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Capitol Hill Update, 14 December, 2015
House & Senate/Schedule: After this week, Congress will likely have concluded its business and will recess for the holidays. The House will return to town on the week of January 4th, 2016, and the Senate will return the week after.
House & Senate/ Spending: The most pressing issue at hand remains the funding for the federal government, which was set to expire on December 11th but was extended until Wednesday the 16th. Negotiations continue regarding the legislative riders to be included in the funding bill. A rider to lift the ban on oil exports appears to be a potential win, and it appears likely that the current ban on taxpayer-funded bailouts of health insurance companies may be extended as well.
Regardless, the bill will contain a significant increase in spending beyond the 2011 budget caps, thanks to the agreement Boehner brokered in August. Also, Congress’ desire to get out of town quickly likely guarantees that the final text of the omnibus spending bill won’t be available to the public until a couple of days before the vote. Which means it will be difficult for offices to sort through it and understand bad policy riders that may be contained in it, such as…
House & Senate/Cybersecurity: …the supposed “cybersecurity” bill, which is likely to be attached to the omnibus. Although final text isn’t available yet, indications are that the serious privacy concerns that plagued the earlier House and Senate bills will remain. Worse, as this long and complicated proposal is being attached to the huge omnibus, it is likely that few Congressional offices will even have a chance to fully digest the changes made to the proposals since they last voted on them.
House & Senate/Taxation: Work also continues on the tax extenders package, which would extend expiring portions of the tax code. The ongoing negotiations aim to make certain of these tax provisions permanent, rather than going through the exercise of renewing them every year or two. Republicans want to make permanent business expensing tax breaks, while Democrats are focused on making the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits for lower-income earners permanent.
Senate/Internet Taxation: There was some good news from the House last week, as they passed an otherwise flawed trade bill (H.R. 644) that included language to permanently (and retroactively) extend the ban on taxing internet access – at the federal, state, or local level. However, supporters of the unrelated internet sales tax framework are likely to introduce a point or order to remove the internet access tax ban from the bill. Internet sales tax supporters have long held that their best chance of getting their “Marketplace Fairness Act” through Congress would be to attach it to the internet access tax ban, and thus want to stop any chance of taking that bargaining chip off the table. FreedomWorks has issued a Key Vote NO against any attempts to strip the internet tax ban from the bill.