Packed Congressional Agenda

Congress Faces Tax Conference, PAYGO, Appropriations Deadline

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
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Congress came back to Washington on Monday with a packed agenda. (DTN file photo by Nick Scalise)

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Republicans hope to begin working quickly on a conference between the House and the Senate on the tax-reform bill that each body has passed. The Senate narrowly approved its tax-reform bill over the weekend.

Republicans in the House and Senate are enthusiastic about passing a tax bill, but there are differences that must be worked out. For example, the House bill eliminated the estate tax, while the Senate bill only doubles the current exemption.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall praised passage of the Senate bill, saying it could lead to a "fair tax code that recognizes our hard work as well as the unique challenges we face in growing our nation's food, fiber and fuel."

"We applaud the Senate's commitment to key tax provisions farm and ranch businesses depend on, such as immediate expensing, business interest deduction and cash accounting," Duvall added.

"While we also had hoped to see the estate tax finally put to death, increasing the exemption should bring relief for many farm and ranch families looking to preserve their agricultural legacy."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have promised to name conferees on the bill this week.

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But Ryan and McConnell also face other challenges.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and the National Farmers Union have raised concerns that the tax bill will lead the Office of Management and Budget to impose Pay-As-You-Go rules that would mean massive sequester of federal spending in January, including Medicare and farm subsidies.

But on Friday, McConnell and Ryan said that the Democratic statements were "misleading."

"Critics of tax reform are claiming the legislation would lead to massive, across-the-board spending cuts in vital programs -- including a 4% reduction in Medicare -- due to the Pay-Go law enacted in 2010," McConnell and Ryan said.

"This will not happen. Congress has readily available methods to waive this law, which has never been enforced since its enactment. There is no reason to believe that Congress would not act again to prevent a sequester, and we will work to ensure these spending cuts are prevented."

Congress has not, however, acted to prevent the sequester.

But the most immediate issue that Congress must address is that the current authorization for government spending ends Friday at midnight.

No one is predicting that Congress will pass an omnibus bill funding the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Most likely, Congress will pass another two-week continuing resolution and try to resolve the funding for the rest of the fiscal year before leaving for the end-of-the-year holidays.

But Democrats are trying to tie the CR to protections for the Dreamers, students who are in the United States without legal status.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Monday that they have accepted an invitation from President Donald Trump to meet with him and Republican leaders on Thursday.

Last week, Schumer and Pelosi declined to attend a meeting after Trump tweeted that he did not intend to agree to their demands.

(AG)

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Jerry Hagstrom

Jerry Hagstrom
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