Senate Closes In on Vote on Budget Framework: Congress Update
(Bloomberg) -- Senate Democrats are on track to pass, on a party-line vote, a budget resolution that sets up President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda. Lawmakers Tuesday afternoon were voting on a slew of proposed amendments.
The blueprint would be followed as soon as September with text implementing a broad array of new education, health and climate programs as well as an extension of tax cuts for the middle class and tax hikes for corporations and the wealthy.
Democrats are using a Senate procedure that allows them to bypass Republicans, but it will require unity in their 50-member caucus to prevail in the evenly divided chamber.
The resolution is being subject Tuesday to a marathon round of votes on proposed amendments, known as a vote-a-rama, that likely will extend late into the night. Most of the amendments are intended as political messaging -- forcing senators to take politically fraught votes -- and are unlikely to be adopted.
Senate Heads Closer to Vote on Budget Framework (3:15 a.m.)
The Senate was working through a final round of proposed amendments after more than 13 hours of votes.
Senators then will move to vote on the Democrats’ budget resolution, which is expected to pass on a party-line vote. Democrats also are planning to try to revive voting rights legislation that Republicans previously blocked.
Manchin Breaks With Democrats on Social Issues (1:15 a.m.)
Moderate Democrat Joe Manchin joined with Senate Republicans to wade into the culture wars over treatment of minorities, providing the deciding vote in favor of prohibiting federal funds from being used to promote critical race theory in pre-K programs, elementary schools and secondary schools.
The 50-49 vote on the non-binding amendment is symbolic but shows the West Virginia senator’s willingness to break with his party colleagues on controversial social issues. He also sided with Republicans in an earlier non-binding vote in favor of the so-called Hyde Amendment, which limits federal funds from being used for abortions.
Democrat Patty Murray opposed the provision arguing the restriction, sponsored by Republican Tom Cotton, would interfere with local control over what is taught in schools. Critical race theory, an academic framework exploring racism’s role in shaping U.S. policies and institutions, has become a political flashpoint in many parts of the country. -- Mike Dorning, Daniel Flatley, Steven T. Dennis
Senate Backs Ban on Chinese-Made Solar Panels (10:55 p.m.)
The Senate voted 90-9 in favor of banning Chinese-made solar panels and other renewable energy materials from being used in U.S.-government funded projects.
The vote on the non-binding amendment shows the bipartisan support for confronting China. It also cuts to the heart of differences between Republicans and Democrats over how to tackle climate change while seeking to punish the government in Beijing.
Republicans have argued that money spent on green energy initiatives ends up in the pockets of Chinese manufacturers while Democrats point to the need for cooperation to reduce carbon emissions. Those differences resulted in a loss of Republican support for a House Foreign Affairs Committee bill to counter China earlier this summer.
The Biden administration has imposed a narrowly focused ban on some solar panel materials produced in the Xinjiang region of China, but critics say that falls short of a region-wide ban needed to combat the use of forced labor there. The Senate passed a bill in July that would ban all goods from or made in the region unless importers can prove they weren’t made with forced labor, a move that could potentially have widespread implications for the solar industry. -- Daniel Flatley
Senate Backs Limiting EV Tax Credits (9:52 p.m.)
The Senate voted 51-48 for a non-binding amendment to the budget resolution aimed at limiting who can get a tax break for buying an electric car or truck and which vehicles qualify, potentially shaping the coming debate as Democrats prepare to expand the tax credit.
Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska proposed prohibiting people making more than $100,000 a year from claiming EV tax credits and to end tax credits for EVs that cost more than $40,000 -- levels that would exclude many of the electric vehicles on the market or planned to come to the market in the next few years, including those promoted by President Joe Biden recently at the White House.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan argued vociferously against the amendment, calling it “anti-pickup truck.” But three Democrats voted for it -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mark Kelly of Arizona and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
One Republican opposed the amendment -- Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, a state that includes plants making EVs and batteries. -- Steven T. Dennis, Sophia Cai, Jennifer Dlouhy and Ari Natter
Senate Blocks Effort to Support SALT Limits (7:07 p.m.)
The Senate rejected an attempt by Senator Chuck Grassley to voice support for limits on the state and local tax break, or SALT, deduction for wealthy households.
The amendment from the Iowa Republican, defeated 48-51, was an attempt to highlight a disconnect in Democrats’ plans to raise tax rates for investors and top earners, but also expand a tax break that would benefit some of those same people. Democrats who support the SALT write-off say that the more than 100-year-old tax break unfairly targeted high-tax and largely Democratic-led states in Republican’s 2017 tax law.
Democrats in the budget resolution included language that would direct the Senate Finance Committee to make the SALT deduction more generous. It is currently capped at $10,000 per taxpayer. Including SALT in the bill is a priority for more than 20 House Democrats who have said they won’t support Biden’s economic agenda unless this issue is also addressed. -- Laura Davison
House to Return From Break for Budget Plan Vote (6:40 p.m.)
The House will interrupt its summer recess on Aug. 23 to vote on the budget resolution that is expected to pass the Senate on Tuesday or Wednesday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
Hoyer said in a letter to members that the House will remain in session that week for the vote on the budget framework and other business, including voting rights legislation.
The chamber is currently on break and wasn’t scheduled to return until mid-September.
Fracking Amendment Spotlights Democratic Divide (5:51 p.m.)
The Senate rejected one messaging amendment that disapproved of oil drilling, but adopted another non-binding measure in support of hydraulic fracturing.
The failed amendment, offered by Senator Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican, would have expressed disapproval at the Biden administration’s ban on oil and gas drilling on federal lands.
The successful amendment, sponsored by North Dakota Republican Kevin Cramer, passed 57-42. It asks the Council on Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency to not issue any regulations that restrict fracking.
Republicans from fossil fuel energy producing states have been increasingly vocal about their opposition to the budget resolution, which calls for tax subsidies for non-carbon energy sources and fees on polluters. The success of the fracking amendment shows how Democrats are divided over energy policy, a potential source of tension as they seek to write the climate-focused legislation later this year. -- Laura Davison
Democrats Tease New Tax Reporting Requirements (5:44 p.m.)
The Senate approved an amendment on party lines that would suggest that the Internal Revenue Service consider collecting bank account data from wealthy taxpayers.
The non-binding amendment, sponsored by Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, doesn’t require the IRS to impose new reporting requirements on wealthy individuals, but foreshadows how Democrats are thinking about increasing tax enforcement and compliance. Those changes could ultimately appear in legislation later this year.
President Joe Biden has proposed requiring banks to report the account flows of high-income taxpayers to the IRS, so that tax collectors have more data about their incomes. A Treasury report earlier this year found that taxpayers report only 45% of their income when the IRS doesn’t have visibility into their earnings. That compares with a 99% compliance rate for wages where employers are required to report to the IRS, the report said. -- Laura Davison
Senate Backs Protections for Family Businesses (3:37 p.m.)
The Senate adopted a non-binding amendment that puts the chamber on the record in favor of protecting family farmers and business owners from large tax bills when passing the business on to their heirs after they die.
The amendment, offered by John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, passed 99-0. President Joe Biden has proposed that unrealized gains should be taxed when assets are inherited, which would amount to a massive increase in their liability. He has specified that his plans should exempt some farmers and business owners.
Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed concern that Biden’s plans don’t go far enough to protect family-owned businesses and would force some families to sell their businesses because they wouldn’t be able to afford the taxes.
Similar language prohibiting new taxes on families making less than $400,000 per year and small businesses and family farms is already embedded in the base of the budget resolution. -- Laura Davison
Senators Set for Vote Marathon on Budget Plan (2:15 p.m.)
The Senate opened debate on the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget resolution and began voting on some of the hundreds of amendment proposed by Republicans.
Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders said the health care expansions, education upgrades, and climate measures will remake the American economy and “restore the faith of the American people in the belief that we can have a government that works for all of us and not just a few.”
Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, said Democrats were pursuing a reckless tax-and-spend agenda that would undermine the economy.
Senators are set to vote on dozens of amendments in the coming hours, a process that could stretch late into the night. Republicans have proposed hundreds of provisions to restrict the ability of Democrats to raise taxes or change immigration laws, though only a fraction of those will ultimately get a vote, and very few are likely to pass.
Among the amendments that will get a vote is a measure to oppose tax hikes for wealthy farmers and small business owners and another provision that would prevent expanding the state and local tax, or SALT, deduction. -- Laura Davison
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