A guest blog by Seth Barnett, PPAI Government Relations Manager
All Things Election
With the 2014 midterm election now in the history books, Congress is working diligently to ensure a smooth transition before the conclusion of the current session. The election resulted in the Republicans taking a majority in both the House and the Senate creating the first truly divided government between the legislative and executive branches since the 104th Congress under the Clinton administration. There is a chance that while Congress may be very productive over the next two years the President could use his veto power to stall bills approved by Congress. During the 104th Congress President Clinton implemented similar tactics, which caused the government to shut down once beginning in November of 1995 and again beginning in December of 1995. However, after that time period faith was swiftly restored in Congress and the next few years resulted in the best national economics in decades. Today those on the Hill hope that compromise can be found quickly.
I. The End
December 12 will mark the conclusion of the 113th Congress, one of the least productive in American history. The much anticipated lame-duck session that began on November 12 has so far been uneventful. Those in the House spent nearly a week preparing and passing a bill that would fund the Keystone XL Pipeline only to have it stall out in the Senate by one vote. Senators have been working to reorganize their leadership responsibilities for after they turn control over to the Republicans in January. Presently both houses are recessed until December 1 when they will have just shy of two weeks to conclude any major action.
II. Across the Map
The 114th Congress will have 69 new faces from nearly every state. As of now there are still a few elections to be decided including one Senate runoff race in Louisiana, which will take place on December 6. In the Senate the Republicans will now hold 53 seats and caucus in 2 independents, the same ratio that Democrats had in their majority control over the past two years. Pending the outcomes of the five remaining undecided races, the Republicans will hold at least 244 seats in the House. This is the largest majority control by that party since the 70th Congress began in 1927. In addition to their victories in Congress, Republican governors picked up three seats, bringing their majority seat count to 31.
For a complete list of new membership in the House and Senate, follow the link below.
One of the initial agenda items from Congress after reconvening in November was to determine leadership responsibilities for each party and in each chamber. It was not long after the election that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the current Minority Leader, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the current Majority Leader, switched roles for the 114th Congress. In another move, the Republican committee has nominated Congressman John Boehner (OH-08) to remain in the role of Speaker of the House. This nomination will go to a vote in the House at the beginning of the 114th Congress but resistance is not expected. In the House, Democrats will stay with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) as their Minority Leader, and the Republicans have selected Congressman Kevin McCarty (CA-23) to hold the position of Majority Leader previously held by Congressman Eric Cantor (VA-07), who lost his reelection primary earlier this year.
These leadership changes have the potential to create more of a challenge for legislation being passed. The same players in different roles may inevitably create stalemate situations. This is particularly true in the Senate where the majority control is very slim.
As advocates of the promotional products community our focus for legislation remains centered on business productivity, product safety, tax reform, protection of our industry, wasteful spending, and promotion of our medium. With those goals we as an association focus strongly on key leaders in specific committees on the Hill. Of the committees we as an industry communicated with this past year the two most active were the Senate Finance Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The Senate Finance Committee has been a focus for us since former Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) released a tax reform discussion draft suggesting that the current advertising expenditure be changed. At the time we had candid communications with the chairman’s staff that include statements about our place within advertising. In February of this year Chairman Baucus was appointed as the Ambassador to China, at which time Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) took the gavel. It is now assumed that the current ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will take the leadership role from Sen. Wyden when the party shifts in January.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been a reoccurring group in our communications with the Hill throughout the 113th Congress. The committee, headed by Congressman Darrell Issa (CA-49), has spent the majority of its time going after wasteful and abusive spending by government agencies. This has left the promotional products industry vulnerable to harsh and unnecessary criticism. The industry has communicated thoroughly with Chairman Issa and many members of the committee to educate them about the usefulness and benefit of promotional products. This will have to continue into the 114th Congress. Chairman Issa’s term at the gavel will conclude in December. On November 18 it was announced that Congressman Jason Chaffetz (UT-03) will take the helm for this committee in January.
In total, 11 House committee chairmanships are open to appointment. Chairmen for most committees are picked by the controlling party’s House Steering Committee with the chairs of the Intelligence Administration and the Ethics Panel chosen by the Speaker of the House alone. The Small Business Committee will welcome Rep. Steve Chabot (OH-01) as its new chairman and the Budget committee will be headed by Rep. Tom Price (GA-06) beginning in January. Still up for grabs is the Ways and Means chair position, for which Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-01) and Rep. Kevin Brady (TX-08) are top contenders.
The 114th and Us
In the wake of the midterm election there is a sense of unease among many in D.C. With tax reform still a top priority for Congress, advocates are concerned that reform proposals may happen too quickly and not give time to properly lobby for inclusions.
In our industry we are still focused strongly on two key tax reform agenda items. The first is to ensure that advertising deductibility as it is does not change. There are firm proposals in both the House and Senate that would change advertising deductibility making it a less favorable business option. Potential incoming Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Paul Ryan (WI-01), has said that the proposal to change advertising deductibility is still on the table and will have to be debated among the committee.
It is imperative that our industry act to combat any harmful legislation that would affect advertising deductibility. Use the link below to send a letter to your member of Congress about the industry’s place in advertising and the usefulness of this deduction.
The second key item pertaining to tax reform is independent contractor legislation. We as an industry will continue to advance our messaging to attempt to be included in the tax code. This will protect those that are independents in our industry should the Safe Harbor clause that many of us work under ever be taken away. While the industry has done extensive work to develop partnerships with legislators who agree with our independent contractor language, the recent election has eliminated some of those allies. Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02), who offered to co-sponsor legislation that included the industry’s language, will leave D.C. in December to assume his new role as lieutenant governor of Arkansas. We as an industry must continue to press forward with the goal of specialized independent contractor legislation.
We need your support. Use the link below to send a letter to your member of Congress about the need for independent contractor legislation. Together we can make an impact!
Beginning in December, several key dates will affect the operation of Congress in the near future. The first is the much anticipated end to the current continuing resolution which the government is operating under that will expire on December 11. In order to fund the government and avoid another damaging shutdown, a spending plan or continuing resolution must be decided on by the second week in December.
In January the official employer mandated healthcare law begins; companies with 50 or more full-time employees must provide insurance options for their employees. Next up is the beginning of the 114th Congress. Constitutionally, Congress would come back to work on January 3; however, because that date falls on a Saturday, Congress will have to act to legally change the start date. Inevitably the start date will be sometime during the first full week in January.
In early February the President’s budget is due to Congress. Two weeks after that time Congress must submit a report on spending.
On March 16 the current debt limit will reset. If Congress does not act to raise the debt limit it is estimated that funds will run out sometime during the summer.
Two key budget dates will happen in early April. The first is the deadline for the Senate Budget Committee to report a budget resolution. The second is April 15, which is the deadline for the rest of Congress to issue action on a budget resolution.
October 1 will be one of the more anticipated dates during this next year. That will be the day that Congress must pass appropriations with the President’s approval or the government will shut down. This will be one of the more major tests of cooperation between the divided legislative and executive branches.
To learn more about all of PPAI’s political efforts visit www.ppailaw.org.