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Congressional Updates

The last few months have seen a significant amount of legislative activity around pension and retirement policy on Capitol Hill.  The House and the Senate have been positioning themselves for a potential year end negotiation on a retirement policy package in the lame duck session of Congress beginning in November.  We have also seen new proposals introduced into legislation from individual Members of Congress that could be considered in the coming years.

President Trump and Congressional Republicans want to keep the focus on tax policy heading into the midterm elections. To that end, House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX, 8th) publicly announced at the end of June that he will begin circulating a tax reform 2.0 draft proposal to the House Republican caucus after they return from the Fourth of July break. Further, he expects to see the tax reform 2.0 legislative outline – likely as a package of multiple bills – released in early August in the House of Representatives with votes likely to come in the fall.

Congress is expected to vote for the fifth time this week to temporarily extend (this time through March 22) the current levels of funding for federal operations under what is called a continuing resolution. The federal government has been functioning in this way since the 2018 fiscal year began on September 30, 2017 due to an absence of a federal budget agreement between Congressional Democrats and Republicans on “top line” amounts for both defense and non-defense spending.

In September, President Trump struck a bipartisan deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that provided some immediate federal funding for the various emergencies resulting from an active hurricane season, extended the temporary suspension of the debt limit, and

Congressional Republicans, nursing their wounds after the bruising debate to repeal Obamacare ended in failure, look to regroup in the fall and get their legislative agenda back on track. The crown jewel in that agenda is passing a comprehensive and permanent tax reform package. But many practical and political obstacles remain in the path to the holy grail.

Congress skipped town last week to kick off what will be a seven week summer recess as the 2016 general election campaign gets fully underway.  The abnormally long break is the result of both political parties pushing up their nominating conventions this cycle to July.  The Republicans are currently holding their convention in Cleveland, OH, while the Democrats will hold theirs next week in Philadelphia, PA.

The first session of the 114th Congress wrapped up last week and Members are home for the holidays after having completed the most comprehensive and expensive tax and spending package since the fiscal cliff deal at the end of 2012.  President Obama signed the package into law on Friday, December 18, 2015. The package includes three main components: appropriated spending, program authorizations, and changes in tax policy.

After the Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his resignation, Congress acted last week to avert a government shutdown.  The legislation, called the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2016, extended spending on federal government operations until December 11, 2015 (spending on both defense and non-defense discretionary programs were reduced by .21 percent from fiscal year 2015 levels).  The bill also included extensions of the moratorium on Internet taxation, authorization of the Temporary Assis

The House of Representatives took off for summer break after clearing a short term transportation funding bill, while the Senate passed the same bill, as well as a longer-term transportation bill last week.  It is anticipated to be an action packed fall with Congress attempting to address many politically tricky issues on tight deadlines, including:

Congress finished up the June work period last week after enacting key elements of President Obama’s trade agenda.  Congress will now focus in the July work period on extending the charter for the Export-Import Bank, which expires on June 30 2015, and providing funding for federal highway programs, which expire on July 31 2015, before leaving town for the August recess.