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May 16, 2022

What to expect in Washington (May 16)

On ABC’s This Week yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Congress is acting to address inflation through the conference committee convened last week on the bipartisan supply chain/competition bill – which she said breaks down as $52 billion for semiconductor chips “essential to our manufacturing here,” upwards of $40 billion for other supply chain concerns, and the remainder education and research – and, on the House floor this week, a bill intended to shine “a bright light of transparency on how companies are making big profits at the expense – and this is in the energy sector – at the expense of the consumer.”

Speaker Pelosi referred to the competitiveness bill as the U.S. Competition Act of 2022 and said, “I don’t know if that will be the title, that’s always a debate.” The President has been referring to the eventual conference agreement as the Bipartisan Innovation Act, like last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The bill started in the Senate as the Endless Frontier Act but was approved on a bipartisan basis in June 2021 as the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA, S. 1260). The House bill, the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521), was partisan, attracting only one Republican vote and losing one Democratic vote when approved in February. The conference committee met publicly for the first time May 12 and much of the negotiating is expected to be conducted behind closed doors, as is typically the case in conferences.

The Speaker didn’t provide any outlook on COVID funding, which was kept separate from faster-moving Ukraine funding, other than to say it was stalled in the Senate. On CNN, she said “we have to do the COVID package,” but didn’t say how GOP efforts to extend the Title 42 border policy would be resolved. The Senate convenes at 3:00 p.m. today, May 16, following which they will take a procedural vote related to the nearly $40 billion Ukraine funding bill that was approved by the House but hit a snag in the Senate last week as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) called for Inspector General-level oversight of how the money is spent. Politico reported Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as saying that the Senate will be on track to pass the $40 billion aid package by the middle of this week.

The energy/consumer bill the House is to take up this week is the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act (H.R. 7688), which would give the President the power to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would make it unlawful to increase gasoline and home energy fuel prices in an excessive or exploitative manner, with Federal Trade Commission enforcement.

Reconciliation – Asked on NBC’s Meet the Press why no parts of Build Back Better were enacted, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said, “You’ve got two members of the senate, Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema, who have sabotaged what the president has been fighting for... You’ve got 48 members of the Senate who wanted to go forward with an agenda that helped working families, that was prepared to take on the wealthy and the powerful. You had a president who wanted to do that. You had two people who prevented us from doing it. You have a better word than sabotage? That’s fine. But I think that is the right word.”

Housing proposals were sidelined with the BBBA and cited by the President last week as needed to fight inflation. NEC Director Brian Deese tweeted yesterday, “Building more affordable housing will improve mobility/opportunity AND reduce pressure on housing and rental prices. We have under-invested in building affordable homes for a decade+ Tomorrow we will announce actions to change that in a big way.”

Tax – The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, “Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wants to clinch the European Union’s approval of a global minimum tax on the profits of large corporations, hoping to smooth out Poland’s objections to approving the plan in meetings next week. But the larger threat to the agreement’s future may rest closer to home, in Congress, which hasn’t yet approved the plan Ms. Yellen negotiated.” The story said, “Ms. Yellen is set to travel to Warsaw, as well as Brussels, before heading to Bonn, Germany, for a gathering of finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading nations. She said recently that she expects Poland to soon drop its objections to the plan, opening the door to EU approval and possibly assuaging concerns in Congress that the U.S. would raise its taxes but that other countries wouldn’t follow suit.”

At the American Bar Association conference May 13, a Treasury Department official said the OECD will have more to say on what constitutes a “refundable” tax credit for purposes of determining how credits are treated under the global tax agreement’s minimum tax, Bloomberg Tax reported. “There will be additional guidance about the definition of qualified refundable tax credits,” said Isaac Wood, an attorney-advisor in Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy, speaking at a conference hosted by the ABA’s Tax Section. Asst. Sec. for Tax Policy Lily Batchelder previously said Treasury has been “working with the OECD to clarify the treatment of general business credits.”

On Wednesday, May 18 (10:00 a.m.), the House Ways & Means Oversight Subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Taxpayer Fairness Across the IRS.”

Budget – The Congressional Budget Office will publish The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2022 to 2032 next week, on May 25. CBO’s last budget and economic projections were published in July 2021. Biden administration officials have highlighted the deficit of $360 billion in the first seven months of FY2022, through April, which is a fraction of the $1.9 trillion shortfall during the same period in 2021. Tax receipts were nearly $864 billion in April, and the higher-than-expected receipts through the first seven months of the fiscal year – $3 trillion, or $843 billion more than during the same period a year ago – “may reflect stronger-than-expected income growth throughout 2021 and so far in 2022,” CBO has said.

Elections – Tomorrow, May 17, are the Pennsylvania primaries, including for the Senate race for the seat being vacated by Pat Toomey (R-PA). Democratic candidates include Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA), with Fetterman leading significantly. Republican candidates include Dr. Mehmet Oz, David McCormick, and Kathy Barnette.


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