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March 4, 2024

What to expect in Washington (March 4)

The House and Senate are both back on Tuesday, March 5. Following last week's passage of a continuing resolution to extend funding through March 8 for half of the dozen annual appropriations bills, in recognition that full-year bills on those appropriations categories are within reach, leaders over the weekend released the longer-term six-bill package to be considered this week. This covers the Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice and Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior, Military Construction-VA, and Transportation-HUD appropriations bills.

The other half-dozen appropriations bills, which lawmakers are making slower progress on, have been extended through March 22 (Defense, Financial Services and General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS, Legislative Branch, and State and Foreign Operations).

In dueling statements on the first six-bill package:

  • House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said, "Even with divided government and a historically small House majority, House Republicans have worked hard to successfully move the policy and spending priorities of the federal government away from the previous Pelosi-Schumer FY23 appropriations, and American taxpayers will benefit from it."
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, "It's good news that Congress has finally reached a bipartisan agreement on the first six government funding bills that will keep the government open. We are proud to be keeping the government open without cuts or poison pill riders."

The Senate returns for business at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 with a vote related to a Defense nomination at approximately 5:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, the House will meet at noon for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m. on suspension bills including several from the Homeland Security Committee and some Energy and Commerce bills including the Medicaid Primary Care Improvement Act (H.R. 3836) and the Action for Dental Health Act (H.R. 3843). Later in the week is consideration of the Expanding Access to Capital Act by Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) of the Financial Services Committee, to require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to issue rules that decrease reporting and registration requirements for companies, brokers, and advisors and increase investment opportunities for individuals.

Tax — The extra time afforded by the short-term extension of government funding is thus far not translating into a longer runway to land the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act (H.R. 7024) in the Senate. Senate Finance Committee Republicans have called for a markup of the bill that was proposed by Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) January 16 and quickly passed by the House January 31. Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) wants a majority of support from Senate Republicans before he will back the bill, and the list of demands is growing.

Future appropriations legislation has been eyed as a possible legislative vehicle for the tax bill. However, Punchbowl News reported last night that "the odds of the tax deal … getting anywhere near a government funding bill are remote, at best. And it's not clear what the next best vehicle — if any — is for the agreement."

The Senate will need at least nine Republicans to pass a tax bill presuming the support of all 51 Democrats, though Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has expressed concerns with the CTC expansion. Some press stories have put the required number of Republican votes at 10. As the WSJ has pointed out, "it is far from clear if enough Republicans would vote for a bill most GOP colleagues oppose."

On Thursday, March 7 at 2 p.m., the House Ways & Means Tax Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "OECD Pillar 1: Ensuring the Biden Administration Puts Americans First."

Also on Thursday, March 7, is President Biden's State of the Union Address. Bloomberg reported, "President Joe Biden will advocate plans to increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations … The White House didn't offer additional details, but on the campaign trail lately, Biden has been advancing the idea of raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% as well as a tax hitting capital gains for billionaires."

Health — On Wednesday, March 6 at 10 a.m., the Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on "How Primary Care Improves Health Care Efficiency."

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Contact Information

For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:

Washington Council Ernst & Young