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Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Congress 'Jumped the Shark' With The Omnibus Bill

This is the final reporting on the meetings and actions of the First session of the 114th Congress (2015). The Second regular session of the 114th Congress begins at Noon on January 4, 2016. Congress is heading home for the Holidays for the remainder of December.

Congress 'Jumped the Shark'
With The Omnibus Bill
Today in Washington, D.C. - Dec, 18, 2015:
Today The House convened at 9 AM.

They passed:
H. Con. Res. 104 (Agreed to without objection) — "Providing for the sine die adjournment of the first session of the One Hundred Fourteenth Congress.
Motion to concur in the Senate amendment with an amendment specified in section 3(a) of H. Res. 566 (316-113).
H.R. 2241 (Voice Vote) — "To direct the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to submit to Congress a report on the development and use of global health innovations in the programs, projects, and activities of the Agency."
S. 2425 (Unanimous Consent) — "To amend titles XVIII and XIX of the Social Security Act to improve payments for complex rehabilitation technology and certain radiation therapy services, to ensure flexibility in applying the hardship exception for meaningful use for the 2015 EHR reporting period for 2017 payment adjustments, and for other purposes."

Yesterday, Dec. 17, 2015, the House passed: Senate amendment to H.R. 3594 (Agreed to without objection)

On Dec. 16, 2015, the House passed:
H. Res. 536 (399-2) — "Supporting freedom of the press in Latin America and the Caribbean and condemning violations of press freedom and violence against journalists, bloggers, and individuals exercising their right to freedom of speech."
H.J. Res. 76 — "Appointing the day for convening of the second session of the One Hundred Fourteenth Congress."
H.R.3654 - Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015
Senate amendment to H.R. 2029 (318-109) with a further amendment containing the bill making permanent tax relief for families and businesses.

At 1:07 PM, The House adjourned Sine Die the first session of the One Hundred Fourteenth Congress after the U.S. Senate passed H.R. 2029, the 'omnibus' Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations and stand adjourned Sine Die for the first session of the One Hundred Fourteenth Congress."

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) released the following statement after House passage of the one-year spending bill to fund the government: “Today, the House came together to ensure our government is open and working for the American people. This bipartisan compromise secures meaningful wins for Republicans and the American people, such as the repeal of the outdated, anti-growth ban on oil exports. The legislation strengthens our military and protects Americans from terrorist threats, while limiting the overreach of intrusive government bureaucracies like the IRS and the EPA. I appreciate Chairman Rogers’s leadership and the entire Appropriations Committee for their work in shaping this bill. Congress can now move into 2016 with a fresh start and a plan to return to regular order in order to better protect taxpayer dollars."

The Senate reconvened at 9:30 AM today. At 10:30, the Senate received the House message to accompany H.R. 2029, the vehicle for the omnibus Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations bill and the bill making permanent extension of tax relief for families and businesses.

Senators then began a series of votes on the package: they first voted 72-26 to invoke cloture on the motion to concur in the House amendments to the Senate amendments to H.R. 2029; they then rejected by a vote of 31-67 a motion to table the first House amendment, which contained the omnibus bill; senators then voted 73-25 to waive a budget point of order against the House amendments.

Finally, at noon, the Senate voted 65-33 to concur in the House amendments to the Senate amendments to H.R. 2029, which sent the package of appropriations and tax relief legislation to the president for his signature.

Yesterday, the Senate agreed by voice vote to pass H.R. 3594, which extends the federal Perkins Loan program for two years. In addition, all senators agreed by unanimous consent to truncate debate time and time for consideration for H.R. 2029, allowing the series of votes this morning.

Speaking on the floor this morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the case for supporting the bill the Senate voted on today to fund the government and give permanent tax relief to families and businesses. “We know our constituents are deeply concerned about America’s struggling economy. So let’s take steps — as the legislation we’ll consider proposes — to support more jobs, more opportunity, and more economic growth.

“Let’s enact permanent tax relief for American families and small businesses. Let’s set the table for pro-growth tax reform. Let’s permanently eliminate an energy policy from the 1970s that not only costs American jobs, but also strengthens American adversaries like Iran and Russia.

“Because here’s something else. We know our constituents are deeply concerned about America’s national security. So let’s take steps — as the legislation we’ll consider proposes — to strengthen our national security in a dangerous world.

“Let’s help ensure our military has more of the funding it needs to train, equip, and confront the threats that face us from every corner of the globe. Let’s bolster the FBI’s ability to confront terror within our borders. Let’s bring badly needed reform to the Visa Waiver Program. Let’s prevent the transfer of dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo’s secure detention center into American communities. Let’s provide the people we represent with some long-overdue protection from cyberattacks. Let’s honor our veterans and enact critical reforms to help address the crises we’ve seen at the V.A.

The legislation . . . would take steps to strengthen our economy and strengthen our national security. It would bolster the First Amendment. It would attack key pillars of Obamacare and prevent a taxpayer bailout of this partisan law. That last provision is especially important. Protecting the Middle Class from financing a bailout of Obamacare means we’re likely to speed up America’s day of liberation from Obamacare too.

“So here’s my view: This legislation helps our economy, helps our national security, and strikes more blows to a partisan health law that hurts the Middle Class. I think its legislation worth supporting.

News & Organization's Comments:
One aspect not receivingd much attention was looked at by The Washington Post: “There is no love lost between Republicans in Congress and the Internal Revenue Service, whether it’s their dislike for the tax code, the current tax commissioner or their fury at the agency’s treatment a few years ago of conservative groups. With many lawmakers still smarting over that controversy, the GOP used the budget deal reached by House and Senate negotiators this week to tighten the reins on the IRS . . .

“The budget now prohibits the agency from producing videos at conferences unless they are approved in advance by a special board, punishment for a Star Trek parody made for a lavish training conference in Anaheim, Calif., in 2010 . . . .

“The IRS cannot give a bonus or award to any employee — or one who’s been rehired — if they owe a cent in back federal taxes, punishment for watchdog reports showing that some employees owe back taxes and are not penalized. . . .

“Its employees must not use personal email accounts for work communications, a practice that got both Hillary Clinton and Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the scandal over tax-exempt groups in trouble.

“The IRS must now report to Congress on how much it spends on salaries of full-time union officials, who are paid by taxpayers.

“And it cannot target groups for scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs, new language repeated in three separate provisions of the bill.”

In two key editorials, The Wall Street Journal explains the importance >of the First Amendment protections and the delays to harmful Obamacare taxes included in the bill.

The editors write, “The budget and tax bills moving this week usefully block the IRS and other agencies from restricting political speech.

“In 2014 opposition from the left and right forced the IRS to back down on its rule limiting political activities by tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups. But director John Koskinen, the most tone-deaf man in Washington, says he wants to try again, and the spending bill includes a provision that shuts that down.

“The tax bill also blocks the practice of IRS employees using personal email for official business. The use of personal email by Lois Lerner, then head of the tax-exempt division, became a stumbling block for investigators trying to discover what happened. A provision in the tax bill also bans the IRS from imposing the gift tax on donations to 501(c) groups, an idea the agency considered in 2011 when it audited several conservative donors.

“Also helpful is a measure in the omnibus that would prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission from writing a regulation to require publicly traded corporations to disclose contributions to tax-exempt groups, trade associations or other political causes. . . . The spending bill also prevents the Obama Administration from issuing an executive order to require federal contractors to disclose their political contributions.”

On the Obamacare taxes, The WSJ editors argue, “The Congressional Budget Office estimates the insurance tax is passed through to consumers and raises premiums by 2% to 2.5%. The device tax is a drag on jobs and innovation. . .

“The Cadillac tax is already causing vast disruptions across the businesses that sponsor health coverage for about half of Americans, or 147 million people. The IRS interpretation of the law—a 40% excise tax applies to the cost of a health plan over a certain amount—is complex nearly beyond human comprehension, and not all companies can afford HR departments. Roughly half of businesses were expected to pay the tax in 2018, according to Towers Watson, and in some cases they couldn’t avoid it without violating a separate regulation about the minimum value of benefits they must offer.”

Importantly, they also point out, “[T]he omnibus retains language preventing the Administration from using extra funds to prop up insurers that lose money on the exchanges. The exchanges will continue to malfunction, and their failures will be exposed to the public.”

Further, the editors contend, “The larger story is the political attitude adjustment in the Democratic Party. Supporting any change to ObamaCare was once apostasy. Yet in a test vote this month 90 Senators voted to kill the Cadillac tax, and Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have denounced it. This isn’t a change of heart so much as a cardiac transplant. Harry Reid’s opposition to this cornerstone of ObamaCare is good news. The omnibus shows the entitlement is more vulnerable than the political class claims to believe.”

While one part of this legislation, “take[s] an ax to the economic underpinnings of the [health care] law and create new headaches for Democrats as they try to protect Obamacare after 2016,” As Politico put it yesterday, another section finally gives some certainty to families and businesses on tax relief.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday, “The tax bill would permanently extend nearly two dozen tax breaks for businesses and individuals while temporarily extending others. The credits being permanently extended include:

  • An expanded Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income earners;
  • The Child Tax Credit for low and moderate income workers;
  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit to help students under age 40 pay college tuition and expenses;
  • Low income housing credits;
  • An expanded research and experimentation credit;
  • Section 179 business expensing, which allows businesses to fully deduct the price of equipment and software investments;
  • State and local sales tax deduction;
  • Tax deductions for food inventory donated to food banks;
  • A deduction for land donated for conservation; and
  • A tax break for individuals to donate to charity from qualified retirement accounts.”
Employers were vocal about the importance to the economy of pro-growth tax relief. The National Federation of Independent Business, an association of 325,000 small business owners, declared, “Making small business expensing permanent is the single most critical action you can take to help small businesses in 2015.” NFIB explained, “The current temporary nature of small business expensing fuels greater doubt regarding the economy and prevents small business owners from enacting long-term growth plans, making purchasing decisions, and expanding their businesses. By making Section 179 expensing levels permanent, predictable and at sufficient levels, Congress can take a vital step in boosting our economy and helping the true engine of our economy, small businesses, grow.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation said, “Farmers and ranchers need tax deductions that they can count on to effectively operate their businesses. Providing certainty to the tax code makes the difficult business of running a farm more manageable.”

A member of the National Association of Manufacturers representing small and medium manufacturers said, “Permanent and multiyear extensions of the expired investment incentives will help manufacturers of all sizes, producing a positive ripple effect throughout the economy. ... The agreement will encourage businesses to invest in the capital equipment and machinery that will increase efficiency, productivity and growth . . . .”

As Leader McConnell said yesterday “This is legislation worth supporting.

“It doesn’t mean this is the legislation I would’ve written on my own. It doesn’t mean this is the legislation Speaker Ryan would’ve written on his own either. It’s not perfect and we certainly didn’t get everything that we wanted.

“But it makes strides in defending our nation at a time of global unrest.

“It advances conservative priorities in several areas and enacts significant reform in several areas, on everything from tax relief to energy policy to cybersecurity.”

Americans of Limited Government President Rick Manning today blasted the passage of the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill: "House Speaker Paul Ryan has reacted to passage of the omnibus spending bill by saying it 'advances Republican priorities.' Which ones?

"We agree with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley who has said it will help terrorist travel and economic espionage in the U.S. It leaves our borders wide open, and fails to stop Obama's executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants with U.S.-born children. It increases spending $112 billion over the next two years, busting the spending caps. It does nothing to defund Planned Parenthood. It reinstates the Wind Production Tax Credit. It funds Obamacare. It quardruples H2-B visas for low-skilled workers at the expense of American workers. It fails use the power of the purse to rein in a single one of Obama's economy crippling regulations. It funds the Department of Housing and Urban Development racial and income zoning quotas being imposed on 1,200 counties and cities that accept any portion of $3 billion of annual community development block grants.

"The omnibus does not advance Republican priorities, or even the American people's priorities, it advances the priorities of the power elite in Washington, D.C. that continues to operate within a vacuum."

Gary Bauer, Contributing Author noted: "Planned Parenthood gets full funding. So, too, does the Syrian refugee program, even as the administration continues to insist that no changes are needed to ensure that there are no jihadists among the refugees."

Dr. Bill Smith, Editor, ARRA News Service noted when posting of this article, "Congress has 'jumped the shark' with this Omnibus Bill. Let hope America is not eaten alive by our own government and by terrorists. No wonder Congress and the Obama administration have an extremely low approval rating. It appears that they are out to take everything they can from the American people.

"As of this moment in time, the U.S. Gross National Debt exceeds $18,801,230,000,000. We are plagued by terrorists and trials abroad. We have extreme growing poverty in our nation. American atheist may not like what I am about to say; but they can stuff it. God please save America because surely our Government cannot!"

Tags: Congress, Omnibus bill, Governments Spending, Jumped the Shark, terrorists,  trials abroad, national debt, growing poverty To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
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