As you may have already heard, this week (likely today) the Senate will vote on, and is expected to pass, a budget deal that would extend the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021 and set top line numbers for defense and non-defense spending for the 2020 and 2021 federal fiscal years. The bill (H.R. 3877) was passed by the House last week and is the result of vigorous negotiations between Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The Trump Administration has been strongly urging lawmakers to vote for the bill and the bill has support from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has stated that he will bring it to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as the Senate completes its consideration of a number of stalled judicial nominees. However, interestingly, most of the Republicans in the House voted against the bill, including members of the Freedom Caucus and the deficit hawks who were concerned about the deal’s impact on the national debt.
The bill, if passed, will increase discretionary spending limits by $324 billion over two years, thus ending the threat of sequestration, the automatic cuts (which were scheduled to go through 2021) enacted in 2011, which have been hanging over Congressional budget negotiations. While Congress will still need to pass the individual spending bills for the coming fiscal year that starts on October 1, 2019 (the House has already passed a number of them), having the top line numbers significantly lessens the potential for a government shutdown.
In addition to hopefully avoiding a government shutdown, the good news in this bill for small businesses is what it does not include. Specifically, there were efforts, which have now been abandoned, to force a vote on one of the retirement plan bills (the SECURE Act or RESA) which, as we’ve previously reported, would eliminate the stretch IRA, a move that could be harmful for small businesses and their owners and employees.
Surface Transportation Bill
Yesterday the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted unanimously in favor of the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (S.2302) which its sponsor, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) referred to as “the most substantial highway infrastructure bill in history.”
The bill, which was rolled out earlier this week, increases spending on surface transportation by 27%. The bill is unique from other bi-partisan infrastructure bills in that it includes funding for efforts to promote electric and alternative fuels.
The bill itself was met with a mixed response from interests group. Critical to the bill’s future, is the issue of where the funding will come from. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated that he will not bring the bill up for consideration in his committee until he has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s support for raising the gas tax to help foot the bill’s $287 billion price tag. Senator McConnell has typically been against increases to the gas tax.
President Trump Signs Taxpayer First Act of 2019
On the tax front, earlier this month, the President signed the Taxpayer First Act of 2019 into law. This was a bi-partisan bill focused on reforming the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The new law will, among other things, increase the rights and protections for taxpayers, including strengthening the independent appeals process, creating greater protections for innocent spouses and whistleblowers and reforming identity theft prevention and cybersecurity processes. Despite the fanfare, there is really not a lot in the new law that is going to change things for most taxpayers and the bill does not address the larger institutional issues (in particular the lack of appropriate funding and staffing) that the IRS has been facing over recent years.
2019 Legislative meetings:
August 20, 2019, 10:00 am – 11:00 am – Conference Call – call in info to follow
October 2, 2019, 10:00 am – Noon - ICBA offices – 1615 L Street, NW, Suite 900
2019 Retreat: December 11-13, 2019, Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, Arizona
For more info or to get a registration form, contact Rita Haley at email@example.com
Paula Calimafde Jessica Summers
301 951-9325 301 968-3402