Congressional Republicans plan this week to approve an overhaul of federal tax policy that would provide substantial savings to corporations and make filing taxes simpler for many Americans.
The bill, negotiated last week between the House and Senate Republicans, is not expected to draw any support from Democrats who voted against earlier versions that cleared the two chambers. The new bill, which is subject to an up-or-down vote, more closely follows the Senate-approved version.
The Connecticut delegation has spoken against the bill saying it would actually raise taxes for many residents who currently itemize deductions on their federal taxes. They also complain it would add to the deficit and put in peril funding for domestic programs — particularly those that provide a safety net to the poor and elderly.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos that he is “confident” the bill will pass in the narrowly divided upper chamber. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage but Arizona Sen. John McCain is not expected to be in Washington this week. That means Republicans can afford to lose no more than one vote to pass the bill with the help of Vice President Mike Pence.
“We’re going to get the economy roaring back again, and improve pay, and increase jobs, and make America more competitive in the global economy, as well as simplifying the tax code and giving everybody in every tax bracket a tax cut. So this is good news,” Cornyn said.
Representative John Larson, who serves on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, said the proposal would add $1.5 trillion to the debt over the decade.
“What is most galling about this bill — is that in order to cover the costs of the $1.5 trillion hole they will blow in the deficit, they will institute an immediate $25 billion cut in Medicare next year,” Larson said.
In the House, the GOP holds a large enough majority to overcome some dissent from Republicans representing New York, New Jersey, and California — high tax states that do not fare as well under the Republican bill. In particular, the bill would limit to $10,000 the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted. The GOP plan also eliminates the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans.
Senate to Confirm ‘Badass’ Greenwich Banker for Pentagon
Before heading home for the holidays, the Senate plans to confirm Owen West of Greenwich, Connecticut as assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict.
West, a partner at Goldman Sachs, joined the Marine Corps after September 11 and deployed twice to Operation Iraqi Freedom as an infantry platoon commander and reconnaissance platoon leader. Business Insider dubbed him “the most badass banker on Wall Street” after he published his third book on military affairs: “Snake Eaters: An Unlikely Band of Brothers and the Battle for the Soul of Iraq.”
West earned his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and did his undergraduate studies at Harvard University.
Senator Richard Blumenthal spoke highly of West during his confirmation hearing, according to the Connecticut Post.
And for more on West’s views on Iraq, read this 2012 Q&A from Small Wars Journal.
Murphy Pushes ‘Buy American’ Bill
Senator Chris Murphy recently introduced legislation that looks to increase opportunities for U.S. manufacturers looking to sell their products to the government.
The 21st Century Buy American Act would update the Buy American Act of 1993 that now requires the government to prefer American-made products in its purchases. Murphy says that loopholes in the current law work against domestic manufacturers.
“Manufacturers across Connecticut have told me that fixing these broken laws will help bring local jobs back,” Murphy said in a press statement.
His bill would make it more difficult for federal agencies to waive the buy American requirements and invests in new or existing domestic manufacturers of items not made, or rarely made, in the United States. Murphy says the changes could help create an additional 100,000 jobs.
Navy Ship Collisions Reviewed
Congressman Joe Courtney last week said that “bold action” is needed to avoid recent mishaps in the Pacific that led to the deaths of 17 sailors including two from Connecticut.
“We owe it to the families of our lost sailors and to the families who entrust us to give their sailors the training and resources they need to do their job safely and effectively,” said Courtney, who is the ranking Democrat of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer recently briefed Courtney on the findings of the Navy’s Strategic Readiness Review that followed recent accidents in the Pacific. Sonar Technician 2nd Class Ngoc T. Truong Huynh of Watertown died in June when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship near Japan. And, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Dustin Doyon of Suffield died after the USS John S. McCain struck a merchant ship in the South China Sea on Aug. 21.
Courtney said the Strategic Review makes serious recommendations on how the Navy should train, man, equip, organize, and command the surface force around the world. Some reforms have already been implemented by the Navy using its existing authorities. Other changes will require action on the part of Congress.
“Some of the changes will no doubt face resistance within the Navy and in Congress, but I remain convinced that now is the time to take the bold action we know is needed,” he said. “Commanding officers must have the ability to declare their ships unready, our operational tempo must slow down if the surface force cannot safely keep pace, and responsibilities for force generation and operational control must be clear and unambiguous.”
Tweet of the Week
— Jim Himes (@jahimes) December 18, 2017
Upcoming on the Hill
• Congress plans this week to vote on a final version of a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill that would provide substantial tax relief to corporation and simply tax filings for many individuals.
• The House plans this week to vote on a resolution to temporarily fund the federal government, which otherwise could lead to a partial shutdown of non-essential government services when current temporary funding expires after Friday. The Senate must also act.
• The Senate plans this week to confirm Owen West, of Greenwich Connecticut, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense and J. Paul Compton, Jr., of Alabama to be General Counsel of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.