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March 10, 2021

What to expect in Washington (March 10)

The House plans to approve the Senate-passed American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319) today, and President Biden is expected to sign it soon thereafter. “As soon as I get it,” the President said Monday about when he would sign the measure into law. A letter from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said members “must take every opportunity” to explain how the bill will work for Americans (the letter includes links to a summary and modifications list.)

“I’m so excited, I just can’t hide it,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said during a news conference yesterday. “It’s so exciting, as you know, because of what it does: vaccines in the arms of the American people, money in their pockets, children safely in school, workers safely back to work. It's a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation, which goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis.” She said it is on par with the ACA in terms of consequential legislation.

House Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said during the Speaker’s news conference yesterday regarding the Child Tax Credit expansion, “I’ve already had some thoughts about how we’re going to expand it and make it permanent. And I intend to share those in the near future.”

JCT revenue estimate of the Senate passed bill is available here.

During a CNN interview last night, Senator Schumer defended Democrats’ moving quickly under budget reconciliation without Republican support despite some GOP members’ interest in negotiating. He was asked about members like Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who offered a substitute relief plan in the Senate that was about a third the size of the Democratic bill. “We made a big mistake in 2009 and 2010. Susan Collins was part of that mistake,” he said. “We cut back on the stimulus dramatically and we stayed in recession for five years. What was offered by the Republicans was so far away from what’s needed, so far away from what Biden proposed that he thought that they were not being serious in wanting to really negotiate.”

Next bill – The leaders’ comments suggest the focus will be on the relief bill for a little while longer – they want to communicate benefits to voters – and the outlook for the next bill, the Build Back Better plan that President Biden may outline in an address to Congress later this month, hasn’t become any clearer: what it will include, whether tax increases will be proposed, and how it will move, i.e. with bipartisan support or not. Axios on Monday reported the following from an interview with Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) regarding the next bill: “He talked up an array of tax increases, including raising the corporate tax rate from the current 21% to 25% ‘at least,’ and repealing ‘a lot of’ the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy.”

A Washington Post analysis said the relief bill “could be the last big piece of legislation that passes without bipartisan support or a change to filibuster rules… to accomplish the real changes Democrats promised voters, they need to find GOP senators to work with them, try to win more seats in 2022 or change the way the rules work while they still have the 50 votes to do it.” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said in the analysis, “It will be a Democratic Party Armageddon in 2022 if we sit here on our butts and say, ‘Oh, we’re sorry, we’re not as determined to get our agenda passed as Republicans were.’”

Tax – The Senate Finance Committee has noticed a hearing, “Made in America: Effect of the U.S. Tax Code on Domestic Manufacturing,” for Tuesday, March 16 (10:00 a.m.) Witnesses represent corporations, the National Association of Manufacturers, and United Steelworkers, plus Michelle Hanlon of MIT. (Among other publications, Hanlon coauthored a paper “Tax Avoidance and Multinational Firm Behavior” and an op-ed critical of Senator Warren’s (D-MA) Real Corporate Profits tax of 7% on book income above $100 million.)

The Joint Committee on Taxation held an organizational meeting March 9 during which House Ways & Means Committee Ranking member Kevin Brady (R-TX) said it is important to act on Tax Cuts & Jobs Act (TCJA) technical corrections this year. JCT is seeking a 2% funding increase.

Congress - Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) announced he won’t run for re-election in 2022, joining other Republican members Richard Burr (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Pat Toomey (R-PA). All of those members had careers in the House before becoming senators, and Blunt rose to leadership there before doing the same in the Senate. Senator Blunt is known as a keen observer of where things stand in Congress, and his comments in the press carried weight. The New York Times (NYT) said he is regarded as a political tactician and negotiating partner for Democrats, qualities that “have become political liabilities” as the Republican party has changed.

Some names have been floated to run for the seat, but former Senator Claire McCaskill, who was defeated by Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) in 2018, said she won’t be one of them. “I will never run for office again,” she tweeted.           

Health care – A March 8 NYT story said, “Mr. Biden made clear when he was running for the White House that he did not favor Medicare for All, but instead wanted to strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act. The bill that is expected to reach his desk in time for a prime-time Oval Office address on Thursday night would do that… But as a candidate, Mr. Biden promised more, a ‘public option’ — a government-run plan that Americans could choose on the health law’s online marketplaces, which now include only private insurance… Just when Mr. Biden or Democrats would put forth such a plan remains unclear, and passage in an evenly divided Senate would be an uphill struggle.”

A March 9 Senate HELP Committee hearing, “Examining Our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines,” featured witness testimony from providers, public health officials, and academics, and the committee focused their questioning on efforts to ramp up vaccinations in hard-hit communities, investments in public health infrastructure, the mental and behavioral health impacts of the pandemic, workforce needs, and back-to-school efforts.


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Washington Council Ernst & Young
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