Usually when Majority Leader Harry Reid prevents Republicans from offering amendments, GOP senators block the underlying bill. At least, that was how Republicans handled the recently dispatched energy-efficiency bill, which went down earlier this week.
But there are signs that even if Reid blocks amendments on legislation to extend expired tax provisions, known as tax extenders, Republicans won’t prevent the bill from coming to the floor.
“There’s probably a lot more support among Republicans for tax extenders than there perhaps was for energy efficiency,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber’s No. 3 Republican.
The difference, according to lawmakers, is that some of the roughly 60 provisions in the tax-extenders package benefit constituents in some way. Thune also said that members view extending current tax policy differently than they do enacting new energy legislation.
“I just think you’re talking about tax policy,” Thune said. “You’re talking about extending tax policy. And many of them are things that our members are supportive of.”
Of course, there are some provisions in the bill that Republicans oppose. “So it’s hard to say at this point how that vote might go,” Thune said. “But I wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that it’s gonna turn out the same way that the energy [efficiency] cloture vote did.”
GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said that whether he votes for the underlying measure depends on whether Reid allows amendments, but that he expects there is enough support in the conference for the measure to clear procedural hurdles.
“What they’ve said is there’s so much stuff in there that is necessary to move our economy forward that perhaps this isn’t the time to make a philosophical or process stand,” Scott said.
At the same time, conservative groups are making the case that this is precisely the time to take a stand against extending the tax provisions. Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks have each come out against the Expire Act, as the legislation is known.
The problem, some conservatives argue, is that the tax extenders benefit special interests, rather than the taxpaying public overall.
“That approach to legislating is how our tax code became so convoluted in the first place,” Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said in a statement. “Comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform will remain elusive until it becomes clear to special interests their favored provisions are no longer sacrosanct.”
But Republicans who sound supportive of letting the legislation move forward aren’t fazed by the conservative headwinds.
“Different organizations are going to come to different conclusions,” Thune said. “You’re gonna have an awful lot of support from the business community.”
Indeed, there are conservative groups backing the legislation. Americans for Tax Reform, the group headed by Grover Norquist, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among them. They want to see the extenders folded into a broader overhaul of the tax code, but argue they help businesses and families in the meantime.
“For now, though, the mandate for the Senate is clear: Do no harm,” Americans for Tax Reform said in a statement.
Even if the measure gets through the Senate, it will stall in the House, which is considering the provisions discretely, rather than in a single package.
Action on the bill isn’t expected to wrap up until next week, aides said, and in the meantime Republicans have not ceased calling for amendments, with leaders saying they expect a repeal of the medical-device tax will be offered.
Thune has introduced eight amendments, including several Obamacare measures and one that would make the state and local sales-tax deduction permanent. In addition, Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said they plan to jointly offer an amendment to repeal the wind-energy tax credit.
Even so, Republicans are already expecting Reid to rebuff their efforts to amend the legislation.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll vote against procedural measures if Republicans are not allowed amendments, but he pointed out that doing so has been the norm for him.
“This is so contrary to the heritage of the Senate, no matter what the issue is before us,” Sessions said. “We’ve got to end this.”
What We're Following See More »
Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."