This week, Senate Democrats continued to block Republican attempts to call up a $39.7 billion FY15 Homeland Security spending bill (H.R. 240).
House Republicans on Thursday again blocked a bid by Democrats to take up a “clean” version without the immigration riders attached.
The current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding DHS runs out on February 27. Congress will be in recess to observe the President’s Day Holiday February 16-20, thereby leaving only five legislative days when they return to resolve the funding impasse. Further complicating matters is a lawsuit filed by some two dozen states to block the President’s executive actions, with the case expected to be decided any day now.
The House Education and Workforce Committee on Wednesday marked up and voted 21-16 to pass “The Student Success Act” (H.R. 5), a bill that would reauthorize the current Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which in its current form is called “No Child Left Behind.”
The bill would significantly scale back the role of the federal government in overseeing public education, give states more flexibility in designing accountability systems and consolidate dozens of federal education programs. Block grant funding also would allow states to distribute federal money to districts and schools as they see fit.
The Committee brought up several amendments for debate, but in the end approved four. They are as follows:
· A proposal from Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK) that strengthens student and teacher data privacy provisions
· A proposal from Dave Brat (R-VA) that tasks the Institute of Education Sciences with annually reporting how much money might be saved from the reduction in federal oversight
· The Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) amendment would allow states to delay using the test scores of English language learner students for proficiency calculations for two years in math and three years in English (their scores now are counted after one year)
· An amendment from Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) that requires states to report the academic achievement of military students
One of the main issues of contention is the debate over Title I funds and whether they should follow students between public schools. Republicans and Democrats both see this as a civil rights and equity issue. Republicans say making funds portable, which the bill would do, helps prevent students from being trapped in failing schools, but Democrats say it would divert much-needed federal funding from already cash-strapped school districts to wealthier ones.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee announced last week that they have begun work on their own bipartisan bill.
H.R. 5 is expected to move to the House floor in less than two weeks.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Finance Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) reintroduced the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act on Tuesday along with 38 co-sponsors — 28 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
The bill would permanently ban Internet taxation, which has been extended nearly half a dozen times since first enacted in 1998. The most recent came last year, when Congress rolled a one-year extension into the omnibus spending bill.
Last year lawmakers attempted to attach an online sales tax proposal to the bill, which stalled it.
House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) reintroduced similar legislation in the House last month. No word yet on when this will be brought to a vote.
In other tax news, the House voted 272-142 on Friday to pass the second in a series of permanent tax extenders.
The bill (H.R. 636) bundles three tax-extender measures worth a combined $79.2 billion over 10 years, led by a $77.1 billion increase in the amount small businesses can deduct from their taxes for the cost of purchases.
The legislation also includes two other proposals that were included by House Rules. One (H.R. 630) would extend deductions for charitable contributions and another (H.R. 629) would make permanent the shorter five-year recognition period for built-in gains for S corporations. The House’s action Friday follows approval of package (H.R. 644) of tax credits for charitable giving Thursday.
The White House has threatened a veto of the measure, as it has for other permanent tax extenders, because there are no offsets.
The House and Senate will be in recess next week for the President’s Day holiday. The next Weekly Legislative Update will cover the week of February 23-27.