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March 31, 2015

Posts in "Congressional Relations"

March 9, 2015

Obama, City Leaders Share Approach to Gridlocked Congress

(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

In yet another example of how the president is attempting to work around a gridlocked Congress, President Barack Obama unveiled an initiative Monday to spur technology hiring throughout the country. And the nation’s city leaders were all ears.

“[Obama] has taken that mantle on this year, and last year, and said, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to act on things that are important.’ And he’s assumed stronger executive authority that way,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, president of the National League of Cities. “But I think those of us in cities get that, because we can’t sit around and wait, and just talk about things when people’s expectations are that we get things done.” Full story

February 11, 2015

Congress Gets to Dust Off Its War Voting Powers

Sen. Tim Kaine, left, and House Intelligence ranking member Adam B. Schiff want to debate a war authorization. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tim Kaine, left, and House Intelligence ranking member Adam B. Schiff want to debate a war authorization. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

For the first time this decade, Congress is set to have a full-fledged war debate. The White House wants pure kabuki with no practical effect; lawmakers, most of whom have never voted to send men and women into harm’s way, will have to choose whether to go along.

President Barack Obama is intent on doing what he wants either way — as he already has in his undeclared war on the Islamic State terror group for months, with Congress on the sidelines. Full story

January 29, 2015

Obama Budget Aim: Roll Back Sequester Spending Cuts (Updated)

Republicans applauded Obama 31 times during the 2015 State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:48 p.m. | President Barack Obama’s budget will increase spending on domestic and defense programs by $74 billion, he plans to tell House Democrats Thursday at their retreat in Philadelphia.

According to a White House official, Obama will once again propose to “end the across-the-board sequester cuts that threaten our economy and our military.”

That’s translates to about $74 billion increase in discretionary spending over the level allowed under sequestration caps in fiscal 2016 — or about 7 percent, according to second White House official.

Non-defense discretionary spending would increase to $530 billion, or $37 billion over the spending caps, and $561 billion for defense spending, an increase of $38 billion, per the second official.

Full story

January 21, 2015

#SOTU Pumps Up Democrats, Post-‘Shellacking II’

Obama delivers his State of the Union address in the in the Capitol's House chamber, January 20, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Obama’s defiant address has Democrats fired up. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“Barack Obama’s Back.” That was the three-word verdict from Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., after Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

It sums up, perhaps, a sense among Democrats that the newly confident, revitalized president that they’ve seen in recent weeks should have been the president on the campaign trail before the midterm elections.

“He seems to be relaxed and free,” Takano said. Full story

January 20, 2015

Obama Challenges New GOP Congress in State of the Union (Updated)

Updated 11:59 p.m. | A president energized by an improving economy challenged the new Republican Congress in his 2015 State of the Union address to focus on the middle class and find a bipartisan path forward — while vowing to veto efforts to undo his actions on immigration, climate or health care.

(Read the speech as prepared for delivery here. And watch the RollCall.com live stream.)

President Barack Obama declared his policies to be working — doing a victory lap on slashed deficits, lower gas prices and a shrinking unemployment rate.

Full story

Excerpts From Obama’s State of the Union Address

(Larry Downing/Reuters File Photo)

(Larry Downing/Reuters File Photo)

The following is a transcript of excerpts of President Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 State of the Union address:

“We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page.” Full story

January 18, 2015

Joke, Flatter, Dig In: Handling Post-Shellacking SOTUs

Clinton, right, felt the pain of his parties losing the majority. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Clinton, right, felt the pain of his parties losing the majority. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If President Barack Obama is looking to break the ice at Tuesday’s State of the Union, he could do worse than quote Harry S. Truman, who in 1947, just a few months after his party lost its majorities in the House and Senate, told the assembled Congress: “It looks like a good many of you have moved over to the left since I was last here!”

The American political system can be cruel. Someone wins, many lose. The person usually blamed for losing — the president — must speak before a room full of winners, most of whom think they can do a better job than him. But small moments of humor, grace or pugnacity still find their ways into the chief executive’s annual address. 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.

 

Related: 

Obama, GOP Clash Ahead of Speech

Joke, Flatter, Dig In: Handling Post-Shellacking SOTUs

The Updated Staffer Guide for SOTU

A Guide to SOTU Watch Parties

D.C. Mayor to Attend SOTU

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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January 5, 2015

GOP: What About Robert Byrd?

The GOP is pointing to the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd to counter the White House’s dig at Republicans for keeping Rep. Steve Scalise in leadership.

Byrd travels through the walkway from the Russell Senate Office Building to the Capitol in May 2010. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Byrd travels through the walkway from the Russell Senate Office Building to the Capitol in May 2010. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Earlier Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said repeatedly it would “say a lot” about Republicans if they chose to have the Louisianan remain in leadership following the news he had spoken to a white supremacist group in 2002, and pointed to comments by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus about the need for the party to expand its outreach. Full story

White House Throws Scalise an Anchor

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democrats from the White House on down are ganging up on Majority Whip Steve Scalise.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest didn’t explicitly call on the House GOP to dump their No. 3 Republican following the revelation that the Louisianan spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002.

Republicans will have to decide whether they’re going to elevate someone who described himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” Earnest told reporters, an apparent reference to this local column. Full story

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