The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved by voice vote the FY15 defense spending bill, subject to amendments. The markup is ongoing.
The measure would cut President Obama’s $5 billion request for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund to train and equip foreign forces in half. Military and civilian employees of the Defense Department would get one percent raises next year and a Pentagon plan to slow the rate of growth in housing allowances would be approved.
The bill would allocate $549.3 billion for defense and intelligence programs. It would provide $489.6 billion for the Defense Department’s base budget and $58.3 billion for Defense as part of a $59.7 billion Overseas Contingency Operations account. The bill focused on the following priorities: supporting the troops, veterans and their families; investing in innovation to maintain our technological edge; restoring readiness and supporting high priority programs; and instituting reforms.
For more information on this bill, click here.
The House on Wednesday voted 228-195 to pass a $20.2 billion Financial Services appropriations bill (H.R. 5016), making it the seventh FY15 spending measure to pass in the lower chamber.
The $21.3 billion in funding is $566 million below the FY14 enacted level and $2.3 billion below the President’s request for these programs. The legislation prioritizes programs critical to enforcing laws, maintaining an effective judiciary system, and helping small businesses, while targeting lower-priority or poor-performing programs. The bill would make steep cuts in funding for the IRS, receiving $9.8 billion under the measure, a 13 percent cut to current spending levels, and several riders would seek to limit the reach of the agency following alleged political targeting at the IRS.
For more details on this measure, click here.
The House Appropriations Committee voted 29-19 on Tuesday to approve its FY15 Interior-Environment spending bill, which blocks the administration from implementing a new Clean Water Act rule or a listing of grouse as endangered or threatened. The committee also rejected attempts to designate some wildfire funding as emergency spending.
The measure would provide $4.1 billion both to prevent and fight wildfires, including $470 million for the Forest Service to cover the expected shortfall in suppression funding this year.
The proposed water rule that would be blocked by the bill would define what waters are regulated under the pollution law (P.L. 95-217). The Energy-Water bill contains a similar provision. The issue will ultimately have to be settled by House and Senate leaders.
For more information regarding this bill, click here.
The House on Tuesday passed the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, a bill that would permanently ban the government from taxing broadband Internet access. The legislation (H.R. 3086) was passed by voice vote, and would also eliminate an exemption that currently allows seven states tax certain Internet services. The House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation 30-4 last month.
H.R. 3086 is an uncontroversial, bi-partisan bill, but its passage in the House has lowered the likelihood that the chamber will pass legislation that allows states to tax out-of-state online sales transactions. The Senate passed an Internet sales tax bill, known as the Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 743), in April of last year, and the House has so far failed to respond.
Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) is in support of attaching the online sales tax measure to a 10-year extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). However, the author of ITFA, Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), is opposed to the Marketplace Fairness Act because his home state of Oregon does not charge a sales tax, therefore believes it places an undue burden on states such as his.
The Marketplace Fairness Act gives states the authority to collect sales tax from online purchase even if the retailer does not have a physical presence in the state. It is very unlikely that the House would pass the Senate-passed bill without amending it first (perhaps including carve-outs for small businesses). The states wouldn’t have the authority to force the online retailers until the first day of the calendar quarter that is 90 days after enactment of the legislation, so it would be a 2015 event at the earliest.
Timing of this paired Internet legislation package is fairly fluid, though it does benefit from the action-forcing event of the ITFA’s expiration on November 1. IFTA is the best vehicle for the online sales tax measure, though if it fails to catch a ride by November 1 it could be attached to the tax extenders package in the Lame Duck after the midterm elections.
On Tuesday the House passed a nearly $11 billion patch (H.R. 5021) to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent until next May. Members voted 367-55 to pass the measure signifying overwhelming support for transport programs that create jobs in numerous members’ districts.
The bill uses changes to pension rules known as pension smoothing, an extension of customs duties and a $1 billion transfer from a fund intended to clean up underground storage tank spills to pay for the extension.
The Senate will take up the House-passed bill next week and will also likely vote on two Democratic amendments (and possibly two Republican amendments offered by Sen. Mike Lee from Utah). One of the democratic amendments is authored by Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and would replace the House’s offsets with a similar package of offsets that rely less on pension smoothing, and more on improving compliance of tax laws.
Both chambers are committed to passing a fix for the trust fund before the August recess.
Next week in Congress, the Senate will take up a House-passed $10.8 billion measure that would temporarily replenish the fund that pays the federal share of road and highway repairs. Senators will likely vote on the House highway-spending bill as well as on separate amendments.
House and Senate leaders are also attempting to work together to address the flood of unaccompanied children crossing the border. President Obama called on congressional leaders Wednesday night to quickly pass an emergency measure that would ease the border crisis, where tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors have created a logjam.
In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee has begun work on a supplemental bill, according to a Democratic aide. The funding will be roughly at the $3.7 billion level that President Barack Obama has asked for, or slightly less and it’s unclear whether it will include policy changes.
House leaders, meanwhile, are debating whether to move forward on legislation that would provide significantly less funding than Obama is seeking and attaching policy language that would change a 2008 anti-trafficking law to make it easier to return children to their home countries if they’re not from Mexico or Canada. The White House has expressed openness to such a move but some Democrats are resistant.
Whether or not Congress can act on the border crisis before the August recess remains uncertain.