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Tax reform's latest hurdle: A possible Senate run

Comprehensive tax reform has always been a Herculean legislative lift for proponents in both chambers, but the effort could get even more difficult. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) is considering a run for the Senate seat being left open by the retirement of long-time Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).

From his perch atop the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Camp has been a tireless and vocal leader of the efforts to overhaul our nation's tax code for years. A Senate bid by Camp would force the Michigan Republican to shift his emphasis from tax reform to a Senate run.

Not only would a Senate bid by Camp result in a shift in his priorities, it could also lead Democrats in both chambers to be less willing to work with him. Given Camp's reputation for being able to work with members across the aisle in both chambers, such a move would certainly complicate reform efforts.

Water Resources Reform and Development Act to move in September

Before Congress left for the August recess, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) announced that the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA) would be marked up by his committee in September and likely go to the floor for consideration in October.

The House WRDA bill will be the first water resources bill without earmarks in it. It will also be the first to mandate that projects be studied, authorized, and begun within a set period of time. And it will mandate that projects be deauthorized if they have been sitting in the pipeline too long (there is a process to deauthorize delayed projects now, but it is not a mandate).

The committee faced unique challenges with this bill. Water-resources legislation used to authorize specific projects for major ports or waterways. That is no longer possible with the earmark ban. Despite this challenge, the bill is expected to receive Democratic support in both committee and on the floor.

House passage of the WRDA would pave the way for a conference committee with the Senate that passed their own version of water resources legislation earlier this year.

House Republicans working on food stamp legislation

House Republicans are working on legislation that would cut $40 billion over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as the food stamp program.

The $40 billion in cuts are almost double the cuts to the program that were contained in an earlier version of the Farm Bill that failed on the House floor. House Democrats, who bailed on the failed Farm Bill because of the $20 billion in cuts, are unlikely to show any interest in even deeper cuts.

Critics of the move have called it a purely political ploy, and Senate Democratic leaders have said the effort would undermine informal conference committee talks about the future of the Farm Bill.

Special August recess update: Where are they now? 

With the August recess starting, we thought it would be helpful to give you a brief update of the status of pending pieces of legislation that might be of interest. In the coming weeks we will give you an in depth look at where some of these key issues and pieces of legislation are likely to go when Congress returns from vacation.

Immigration Reform

House Status: Bipartisan group may unveil bill in September, House Judiciary Committee working on piece-by-piece approach.

Senate Status: Bipartisan Gang of 8 bill passed the full Senate by a vote of 68 to 32, with 14 Republicans joining 54 Democrats and Independents in voting for the measure that includes a path to citizenship.

Comprehensive Tax Reform

House Status: The House Ways and Means Committee established working groups to break down the key components of tax reform and to receive input from interested and effected parties. These working groups concluded their efforts earlier this year and the House Ways and Means Committee plans to begin drafting a bill over the August recess for a possible markup in September or October.

Senate Status: The Senate Finance Committee, led by Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), has been working in a bipartisan fashion to lay the groundwork for comprehensive tax reform. The retiring Baucus has made reform his number one priority and signaled that the committee would markup comprehensive tax reform this fall. Democratic leaders in the Senate, most notably Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), have signaled they will not support the Baucus effort unless it includes new revenue.

Marketplace Fairness Act

House Status: The Marketplace Fairness Act, also known as the Internet Sales Tax, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year. Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has said it is unlikely his committee will move on the bill.

Senate Status: The Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act by a vote of 69 to 27.

Water Resources Reform and Development Act

House Status: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plans to mark the bill up in September (see story above).

Senate Status: Passed the full Senate by a vote of 83 to 14.

Note: The Water Resources Reform and Development Act expired in 2012.

Passenger Rail Bill

House Status: The House plans to take up the issue in September.

Senate Status: The Senate plans to take up the issue in September.

Note: Both chambers plan to address the Passenger Rail Bill in September, which is not surprising considering the previous Passenger Rail Bill expires that month.

Compounding Pharmacy Bill

House Status: Referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Senate Status: A bill was passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee by a unanimous vote.

Farm Bill

House Status: A bill that only dealt with the agriculture portion of the Farm Bill passed the full House by a razor-thin vote of 216 to 208. House Republicans are working on a bill that would deal with the food stamp (SNAP) only portion of the Farm Bill. A more traditional Farm Bill, that contained both the SNAP and agricultural components, previously failed on the floor by a vote of 195 to 234.

Senate Status: The full Senate passed a comprehensive Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27. The Senate will consider a vote on the SNAP (food stamp) only portion in September.

Note: The Farm Bill expires in September.

Appropriations Bills:

Here is everything you need to know about the status of the appropriations bills in one easy chart:

 

 

Appropriations Bill

House Status

Senate Status

Agriculture

Passed in Full Committee

Passed in Full Committee

Commerce, Justice, Science

Passed in Full Committee

Passed in Full Committee

Defense

Passed on Floor (315-109)

Passed in Full Committee

Energy and Water

Passed on Floor (227-198)

Passed in Full Committee

Financial Services

Passed in Full Committee

Passed in Full Committee

Homeland Security

Passed on Floor (245-182)

Passed in Full Committee

Interior

Full Committee consideration begun; suspended until after recess

Reed/Murkowski Draft Released

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education

Passed in Full Committee

Legislative Branch

Passed in  Full Committee

Passed in Full Committee

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs

Passed on Floor (421-4)

Passed in Full Committee

State and Foreign Operations

Passed in Full Committee

Passed in Full Committee

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

Passed in Full Committee; Withdrawn from Floor Consideration

Floor Consideration Stalled – Cloture Motion Failed (54-43) (Collins only cross-over vote)

 

 

Political Bits:

House

Hawaii 1st Congressional District: Hawaii State Rep. Mark Takai (D) joined a growing field of Democrats running for the seat left open by Rep. Hanabusa's (D) decision to run for Senate.

Iowa 1st Congressional District: Iowa State House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R) will not run for Congress, leaving the GOP without a marquee name in the race to succeed Rep. Bruce Braley (D).

Louisiana 5th Congressional District: This week, current Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) was named Louisiana Secretary of Veterans Affairs by Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA). Alexander will resign effective September 26th and a special election to fill his seat is set for October 19th.

Senate

Arkansas: As expected, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) announced his bid for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Mark Pryor. Pryor is one of the Republican's top targets in 2014.

Colorado: Failed controversial former Senate nominee Ken Buck (R-CO) filed paperwork with the SEC to again run for Senate in 2014. Buck is expected to formally announce his campaign in early September.

Oklahoma: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said Wednesday that he will seek reelection next year. Inhofe is likely to cruise to another term in deeply red Oklahoma.

South Carolina: Businesswoman Nancy Mace announced Saturday that she will challenge Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in June's GOP primary.

A look ahead:

The House and Senate are not in session next week.

Washington by the numbers

$586,000 - The amount given to federal campaigns by the estates of deceased people since 2009.

Washington humor

 “Christie said, ‘It’s going to take a lot more than a beer to win me over. You’re going to need wings, tater tots ...” -- NBC’s Jay Leno, on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rejecting a “beer summit” invitation from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

 

 Steven C. LaTourette, President | 202.559.2600

McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC
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