vote, due to insufficient support from all corners of the Republican party.

Many members of the Freedom Caucus thought the bill, which was widely criticised for its likely removal of insurance from millions of Americans, in fact left government with too prominent a role in the provision of healthcare.

In a reference to rightwing descriptions of supposedly self-serving Washington DC, Amash derided the AHCA as Swampcare.

In tweets on Thursday, Trump criticized three members of the Freedom Caucus: chair Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Ral Labrador of Idaho.

Meadows and Labrador stumped for Trump in 2016, and Labrador was considered for a cabinet post.

In a tweet of his own on Thursday, the Idaho Republican wrote: Freedom Caucus stood with u when others ran. Remember who your real friends are. Were trying to help u succeed.

Trump has yet to criticize Amash by name. The maverick Michigan Republican is however used to primary challenges. In 2014, he fended off a self-funding establishment Republican who was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce.

However, a competitive primary in Amashs district, which includes the city of Grand Rapids, could have political consequences. Obama won the district in 2008 and Trump ran 8% behind Amash there in 2016.

Spokesmen for the White House did not immediately reply to requests for comment on Scavinos tweet.

However, Amash tweeted in response: Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.

Justin Amash (@justinamash)

Trump admin & Establishment have merged into #Trumpstablishment. Same old agenda: Attack conservatives, libertarians & independent thinkers.

April 1, 2017

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Let’s drug-test the rich before approving tax deductions, US congresswoman says

Gwen Moore to propose bill requiring tests for returns with itemized deductions of more than $150,000, in response to rights criminalization of poverty

Wisconsins governor, Scott Walker, really, really wants to know if needy residents of his state use recreational drugs. Hes already put into effect legislation forcing applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tanf), commonly known as welfare, to answer questions about their potential drug use and submit to testing if their answers provide a reasonable suspicion that they might use controlled substances. Hes suing the federal government for the right to test Wisconsin participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Snap), better known as food stamps, for the same reason. And in May, he issued new administrative rules to implement drug testing for some people seeking unemployment benefits in the state.

His is not a unique interest: Governor Rick Scott of Florida, for instance, spent four years and $1.5m taxpayer dollars fighting for the right to test all his states Tanf recipients; and Alabama congressman Robert Aderholt has proposed legislation to overturn the law that prevents the testing of Snap recipients.

Milwaukee congresswoman Gwen Moore, though, is sick and tired, and sick and tired of being sick and tired, of the criminalization of poverty she said in an interview on Wednesday. And, she added: Were not going to get rid of the federal deficit by cutting poor people off Snap. But if we are going to drug-test people to reduce the deficit, lets start on the other end of the income spectrum.

Moore plans to introduce a bill on Thursday that she thinks will even the playing field or, at least, engage the wealthy in a conversation about what fair tax policy looks like. The bill, called the Top 1% Accountability Act, would force taxpayers with itemized deductions of more than $150,000 which, according to 2011 tax data compiled by the IRS, would only be households with a yearly federal adjusted gross income of more than $1m to submit to the IRS a clear drug test from a sample no more than three months old, or take the much lower standard deduction when filing their taxes. (In 2016, for comparison, the standard deduction for single people or married people filing separately is $6,300.)

Moore said she was inspired by fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan, the current House speaker, to introduce the bill. When he stood in front of a drug treatment center and rolled out his anti-poverty initiative, pushing this narrative that poor people are drug addicts, that was the last straw, she said, referring to a speech that Ryan made last week.

Though most people think about their tax deductions and credits particularly those such as mortgage interest or charitable deductions as part of the governments revenue system, they are considered expenditures within the federal government, as they subtract from government revenue and are often instituted to subsidize, reward or encourage taxpayer behaviors.

It might use slightly different mechanisms, but the government provides money to Tanf, Snap and unemployment benefit recipients in much the same way that it provides money to people who own homes, contribute to charities or go to college. Most people including those with high incomes, who qualify for far more deductions and credits than the average person just dont see tax deductions as a subsidy similar to those given to low-income people in the form of benefits.

Moore thinks that needs to change. The benefits we give to poor people are so limited compared to what we give to the top 1%, she said. Its a drop in the bucket.

We spend $81bn on everything everything that you could consider a poverty program, she explained. But just by taxing capital gains at a lower rate than other income, a bit of the tax code far more likely to benefit the rich than the poor, thats a $93bn expenditure. Just capital gains, she added. And though her bill wouldnt have any effect on low- and middle-income Americans, clawing back more than $100,000 in deductions from even a handful of super-wealthy recreational drug users who would be forced to pay for their own tests could be a much more significant revenue-raiser than testing Tanf recipients.

Even Oprah gets the mortgage interest deduction, she noted.

For instance, the seven states who implemented drug testing for Tanf recipients spent $1m on testing from the (recent) inception of their programs through 2014. But the average rate of drug use among Tanf recipients has been far below the national average around 1% overall, compared with 9.4% in the general population meaning theres been little cost savings from the program. Why? Probably because they cant afford it, notes Moore.

We might really save some money by drug-testing folks on Wall Street, who might have a little cocaine before they get their deal done, she said.

The congresswoman, who has been outspoken about using federal assistance programs such as welfare and food stamps to work her way out poverty, said: Im grateful for the taxpayers for that, and I have given back tenfold.

I think everyone should have that same opportunity.

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