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Hawkings: As Congress Returns for 9-Week Slog, 5 Areas Are Ripe for Compromise

The scope of the measure, which has been on the drawing board longer than three years, remains modest. It would seek to improve the nation’s energy efficiency through modest grants to states and cities for drafting stricter building codes, incentives for manufacturers to reduce their carbon footprints and the creation of energy-savings guidelines for federal buildings. Sponsors Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, believe they have sufficient votes to ward off all extraneous or poison-pill amendments — even now that Shaheen’s re-election contest has grown more competitive, which might tempt some GOP senators to scuttle the measure so she’s denied a legislative triumph during the campaign.

If the bill passes in its current form, a lobbying effort will intensify to persuade the GOP House to embrace it.

Taxes: With a comprehensive rewrite and simplification of the IRS rulebook shelved for the year, lawmakers have committed themselves to once again reviving and extending a dog’s breakfast of niche tax benefits. (For businesses, there are broad breaks for corporate research and development along with investing in new business equipment — and narrow breaks for horse owners and race tracks. For individuals, there are tax breaks for paying college tuition, making energy-efficient home improvements and commuting by subway or bicycle.)

In the coming month, the Senate will debate a package extending more than four dozen provisions through the end of next year, at a 10-year cost to the Treasury of about $85 billion. That’s the customary route for the “extenders” — a hodgepodge designed so that a lawmaker committed to one narrow provision has to vote for them all. But retiring Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., aspires to do the opposite — move every extension as a rifle-shot bill (but with no expiration date) so that advocates for every break must assemble their own House majority.

That could take a while. But all lawmakers know full well that much of the year’s heaviest legislative lifting and biggest breakthroughs will inevitably be postponed until the lame-duck session that starts Nov. 12, eight days after the election, and might well continue until close to Christmas.

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