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House Wraps Tax Week, Prepares Trade Issues

A Capitol Police officer removes a package from the undercarriage of the gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With the exception of a homemade gyrocopter landing on the Capitol lawn, everything in the House went just according to plan this week.  

Lawmakers hit the exits Thursday after voting, 240-179, to kill the so-called death tax, also known as the "estate tax" in less Republican circles. Seven Democrats joined all but three Republicans — David Jolly of Florida, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Scott Rigell of Virginia — in voting to repeal the tax on the richest 0.2 percent. (Currently, the tax only kicks in on individual estates worth more than $5.43 million, and joint estates at twice that level.)  

Democrats argued the bill revealed Republican priorities of helping the rich, while Republicans argued the tax was fundamentally unfair and a burden on small businesses and farms. These were familiar party lines.  

The House also voted, 272-152, on a bill to permanently allow taxpayers to deduct state and local taxes on their federal filings. Those filing their 2014 tax returns were already able to take those deductions, but Congress has to pass regular bills allowing for that cut. Even though 34 Democrats joined all but one Republican on that bill, a permanent cut probably isn't in the cards, meaning Congress will most likely have to pass another short-term extension later in the year.  

For all the messaging Republicans intended to do on taxes this week as Americans sent in their tax forms before the April 15 deadline, it was a mailman from Florida, 61-year-old Doug Hughes, who stole the congressional headlines . Hughes and his homemade gyrocopter — a one-man helicopter that looked like it was straight out of "Inspector Gadget" — flew beneath the radar and landed on the West Front Lawn in a stunt intended to draw attention to campaign finance issues. Ultimately, it may have drawn attention to congressional security issues .  

Capitol Police Chief Kim C. Dine has submitted a letter of resignation amid tumult at the agency, and the gyrocopter incident could become yet another issue in the coming days, especially as reports emerge that Hughes' plan was known to Secret Service and Capitol Police.  

Another issue that promises to stay in the news is a budget conference between the House and Senate.  

Lawmakers from both chambers appointed negotiators for a rare conference on the budget, even though Democrats aren't expected to have much influence on the process .  

In any event, Republicans from both chambers have a host of issues to work out among themselves. The conference also sets up the process for a reconciliation bill later in the year that could, in an effort to draw 2016 contrasts , fundamentally dismantle Obamacare.  

Another issue to watch for in the coming days is congressional reaction to a Trade Promotion Authority bill that would expedite a trade deal between the United States and a number of Pacific countries. Lawmakers seem to be eyeing the last week of April for some developments on the TPA bill, which was introduced Thursday.  

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress on April 29, and his speech is largely seen as an effort to move Congress and the administration closer to an eventual 12-nation, Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.  

Related: Graham Questions Why Police Didn’t Shoot Down the Gyrocopter Gyrocopter Aftermath: Schumer’s on It McCarthy Outlines Busy, Maybe Tense, April Work Period The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.