Weekly Washington Outlook — March 14, 2016

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week: 

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will vote on legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • R. 2984– Fair RATES Act (Sponsored by Rep. Joe Kennedy / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 1268– Energy Efficient Government Technology Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 4427– To amend section 203 of the Federal Power Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 2080– To reinstate and extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project involving Clark Canyon Dam (Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Zinke / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 2081– To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project involving the Gibson Dam(Sponsored by Rep. Ryan Zinke / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 3447– To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 4416– To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project (Sponsored by Rep. David McKinley / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 4434– To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project (Sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 4411– To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project (Sponsored by Rep. Morgan Griffith / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • R. 4412– To extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project (Sponsored by Rep. Morgan Griffith / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • Con. Res. 121– Expressing the sense of the Congress condemning the gross violations of international law amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Government of Syria, its allies, and other parties to the conflict in Syria, and asking the President to direct his Ambassador at the United Nations to promote the establishment of a war crimes tribunal where these crimes could be addressed, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • Con. Res. 75– Expressing the sense of Congress that the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria include war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • 2426– To direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan in the International Criminal Police Organization, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • R. 4721– To amend title 49, United States Code, to extend authorizations for the airport improvement program, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the funding and expenditure authority of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, and for other purposes (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)

On Tuesday the House will vote on legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • R. 3797– SENSE Act (Sponsored by Rep. Keith Rothfus / Energy and Committee Committee)

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

  • R. 4596– Small Business Broadband Deployment Act (Sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden / Energy and Committee Committee)
  • H. R ____– Authorizing the Speaker to appear as amicus curiae on behalf of the House of Representatives in the matter of United States, et al. v. Texas, et al. (Sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan / Rules Committee)

Senate:

On Monday, the Senate will consider the nomination of Dr. John B. King, of New York, to be Secretary of Education. The Senate may also vote on final passage of energy legislation S. 2012. The measure has been stalled as Senators seek a path forward on an amendment that would assist municipalities such as Flint, Michigan, clean up tainted drinking water supplies.

White House:

On Monday, the president will visit the State Department to deliver remarks at the Chief of Missions Conference. Afterwards, he will deliver brief opening remarks to the performance of musical selections from HAMILTON. This will be a culmination of a daylong event hosted by the first lady for students with the Broadway cast of HAMILTON.

On Tuesday, the president will hold a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Kenny of Ireland.  Afterwards, President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to the U.S. Capitol for the Friends of Ireland Luncheon. Later on, the president will deliver remarks at a reception for St. Patrick’s Day at the White House.

On Wednesday, the president will deliver remarks a reception for Women’s History Month at the White House.

On Thursday and Friday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

Also this Week:

Budget/Appropriations – Members of the Cabinet will continue to appear on Capitol Hill this week to make their budget requests to start the annual appropriations process. Among these, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the House Education and Workforce Committee; Labor Secretary Thomas Perez is scheduled to appear before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Wednesday and the HHS-Education Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday; and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is scheduled to appear before the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Tuesday. These hearings come as the House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) seeks a path forward on a budget resolution.  It is possible that the Committee could approve a draft as soon as this week, despite objections from some conservative members over spending levels. These objections are being addressed through “sidecar” legislation that would make deep cuts to mandatory spending programs. This legislation would be taken up separately from the budget resolution. The House Ways and Means Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee are advancing separate pieces this week.

Tax – The House Ways and Means Committee will mark-up legislation this week as part of its portion of the “sidecar” to the budget resolution. Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) announced last week that this will include a provision requiring a Social Security Number to claim the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit. Democrats on the Committee are widely expected to strongly oppose: the legislation would deny roughly 4 million U.S. citizen children the credit and roughly 85 percent of the children impacted are Latino.

Immigration – This week, the House will vote on a resolution to file an amicus brief in support of Texas and other states in litigation opposing DAPA. Oral arguments in the case have been scheduled for mid-April. Related, the House Judiciary Committee’s Task Force on Executive Overreach, led by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), will hold its first immigration-related hearing on Tuesday. Elsewhere, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on the security of U.S. visa programs. David Donahue, principal deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs at the State Department, Leon Rodriguez, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Sarah Saldana, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth are expected to testify.

Finance – The House Financial Services Committee will hold an oversight hearing Wednesday featuring the Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The hearing comes as the CFPB finalizes a rule surrounding payday lending, which is expected to require lenders verify a potential borrower’s ability to repay a loan prior to underwriting.

Health – The House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider legislation as part of the “sidecar” to a budget resolution that would seek to allow more lottery winnings to be counted as income for the purposes of determining Medicaid eligibility, would reduce Medicaid reimbursement rates for prisoners, and would eliminate an increase in the federal matching rate for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The so-called “CHIP bump” has enabled states to expand the program to increase the number of insured children. Elsewhere, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday about Flint, MI’s tainted water. Related in the Senate, efforts are still underway to encourage Sen. Lee (R-Utah) to drop his objection to an amendment that would establish a loan to communities like Flint in need of infrastructure repairs.

Education – The Senate will vote Monday evening to confirm Dr. John King as the Secretary of Education. NCLR and the National Urban League posted an op-ed in support of his confirmation.

Puerto Rico – Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) plans to introduce legislation on Monday to provide a comprehensive solution to Puerto Rico’s financial and humanitarian crisis.  The legislation is similar in many respects to the Administration’s plan to address Puerto Rico, including debt restructuring, a financial control board, and tax and health provisions.  Additional details available here.

Supreme Court – The President may nominate a successor to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat as soon as this week. Republican Leadership in the Senate has stated repeatedly that the President’s nominee will not receive a hearing or a vote on the floor.

Decoding the Tax Deal: What It Means for Latinos and What Lies Ahead

Photo: http://401kcalculator.org, Creative Commons

Photo: http://401kcalculator.org, Creative Commons

With the New Year just around the corner, many of us are working to finish projects and tie up loose ends before heading off on vacation. Congress just did the same. Before leaving for the year, Congress passed a $680 billion tax deal making a number of credits permanent, including improvements to the refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that were set to expire in 2017.

The CTC and EITC help keep low-income working Latino families out of poverty. Because of this legislation, about four million Latino working families, including nine million children, will not lose any of their tax credits. The EITC amounts to as much as $6,143 per family, while the CTC can add up to $1,000 per child. These credits are especially valuable to the Latino community because more than 40 percent of Latino workers earn poverty-level wages.

Even as we celebrate this victory, we are concerned by a number of restrictions targeting hardworking immigrant taxpayers. Some of these changes in the law will keep some from receiving credits and make it harder for other immigrants to access credits for which they are eligible. For example, anyone who receives a new Social Security number (SSN), regardless of immigration status, cannot claim the EITC retroactively (a process called “look-back”) after April 15, 2016. Most other filers remain eligible to claim their EITC for up to three previous years. The previous law allowed people with new SSNs to claim the EITC retroactively as well. Another change targeting immigrants is the fact that anyone who receives a new Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) cannot claim the CTC or AOTC retroactively after April 15, 2016.

Other changes may result in challenges for immigrants that depend on an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to pay taxes and receive credits available to workers. Some of these changes are based on guidance on the ITIN application process issued by the Internal Revenue Service in 2012. Since then, there has been a drop in ITIN applications, leaving some to wonder whether the guidance is making it too hard to get an ITIN. One of these changes includes the requirement for new ITIN recipients to reapply on a recurring basis to keep their ITIN. There are processing delays for ITIN applications under the current system; adding ITIN revalidation could worsen those delays and keep hardworking Latino immigrants from credits available to them.

The dedication and work of NCLR Affiliates and partners helped to successfully push for Congressional action to make tax credits for working families permanent. More work lies ahead to make sure the Latino community can maximize credits under the new law. The lead up to tax season offers the opportunity to make sure Latinos know their eligibility and how to claim credits successfully. There will also be a need to help ensure the new ITIN requirements are implemented fairly and effectively. To that end, the Latino community should be prepared to work with the Treasury Department on implementation. These and other efforts will help make sure now-permanent tax credits continue to make a difference in the lives of millions who are working but still struggling to get by.

For more information about the new tax package and its impact on Latinos read our new fact sheet—The Congressional Tax Package and Latinos: What You Need to Know.

Weekly Washington Outlook — July 27, 2015

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. 1138 – Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson / Natural Resources Committee)

2) H.R. 774 – Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Del. Madeleine Bordallo / Natural Resources Committee)

3) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 2499 – Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Chabot / Small Business Committee) 

4) S. 1482 – Need-Based Educational Aid Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley / Judiciary Committee)

5) H.R. 1656 – Secret Service Improvements Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte / Judiciary Committee)

6) H.R. 2750 – Improved Security Vetting for Aviation Workers Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)

7) H.R. 2770 – Keeping Our Travelers Safe and Secure Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Rice / Homeland Security Committee)

8) H.R. 2843 – TSA PreCheck Expansion Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)

9) H.R. 2127 – Securing Expedited Screening Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Homeland Security Committee)

10) H.R. 1300 – First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Peter King / Homeland Security Committee)

11) H.R. 2206 – State Wide Interoperable Communications Enhancement Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)

12) H.R. 1634 – Border Security Technology Accountability Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

13) H.R. 998 – Preclearance Authorization Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Patrick Meehan / Homeland Security Committee)

14) H.R. 1831 – Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

15) H. J. Res. 61 – Hire More Heroes Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis / Ways and Means Committee) 

16) H.R. 675 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Ralph Abraham / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

17) H.R. 1607 – Ruth Moore Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Chellie Pingree / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

The balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

H.R. 427 – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Todd Young / Judiciary Committee)

H.R. 1944 – VA Accountability Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller / Veterans’ Affairs Committee)

It is possible the House will vote on the VA Budget and Choice Improvement Act and a Conference report to Accompany H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016.

Senate:

The Senate this week will continue its consideration of H.R. 22, the legislative vehicle for a six-year surface transportation reauthorization.

White House:

On Monday, President Obama will attend a meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the President of Uganda, the President of Kenya, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the Chairwoman of the African Union, and the Foreign Minister of Sudan. The purpose of the summit is primarily to discuss South Sudan and regional counter-terrorism issues.

On Tuesday, the president concludes his trip to Africa and returns to Washington.

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

Also This Week:

Immigration – Last week, the House passed H.R. 3009, legislation that would block certain funding streams to local law enforcement in so-called “sanctuary cities.” While several related bills have been filed or are in progress in the Senate, it is unlikely these will come for a vote this week. Instead, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark-up several bills related to border security, including the “Department of Homeland Security Border Metrics Review Act of 2015,” the “Northern Border Security Review Act of 2015,” and a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate “regarding the success of Operation Streamline and the importance of prosecuting first time illegal border crossers.”

Budget – On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee will examine overhauling the Congressional budgeting process. While legislation is not expected to come from the hearing, this is the first step in what Chairman Price (R-Ga.) has described as a multi-year process. Elsewhere, former Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm will appear Tuesday before the Joint Economic Committee on dynamic scoring.

Health – Over the weekend, as part of consideration of its surface transportation reauthorization bill, the Senate took a procedural vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. While this was the first time since Republicans gained the Majority in the Senate this has occurred, it nonetheless failed 49-43. Elsewhere, on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell will testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee on ACA implementation.

Financial Services – The House Financial Services Committee will continue its examination of the Dodd-Frank Act with a hearing Tuesday, “Dodd-Frank Five Years Later: Are We More Free?” Also on Tuesday, the House Financial Services Committee plans to mark-up fourteen bills related to housing, financial markets, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s authority. The full list is available here. Elsewhere, the Senate Banking Committee’s Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “The Role of Bankruptcy Reform in Addressing Too Big to Fail.”

Education – The Senate HELP Committee continues its work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. This week, the Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on combatting sexual assault on college campuses.

Tax – After a weekend session, the Senate this week will attempt to conclude its work on a multi-year highway bill before a July 31 deadline to fund the Highway Trust Fund. The Senate is expected to vote Monday to attach a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, setting up a possible fight with the House over this provision. Further complicating passage, the House has already cleared a five-month patch and is unlikely to pass the Senate’s multi-year bill. For House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the short-term highway bill is a means to provide leverage at the end of the year for negotiations on expired tax credits and some permanent changes to tax policy. With the House recessing at the end of the week for five weeks, the precise path forward remains somewhat up in the air.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table! Access Your Education Tax Benefits.

By Brenda Calderon, Education Policy Analyst, NCLR

IRSLogoA 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office found that nearly 14 percent of all tax filers failed to claim a credit for which they were eligible. Tax credits help us afford higher education expenses by reducing the amount of income tax we have to pay or by issuing a refund. Unfortunately, millions of students and their families are unaware or don’t apply for the correct tax benefits, leaving much-needed dollars on the table—an average of $466 for each qualified filer!

Are you one of them?

Recently, NCLR joined Rep. Danny Davis (D–Ill.) and others on a campaign to get more people to apply for their education tax benefits. The #TaxBreaks4Students campaign encourages eligible students and families to apply for tax credits.

While eligibility criteria vary for each credit, there are a number of options available for students and families. The two largest tax credits available are the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC), although there are many others.

GraduationAmerican Opportunity Tax Credit

The AOTC can be claimed for the first four years of post-secondary education if a student is enrolled at least part time in courses. The maximum tax credit for AOTC is $2,500, and up to $1,000 is available as a refund if you owe no taxes. If you are a current graduate student, you are not eligible for AOTC; however, you may be eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit.

Lifetime Learning Credit

The LLC provides up to $2,000 per year for a student enrolled at least part time. Unlike the AOTC, the LLC has no limit on the number of years it can be claimed, meaning it is available to graduate students and those in continuing education programs. However, if the credit is greater than the total amount owed in taxes, it will not be issued as a refund.

How do I claim these credits?

The IRS provides an interactive guide to help you determine whether you qualify for a tax credit. Only students who attend schools participating in federal student aid programs can qualify for the AOTC. Once you confirm eligibility, the IRS provides Form 8863 to help you calculate the education tax credit. Most education institutions will mail you Form 1098T, which provides this information for you.

To learn more about income thresholds for the AOTC and the LLC, visit the IRS website.

Remember, the deadline to file your taxes is April 15!

Weekly Washington Outlook — January 20, 2015

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Tuesday, the House will meet at meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. The House will recess no later than 5:30 p.m. to allow a security sweep of the House Chamber prior to the President’s State of the Union address. The House will meet again at approximately 8:35 p.m. for the purpose of receiving, in a joint session with the Senate, the President of the United States. Members are requested to be on the Floor and seated no later than 8:25 p.m.  No votes are expected.

On Wednesday the House will vote on legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • Res. ___ – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives condemning the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that resulted in the deaths of seventeen innocent persons and offering condolences to those personally affected by this cowardly act (Sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe / Foreign Affairs Committee)

The House will also vote on H.R. 161 – Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo / Energy and Commerce Committee)

On Thursday, the House will consider H.R. 36 – Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks / Judiciary Committee)

Senate:

The Senate this week will resume consideration of a bill to require the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline (S.1).  Senators on Tuesday will also gather and proceed to the Hall of the House of Representatives for the President’s State of the Union address.

White House:

On Tuesday, the president will deliver his State of the Union Address at 9:00PM EST.  The vice president, the first lady, and Dr. Biden will attend.

On Wednesday, President Obama will travel to Boise State University in Boise, Idaho to deliver remarks and discuss the themes he will lay out in his State of the Union address. In the evening, the President will travel to Lawrence, Kan.

On Thursday, the president will deliver remarks at the University of Kansas and discuss the themes from his State of the Union address.

On Friday, President Obama will deliver remarks and host a reception of the nation’s mayors at the White House. The mayors will spend the day at the White House interacting with cabinet members and senior White House officials to expand the partnerships between cities and the federal government.

Also this Week:

Appropriations – The House last week passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through September 30. Members also included several amendments that would block implementation and de-fund President Obama’s actions on immigration. Next, the bill will move to the Senate for consideration early in February. The Department is only funded until February 27, but the president has already threatened to veto any appropriations bill including language undoing DAPA and/or DACA.

Immigration – The House Homeland Security Committee will mark-up a border security bill Wednesday afternoon. The legislation sponsored by Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish “operational control” of the entire Southern border by blocking all unlawful entries in five years. High-traffic areas must be completely secured within two years. If DHS fails to meet these benchmarks, political appointees would be prohibited from travelling on a government aircraft, non-essential training, and receiving any bonuses.

Education – The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on the testing and accountability systems enacted by No Child Left Behind. The hearing is the first of several expected leading up to a re-authorization of the 2001 law. Elsewhere, President Obama will discuss further his proposal for universal community college in Tuesday’s State of the Union.

Tax – Over the weekend, the White House released a tax plan expected to be a central component to President Obama’s State of the Union. The proposal would close the trust fund loophole, raise capital gains and dividend rates and charge a fee to certain financial transactions. The revenue from these actions would pay for a new $500 credit for two-earner households, an increase in the child care tax credit, reforms to the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and a savers credit to make saving for retirement more accessible. In addition to these, the president has called for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers and making the 2009 expansions of the EITC and the Child Tax Credit permanent.

Internet Access – The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee have both scheduled hearings on Wednesday on net neutrality. The hearings will address legislation designed to prevent service providers from creating two tiers of Internet traffic.

Labor – President Obama is expected to highlight several labor-related issues in tonight’s State of the Union. As has already been announced, he will call for an expansion of paid sick leave. He recently signed an executive order for federal workers and will call on the private sector to follow his lead. The speech may also highlight the Department of Labor’s proposed overtime rules which are expected to raise the minimum salary threshold under which workers must receive time and a half for extra hours worked. News accounts have also reported he will highlight legislation requiring workers to receive their schedules two-weeks in advance and a minimum of four hours of compensation if their hours are reduced. Finally, it is expected that the president may mention apprentice programs as a form of job training.