January 13, 2021
What to expect in Washington (January 13)
Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) will detail "economic, tax, health care and trade" priorities for the Committee in a press call this afternoon (Wednesday), President-elect Joe Biden will lay out his proposal for a COVID relief & stimulus bill on Thursday, and there are plans in place for Biden to name acting heads of federal agencies upon taking office given the Senate isn't making much progress on nominations as Inauguration Day approaches.
In a January 12 letter to members on priorities for this Congress, incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the chamber would consider legislation to confront the climate crisis through "clean infrastructure and manufacturing," work on fixing and improving health care and child care systems, and "fight to restore workers' rights and fairness in our tax code."
A January 11 Ways & Means report on "Inequities in U.S. Policy and Society" discusses the Earned Income Tax Credit and Work Opportunity Tax Credit and calls for full availability of the Child Tax Credit.
The Wall Street Journal reported, "Mr. Biden's transition team said career officials would be put in place at most cabinet departments and in some subcabinet agencies following his inauguration next week. The move will enable Mr. Biden to prevent any of President Trump's political appointees from staying at the helm of cabinet agencies past Jan. 20."
The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of Janet Yellen to be Treasury Secretary on January 19 at 10 a.m.
Politico reported that "Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler will likely be President-elect Joe Biden's pick to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission."
The Washington Post reported that transition team officials have said President-elect Biden will attempt to gain bipartisan support for the stimulus bill to be outlined on Thursday — as opposed to using budget reconciliation that could allow single-party passage in the Senate given that there will be 50 Democrats and VP-elect Kamala Harris can break ties — and that the bill is expected to call for upping the direct payment amount to $2,000, additional unemployment insurance, state and local funding, money for vaccine distribution/delivery and child care and more. Members are pushing for add-ons, like Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) advocating for his "baby bonds" proposal for a savings account for each newborn child and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) discussing his ideas for the Child Tax Credit.
The $2,000 checks proposal is controversial, with key centrist Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) pushing for employment-related assistance and job creation through infrastructure instead. There is Republican interest, however. In a January 12 letter to President-elect Biden, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, "It would send a powerful message to the American people if, on the first day of your presidency, you called on the House and Senate to send you legislation to increase the direct payments to Americans struggling due to the pandemic from $600 to $2,000."
A New York Times story on incoming Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that because budget reconciliation will begin with instructions in a budget resolution, "The nature of the process effectively gives Mr. Sanders a leading role in deciding how expansive — and expensive — Mr. Biden's ambitions for new taxes and spending will be." While Sanders won't force Medicare for All or other progressive proposals, "he does intend to test the legal bounds of how reconciliation can be used so that Democrats can pass policies that go beyond traditional budget items and address 'structural problems in American society.'"
The House will bring impeachment legislation to the floor today. Vice President Pence said he wouldn't invoke the 25th Amendment. Some Republican lawmakers said they will vote to impeach the President.
On January 12, the IRS released final regulations on the limitations on deducting fines, penalties and other amounts paid to governmental entities (and other identified entities) under IRC Section 162(f) and the related reporting requirements under IRC Section 6050X.