Doug Sword

New bipartisan Senate group facing uphill climb in bid to end shutdown

A bipartisan Senate group has launched new talks  to end the lingering partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22 and is now the longest in history, but they are well aware of the uphill climb awaiting them. 

Senators who met Monday haven’t coalesced around a single approach that can gain the approval of President Donald Trump as well as Democratic leaders in both chambers. But the group still appears to be discussing what kind of border security package can pass muster with the principal negotiators.

Assessing the bleak options for ending the shutdown
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 94

As the longest shutdown in modern history enters its fourth week, CQ’s fiscal policy reporter Doug Sword assesses the options for ending the spending impasse. But none appear promising, as President Donald Trump has rejected the latest proposals.

House GOP Tax Package Still In Limbo as Clock Winds Down
Time remaining in 115th Congress does not bode well for proponents

The House is leaving in limbo an $80 billion package of tax breaks as it leaves for the weekend on Thursday, though in theory there’s still time to take up the measure next week before lawmakers leave town for the holidays.

The second time had been shaping up to be the charm for House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady’s now refurbished year-end tax bill, as Republicans appeared to be lining up behind it Wednesday. An earlier version expected on the floor two weeks ago never made it due to objections from rank-and-file Republicans.

Senate Narrowly Votes to Reject IRS Donor Disclosure Rule

The Senate voted 50-49 to repeal a rule that shields donors to many nonprofit groups from disclosure to IRS officials.

The dramatic vote was tied at 49-49 with 49 Democrats voting in favor and 49 Republicans against, when Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, cast the deciding vote to repeal the rule. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. was absent.

Kevin Brady Drops Extenders, Adds Health Care Tax Rollbacks
House Ways and Means chairman deleted almost $30 billion in tax provisions

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady has refashioned his year-end tax package to try to maximize GOP votes for a stand-alone bill, while dropping provisions the Senate could still pick up and pass this year, possibly as part of a huge wrap-up spending bill.

Brady, R-Texas, deleted $29.9 billion worth of tax provisions, collectively known as “extenders” because they are continually revived for a year or two at a time, that faced GOP opposition in the House. That includes one revenue-raiser disliked by the coal mining industry, which would extend the current tax they pay to support disabled miners with black lung disease; the tax would otherwise be slashed substantially next year.

Spending Talks About to Hit a Wall, New Tax Plan in Doubt
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 90

Lawmakers are racing against the clock to pass seven more spending bills, but their efforts are likely to be a struggle amid President Trump's insistence for $5 billion for the border wall that Democrats don't want to give him, says CQ budget editor Peter Cohn. And CQ tax writer Doug Sword brings us up to date with the latest GOP effort to pass new tax legislation that would renew some tax breaks while making corrections to last year's massive tax overhaul. ...
Van Hollen Complains of ‘Dark of Night’ House GOP Tax Bill
Dems plan to hold hearings on problems with tax code overhaul

Sen. Chris Van Hollen said a 200-page-plus tax bill released late Monday by House Republicans would receive a cool reception from Democrats.

“It was sort of put together in the same way their huge tax bill was put together, in the dark of night,” Van Hollen said, referring to the tax code overhaul  signed into law last December. Van Hollen’s comments came at a “Election Impact: Tax Policy in 2019,” a Roll Call Live event held at FiscalNote headquarters on tax policies expected to take center stage in the 116th Congress. 

Grassley Will Step into Tax Storm, Finance Gavel in Hand
Iowa Republican was a key player on big-ticket measures during his previous tenure as Finance chairman

Sen. Charles E. Grassley is expected to be the next chairman of the Finance Committee, putting the Iowa Republican at the center of the storm in the 116th Congress on what could be divisive debates over tax, trade and health care policy.

Grassley cited a sense of “optimism” fueled by the “pro-growth” policies of a Republican president and Congress. “Looking ahead. ... I want to continue to work to make sure that as many Americans as possible get to experience this good economy for themselves,” he said in a statement released Friday. “That means working to provide Americans with additional tax relief and tax fairness so they can spend more of their hard-earned money on what’s important to them.”

K Street Turns Its Lonely Eyes to Grassley
Republican holds the key to cascading possibilities, from Judiciary to Finance to Banking

Fresh off a divisive Supreme Court battle, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley has a complicated decision to make next month that has the business world watching with keen interest: whether to make the jump over to the Finance Committee chairmanship in the 116th Congress.

“Ask me Nov. 7,” was all the Iowa Republican would say earlier this week on the topic. But the allure of returning to the helm of perhaps the most powerful committee in Congress, with jurisdiction over taxes, trade and health care policy, can’t be lost on Grassley, who was Finance chairman for part of 2001 and again from 2003 through 2006.

Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Melvin Watt Accused of ‘Unwanted Advances’
Accuser: Watt made it clear he had ‘an attraction’

A Federal Housing Finance Agency manager leveled charges of unwanted advances and sexual harassment against Director Melvin Watt during a hearing Thursday before the House Financial Services Committee.

Simone Grimes testified that beginning in 2015, when she brought to the regulator’s attention that she was to be paid less than her predecessor in an executive position, Watt offered her a “number of positions” but made clear each time that he had “an attraction” to her.

Trump Signals Intent to Nix Proposed Federal Pay Increase
Congress can weigh in if it feels need to maintain agreed-upon pay hike

President Donald Trump signaled his intent to rescind a scheduled pay increase for federal workers, informing Congress on Thursday that federal law allowed him to do so in the event of a “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.”

The move drew a quick response from D.C.-area members and is almost certain to draw howls from the Senate, which included a 1.9 percent pay raise in its Financial Services spending bill. That measure was part of a four-bill, $154 billion package that passed the Senate 92-6 earlier this month.

Trump’s Controversial Pick for Banking Watchdog Clears First Hurdle
All eyes may be on Kavanaugh, but Kathy Kraninger nomination is kicking up dust too

The Senate Banking Committee advanced Thursday the controversial nomination of Kathy Kraninger to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The vote split on party lines, 13-12. 

The panel’s chairman, Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, said Kraninger was “well prepared” to lead the bureau, and that it’s no surprise her nomination is contentious because the CFPB was the most disputed aspect of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act financial overhaul. 

Fate of Wall Street Watchdog Devolves Into a Squabble Over Acronyms
To many, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the CFPB. Conservatives say that doesn’t even exist

Only in Washington would an argument erupt over a federal agency’s acronym.

To progressives, the agency is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the CFPB, which took on Wall Street and won compensation for more than 27 million consumers during its startup years under former Director Richard Cordray.

Senate Passes Spending Package, Rejects Trump’s Proposed Cuts
Chamber has now passed seven of the 12 annual spending bills

The Senate approved a $154.2 billion, four-bill fiscal 2019 spending package Wednesday as a continuing bipartisan effort in the chamber pushed it ahead of the House in the appropriations process.

The vote was 92-6. Republicans cast the opposing votes: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Partisan Clash Over Election System Security Looming in Senate
Democrats want $250 million to help states

A partisan clash over Russian hacking of state elections systems appears to be coming to a head in the Senate, where a provision to add $250 million to a four-bill spending package for states to beef up election system security may be headed for a floor vote.

Democrats are using an announcement from the Election Assistance Commission and President Donald Trump’s comments in Helsinki on July 16 to pressure Republicans to allow a floor vote on Sen. Patrick J. Leahy’s amendment to provide $250 million in grant aid to states to secure election systems.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Brings Banking Panel to Boiling Point
Nomination of Kathy Kraninger strains previously buddy-buddy relationship

Kathy Kraninger’s confirmation hearing was as politically contentious as it’s gotten in the last year and a half on what has otherwise been a very senatorial Senate Banking Committee.

The partisan fight even appeared to consume the always amiable relations between Chairman Michael D. Crapo of Idaho and ranking member Sherrod Brown of Ohio, both of whom expressed regrets at the dust-up over Kraninger’s nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Rules Readies Financial Services, Interior-Environment Bill
McHenry files only GOP leadership amendment

The House Rules Committee recommended a rule Monday that would allow 87 amendments to be heard when the House turns to floor debate of the combined fiscal 2019 Interior-Environment and Financial Services spending bill this week.

Among the amendments will be a Republican provision to bar the U.S. Postal Service from expanding its offering of banking services. But an amendment to provide $380 million in grant funding to states to beef up election security, pushed repeatedly by Democrats citing Russian meddling in the 2016 election, didn’t make the cut.

Proposals Would Help Homeowners, Make Ex-Presidents Pay for Office Supplies
Financial Services spending bill amendments also could affect local post offices

Local post offices would be barred from offering most banking services, homeowners with crumbling foundations would get some help and ex-presidents would have to pay for their own office supplies under proposals to amend the House’s fiscal 2019 Financial Services spending bill.

Proposed amendments also include some of the usual suspects: keeping the District of Columbia from enforcing certain local laws, allowing federally insured banks to take deposits from companies in the marijuana industry, and barring federal funds from being spent at properties owned by President Donald Trump.

House Panel Advances Bills Aimed at Helping Small Businesses
Rep. Maxine Waters calls bills approved Wednesday an example of “true bipartisanship”

The House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday approved a group of bills designed to make it easier for small companies to raise capital and relax regulations for investors, or potentially set the stage to make it easier.

Four of the bills would call for studies or reports.

Battle Over Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Leadership Ending
Challenge to Mick Mulvaney dropped

Leandra English has indicated she will leave her position at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this week, ending a legal contest over the directorship of the bureau that has been an ongoing political drama in Washington since the day after Thanksgiving.

In tweets on Friday, English said she would be “stepping down from my position” at the bureau, and her attorney, Deepak Gupta, said that English would drop her appeal of a federal judge’s denial of her motion for a permanent injunction. The injunction she sought would have barred Acting Director Mick Mulvaney from running the agency and instead installed English in the top spot.