Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 5, 2015

Posts by Niels Lesniewski

26 Posts

July 1, 2015

Obama Makes Op-Ed Push to Revive Export-Import Bank

The Export-Import Bank charter has lapsed. (Screenshot)

The Export-Import Bank charter has lapsed. (Screenshot)

As the charter for the Export-Import Bank was lapsing, President Barack Obama penned opinion pieces in a number of newspapers across the country asking readers to pressure their lawmakers to bring it back.

“Your members of Congress are home this week. So if you’re a small business owner – or an employee of a large business that depends on financing to sell in new markets and create new jobs – tell your senators to quit treating your business like it’s expendable. Tell your representative to stop the delays,” Obama writes in the version published in Wednesday’s Birmingham News. “It’s time for Congress to do its job, and keep America’s exports growing.”

Full story

May 12, 2015

Obama Tries to Revive Fast-Track Trade Bill After ‘SNAFU’ (Updated) (Video)

Schumer's currency enforcement would come first in a new offer to revive Obama's trade agenda. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Schumer’s currency enforcement measure would come first in a new offer to revive Obama’s trade agenda. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 7:52 p.m. | President Barack Obama — and Senate Democratic leaders — are working to resurrect his trade agenda, according to aides on the Hill and in the administration.

Full story

May 1, 2015

Senate Patent Bill Gets White House Plaudits

Cornyn, Schumer and Leahy huddle before a news conference to tout the patent bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cornyn, Schumer and Leahy huddle before a news conference to tout the patent bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Barack Obama wants to see a bipartisan patent overhaul reach his desk before the end of 2015, and the White House is responding favorably to the new Senate bill introduced this week.

“The Administration applauds the introduction of balanced, bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would strengthen and modernize our nation’s patent laws,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “The Protecting American Talent and Entrepreneurship (PATENT) Act, introduced by a bipartisan group of members, represents an important step toward answering the President’s call for common-sense legislation that will help deter abusive conduct and promote an efficient and strong patent system.”

Full story

April 11, 2015

Obama Torches McCain Over Criticism of Kerry on Iran

Obama responded Saturday after McCain, right, called Kerry's view of the Iran negotiations "delusional." (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Obama responded Saturday after McCain, right, called Kerry’s view of the Iran negotiations “delusional.” (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama lit into Sen. John McCain Saturday over the Arizona Republican’s recent comments about the framework agreement with Iran about its nuclear program.

“When I hear some, like Sen. McCain recently, suggest that our secretary of State, John Kerry, who served in the United States Senate, a Vietnam veteran, provided exemplary service to this nation is somehow less trustworthy in the interpretation of what’s in a political agreement than the Supreme Leader of Iran, that’s an indication of the degree to which partisanship has crossed all boundaries, and we’re seeing this again and again,” Obama told reporters at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama.

Full story

March 9, 2015

Joe Biden Plays a Home Game at Firefighters Conference

Biden speaks during the International Association of Fire Fighters Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Decades ago, a young Democrat running for Senate said that in Delaware, there are really three political parties: “Democrats, Republicans and firefighters.”

And Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been a favorite of career and volunteer firefighters alike ever since, so when he was scheduled to speak Monday to an audience of unionized firefighters from across the nation gathered in Washington, he was playing as close to a home game as he could get outside of Delaware (or Scranton, Pa.). Full story

February 23, 2015

Warren Joining Obama for Retirement Security Push

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Perez says the retirement security announcement is part of Obama’s longtime focus on consumer financial protections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama will be making a public push to strengthen the regulation of financial advisers who provide advice about saving for retirement.

The two Senate Democrats with perhaps the most star power, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, will join the president for the rollout of the proposal at an event hosted by the AARP. Monday’s event also will feature Richard Cordray of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that Warren advocated for creating, along with Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.

Full story

February 11, 2015

White House Sends ISIS AUMF to Capitol Hill

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Corker said he plans to hold hearings on the AUMF soon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The White House has now transmitted draft language to Capitol Hill proposing a three-year Authorization for the Use of Military Force against the terror group known as ISIS, setting off what is expected to be a contentious debate about the terms of the authorization.

Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that his panel would review the proposal and quickly convene hearings.

“I appreciate the president following the long tradition of seeking authorization for the use of military force from Congress,” said the Tennessee Republican. “It also will be important that the president exert leadership, lay out a clear strategy for confronting the threat posed by ISIS, and do the hard work of making the case to the American people why this fight is necessary and one we must win.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Senate Republicans would discuss the AUMF later today and committees of jurisdiction would carefully consider the request.

The AUMF notably allows Obama to employ U.S. ground troops against ISIS, but with the proviso that such operations not be “enduring.” The three-year limitation comes alongside the repeal of the 2002 authorization to use force in Iraq, but the AUMF notably leaves intact the 2001 authorization to use military force against al Qaeda — the resolution the Obama administration is relying on to conduct its war on ISIS now.

The Obama administration’s draft language and transmittal letter, obtained from congressional sources, appears below:

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:12 a.m.

January 27, 2015

Score One for Norquist, GOP on 529 College Savings Accounts

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Norquist got what he wanted Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Somewhere, Grover Norquist is happily tweeting over his latest victory.

The anti-tax president of Americans for Tax Reform had been waging war on President Barack Obama’s latest plan to tax 529 college savings accounts as part of his larger proposal to restructure and increase college aid. Full story

January 20, 2015

Obama Meets With 105-Year-Old Amelia Boynton Before SOTU

Boynton attends the 2011 Trustees Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement dinner and presentation at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers on February 25, 2011 in New York City. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images File Photo)

Boynton attends the 2011 Trustees Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement dinner on Feb. 25, 2011, in New York City. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images File Photo)

Shortly before delivering the State of the Union address, President Barack Obama met briefly with 105 year-old civil rights figure Amelia Boynton in a holding room at the Capitol.

Boynton is among those still alive from Bloody Sunday. The 50th anniversary of the voting rights march in Selma, Ala., comes in March, and the White House has said Obama is planning to make the trip for a ceremony recognizing the event, during which Georgia Rep. John Lewis, then a teenager, was among those attacked by authorities. Full story

January 17, 2015

Obama Would End Death Tax Break for Wealthy to Fund Middle Class Tax Breaks, Programs

Obama has a new plan to raise taxes on capital gains for the wealthy as well as on the biggest banks. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Obama has a new plan to eliminate a death tax break that benefits wealthy heirs to fund middle class tax breaks and other programs. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

President Barack Obama’s sweeping new tax proposal, detailed by senior administration officials Saturday, takes aim at the less-well-known death tax break.

The new wrinkle is part of a broader economic plan to be outlined by Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday. He will propose eliminating a big tax break for wealthy heirs to fund new and expanded middle class tax cuts and other proposals such as his free community college initiative. The biggest banks would also face higher taxes.

The proposal is aimed squarely at income inequality but is likely to have a rough road among Republicans fresh off a triumphant midterm election.

“A key part of what he will be presenting on Tuesday night … is how do we make the system more fair by closing loopholes but then take the revenues from that and use that as ways to invest in the middle class,” a senior administration official said Saturday.

The tax provisions to be presented to Congress by Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday would raise roughly $320 billion over the next decade.

Of course, Republicans are sure to criticize using tax increases of any sort to pay for new spending. But it remains to be seen whether some of the proposals could be part of negotiations over a larger tax overhaul Republicans insist must be revenue neutral.

About $210 billion in higher taxes would come from capital gains tax changes and $110 billion from a new 7 basis point fee on borrowing by financial institutions with greater than $50 billion worth of assets.

The money would be used to pay for, among other things, the proposal Obama unveiled in Tennessee to provide two years of community college free of charge to qualified students. That plan would cost the government about $60 billion over a decade.

Under the administration’s plan, the top capital gains tax rate would go back up to 28 percent, which is where it was when Ronald Reagan was in the White House, senior administration officials were quick to point out.

Perhaps the more intriguing change, though, is the proposed end of allowing the cost basis for assets to be “stepped-up” when they’re inherited, meaning potential capital gains tax dollars are never collected. Many mega-billionaires, such as Warren Buffett, for example, haven’t paid taxes on the bulk of their wealth because it is tied up in never-realized capital gains that will disappear — from a tax perspective — when they die.

“By letting very wealthy investors make their capital gains disappear at death, stepped-up basis creates strong ‘lock-in’ incentives to hold assets for generations, even when resources could be reinvested more productively elsewhere,” the White House said. “The proposal would sharply reduce these incentives, making it a pro-growth way to raise revenue.”

A senior administration official said the proposals come with exemptions designed to keep it from hitting the middle class with a new higher tax burden, including allowing a $500,000 exemption per couple for the transfer of a personal residence.

The administration says 99 percent of the revenue raised by raising the capital gains tax rate and ending the capital gains tax exclusion at death — what it dubs the “trust fund loophole” — would come from the top 1 percent wealthiest taxpayers. And 80 percent would come from the richest 0.1 percent. The administration says hundreds of billions of dollars in capital gains are sheltered from taxes each year via death.

Obama will also be asking Congress for new or expanded tax credits, including an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credits for people without children and a new $500 credit for families with two income-earners, which the administration estimates would be a benefit to 24 million couples.

And it would triple the child care tax credit to up to $3,000 per child under 5, which the White House said would benefit about 5.1 million families and 6.7 million children.

There’s also going to be a proposal to provide for automatic enrollment in individual retirement accounts and to require employers let many longer-tenured part-time workers buy into company-sponsored retirement plans. In a fact sheet, the White House said it would propose offsetting the retirement changes and accompanying tax credits for employers by curbing tax-preferred retirement plans that accumulate a sum that works out to roughly $3.4 million.

“Tax-preferred retirement plans are intended to help working families save for retirement. But loopholes in the tax system have let some wealthy individuals convert tax-preferred retirement accounts into tax shelters, including 300 extraordinarily wealthy individuals who have accumulated more than $25 million each in IRAs,” the White House said.

A number of the proposals Obama’s expected to outline Tuesday are said to be modeled on efforts with Republican supporters. The administration has cited, among others, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin — and yes, even the Heritage Foundation.

While much should be clear by the end of the State of the Union, granular details of the president’s plans are likely to appear where they always do: when the Office of Management and Budget releases the budget request for the next fiscal year on Feb. 2.

As for the State of the Union, it’s clear the new proposals and the willingness to talk about new revenues are tied to what Obama sees as progress on the economy.

“He is very optimistic about America’s future, he’s very optimistic about potential for how well our economy has done and potential for the economy to grow, and that will be reflected in the speech, and then he will have the specifics that he thinks  — the choices that we need to make to make sure that extends to the middle class,” the official said.

Obama and others in his administration have been unusually eager to talk about the domestic policy proposals that he will highlight during Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address, as part of an effort that was made public shortly before the president left Hawaii.

A senior administration official called the advance rollout that’s featured some presidential barnstorming “probably a clearer way for the president to present his vision” but cautioned against the idea that the potential for fewer surprises might mean a significantly shorter presentation to assembled members of the House and Senate.

“It’ll be a healthy speech still in terms of breadth and length,” the official said.

And Obama still plans the more traditional post-State of the Union travel, too. Press Secretary Josh Earnest said late Friday that the president would be traveling to Boise State University and the University of Kansas in the days after the Tuesday evening speech at the Capitol.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.



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