At the start of every Congress, House leaders have a tradition: H.R. 1, the very first of the thousands of bills that will be introduced, is set aside for a top legislative priority.
It is prime legislative real estate, reserved for big bills like the 9/11 Commission reforms, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement Act. Last year, Speaker John Boehner announced with much fanfare that he was using it for an overhaul of the nation’s unwieldy tax code.
But almost 14 months later, tax reform hasn’t gone anywhere and H.R. 1 remains an empty, unwritten shell of a bill. And with elections coming, there is a growing acceptance that H.R. 1 will not see action before the end of the session, at least not as promised.
“It’s unusual, and it’s an embarrassment,” said Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat who has served since 1970.
The House Ways and Means Committee, and its Chairman Dave Camp, have done a great deal of work on tax reform, as has Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. But Boehner’s early enthusiasm, and indications from Camp that his panel would write, mark up, and pass major tax-reform legislation, have still not translated into an actual bill.
At a policy retreat Thursday for House Republicans on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Camp remained noncommital about whether a tax-reform package may come to the floor this year. Camp said he and other Republicans did talk during a closed-door “give and take” session about whether tax reform should be part of their 2014 legislative agenda. But he emphsized that no details were discussed.
“This was not a markup,” he said, adding, “Certainly, with my committee members, we’ve gone into great detail. But this was about whether this issue should be one of the issues on the Republican agenda.
So, will his committee release a bill this year?
But other Ways and Means Committee Republicans see dim prospects for any progress on a bill. Baucus is leaving the Senate for a position as U.S. ambassador to China. And Camp must step aside as Chairman next year, thanks to term limits, with many saying Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will succeed him.
“Everybody wants tax reform in the 30,000-foot view, OK?” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican. “But now, the devil is in the details.”
Buchanan and others say Camp’s personal commitment to tax reform is well known — “there’s no question about it,” Buchanan said. But he added that “for one reason or another — including events in Iran, Syria, the fiscal fights, and government shutdown — nothing got out.”
Now, releasing a tax overhaul plan with midterm elections coming this fall could generate fierce criticism from groups who believe they will be unfairly or wrongly hit by the proposed changes. With no chance of their plan being backed by Democrats in the House and Senate, many Republicans also do not want to draw any election-year focus away from their attacks on the Affordable Care Act.
House Democrats, for their part, say the problem is that Republicans pursued a partisan approach. “Hopefully House Republicans will use this delay to reconsider their approach and choose instead to work with House Democrats in writing any bipartisan tax-reform legislation,” Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on ways and Means, said in a statement.
And so the fate of H.R. 1 remains uncertain.
In previous sessions, H.R. 1 has been passed quickly. The No Child Left Behind Act, which was sponsored by Boehner himself, was passed by the House two months after it was introduced in 2001. H.R. 1 has also occasionally sat fallow, as it did under former Speaker Dennis Hastert in 2005.
Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said, “Camp and his committee have been working on it, and we’ll unveil H.R. 1 when they’re ready to proceed.”
For his part, Camp shrugs off the notion that, in this Congress, it is unusual to have the highest legislative priority still unwritten more than a year into the session. As he put it, “In this place, nothing is unusual when it comes to the legislative process.”
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”