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Legislative Updates: September 2013

 

Capitol Call

Members of the House and Senate returned to Washington, D.C. following their five-week summer break. During their time back home, the members no doubt got an earful from their constituents about the many issues facing them this fall.

To clarify the agenda, a memo outlining the priorities of the House for the fall was sent to the House Republicans from Majority leader Eric Cantor. It listed dealing with Syria, passing a Continuing Resolution to fund the government past September 30, and raising the debt ceiling as the three top priorities of the House. Other topics in the memo included immigration reform, passing the nutrition assistance component of the Farm Bill, and additional oversight on the IRS and other government agencies.

While tax reform was not specifically mentioned in the memo, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) stated as recently as September 10 that it is still his intention to pass tax reform out of his Committee by the end of the year. Possible action in the Senate is less clear because Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has not given any indication when, or even if, he plans to introduce comprehensive tax reform legislation.

In the meantime, Chairmen Camp and Baucus spent a few weeks touring various businesses, large and small, as part of their “road show” to drum up support for tax reform. It has been widely reported that many companies and even the Obama administration have expressed more interest in reforming the corporate tax code than the individual tax code. Executives at many of the businesses the Chairmen visited, including Intel and FedEx, reinforced that narrative.

But both Chairman Baucus and Camp have repeatedly stated that it is not their intention to introduce or pass any sort of tax reform legislation in a piecemeal fashion. Camp pointed out that more than half of business activity is taxed through the individual code. And Baucus said in September, “There is more agreement on the corporate side. But I think we should use that as an engine for comprehensive reform, not just do corporate and stop.”

The Senate Banking Committee has turned its attention to housing finance reform, and a bill is expected to be introduced and voted on in the Committee within the next few months. It is widely expected that whatever legislation emerges from the Senate Banking Committee will be very different from the version passed by the House Financial Services Committee in July. In the House, Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who has made housing finance reform his top priority, purposefully created a conservative-leaning bill with the idea that it would be modified to attract bipartisan support after the Senate passes its version. While there may be an occasional Dodd-Frank oversight hearing, housing finance reform is expected to take up most of the attention of the Senate Banking Committee during this very busy fall.

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