Negotiations over year-end spending bill hit a tax snag

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Congress is ready to sign off on a fiscally irresponsible set of tax cuts..

Congressional leaders are pushing to reach a deal on a must-pass U.S. government spending bill as a Friday deadline nears to avoid a federal shutdown, even as they concede that lawmakers may have to work into the weekend and beyond..cms-textAlign-left{text-align:left;}.cms-textAlign-center{text-align:center;}.cms-textAlign-right{text-align:right;}.cms-custom-quote{border-left: 1px solid #eee; margin-left: 15px; padding-left: 15px; font-style: italic; font-size: 17px; line-height: 28px; color: #666;} In today’s bitterly partisan, deeply dysfunctional Congress, there’s a tendency in both parties to speak wistfully about the Good Old Days. Those days have taken on an almost mythical quality – yes, former Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill worked with President Ronald Reagan to strengthen Social Security, but the two certainly had their battles as well.

Second-ranking Senate Republican John Cornyn of Texas said Monday that Congress may leave town for the holidays with just a two-year extension of tax breaks, instead of coming up with a new plan to make some of them permanent as he and many members said they want to do. “My sense is there’s a lot of momentum to end our work by Dec. 11,” Cornyn told reporters at the Capitol. “I think that’s sort of a bipartisan, bicameral wish.” Congress has passed a series of short-term extensions of the tax breaks, including those for research and development and small-business investments. A new video posted online Monday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee features five Republican senators celebrating passage of a new federal K-12 bill, a day before the final vote is scheduled. And yes, lawmakers used to dine (and, more notably, drink) together after work, but those relationships didn’t always lead to on-time budgets or more sweeping policy initiatives. On Monday, the NRSC released a video that stresses a theme that Republican leaders have been hammering of late — that under GOP control, Congress has once again sprung to life and is making laws. “Unlike the previous majority’s dysfunction — under which Democrats failed to enact any education reform, Republicans quickly restored the Senate to regular order,” committee Communications Director Andrea Bozek said in a statement. “Together with the other 80+ bipartisan bills passed since January, legislative achievements, such as the Every Child Achieves Act, underscore the effectiveness of the new Republican majority and its commitment to our children’s future.” Bozek said the video refers to legislation that was a forerunner of the bill that is teed up for a vote on Tuesday.

Six years after his death from a brain tumor, it is former Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, the legendary “lion of the Senate,” whom both veteran Democrats and some Republicans point to as the last vestige of a Senate that worked, one that battled honestly over policy differences but ultimately came together for the good of the country. Republicans insist they won’t allow another government shutdown like the 16-day partial closing in October 2013 in an unsuccessful bid by party members to end funding for Obamacare. Still, Kennedy surely racked up an impressive list of legislative accomplishments during his nearly 47 years in the Senate, ranging from giving 18-year-olds the vote to disability rights, housing antidiscrimination and major education reforms and funding. He did it through a painstaking process that included mastering the details of an issue, assembling a coalition outside the Senate, finding a Republican (often a very conservative one) to team up with, and using Senate rules to ultimately get his way. Some of the Republican policy provisions Democrats said they oppose include language to prevent President Barack Obama from moving forward with a plan to cut carbon pollution, and a prohibition on the entry of Syrian refugees. “It might take us more than just this week to get these issues put together correctly,” Ryan told the radio station WBEL, which broadcasts in Wisconsin and Illinois.

McCarthy said there won’t be a government shutdown because Congress can pass a short-term funding extension to keep the government operating after Friday. News about how Kennedy pulled it off and whether he could have succeeded in working with the conservatives who took over after the 2010 congressional elections.

While Obama has said he won’t sign another stopgap spending bill, he would approve a short-term measure if a final deal is imminent, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday. “Congress needs to pass a budget on time,” he said. Both parties in Congress have agreed to waive the “pay-as-you-go” rule in which any tax cuts or new spending must be offset with new revenues or spending cuts so as not to increase the deficit. You note some of his personal touches – arranging policy-themed dinner parties at his home, sending Nick [Littlefield, an accomplished singer,] to Senator Orrin Hatch’s office to sing, charming Hatch when Kennedy wanted his support for a bill.

The nonpartisan Center for a Responsible Federal Budget puts the real price tag at $2.3 billion by 2035, when the full costs, including additional interest on the debt, are tallied. From a public finance standpoint, the most sensible thing to do when an economy is near full strength is to repair the fiscal damage done when it was weaker, not unlike rebuilding food stocks after a good harvest in an agricultural society. Extending tax cuts now – when the U.S. has not come close to getting our long-term finances in balance – is the equivalent of drawing down grain stores during a fat year. Kennedy certainly had some odd bedfellows in building those legislative coalitions, with Strom Thurmond even supporting Kennedy’s bill allowing for the use of fetal tissue for research. I don’t know how he got the initial intelligence, or whether he just went over to talk to Strom [who was a conservative antiabortion Republican from South Carolina], [but] one of his daughters had juvenile diabetes.

I think what the senator would have said is that you really need to keep talking about it in a global positive way and you also need to enlist the groups that have a positive stake in it – the hospitals, physicians, the labor unions. Forget “the greatest generation”; we are at risk of becoming “the worst generation.” Let me translate what Congress is on the brink of doing into an everyday scenario.

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