Path Forward for Critical Spending Bill Remained Unclear but Encouraging at Press Time

CCH Tax Day Report

At press time, the Senate had yet to vote on a continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the federal government, including the IRS, funded past December 9. The House passed the CR on December 8 by a 326-to-96 vote.

The current stop-gap spending bill was set to expire on December 9 (TAXDAY, 2016/09/30, C.1). The Further Continuing and Security Assistance Appropriations Bill of 2017, introduced on December 6, passed quickly in the House but has faced obstacles in the Senate. The bill would provide funding for the government, including the IRS, through April 28, 2017.

At press time, passing the measure on December 9 and averting a government shutdown seemed increasingly likely but not certain. Otherwise, the Senate, procedurally, would be able to vote on cloture to the CR in the early morning on Saturday, December 10. A vote on the resolution could then be expected on Sunday.

“This continuing resolution is a responsible compromise, making only limited adjustments where required to preserve the security of this nation to prevent serious lapses in government services and to ensure the careful expenditure of taxpayer dollars,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said on the House floor after introducing the short-term funding bill. According to Rogers, the CR is an undesirable last resort but the only path forward.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed criticism of the CR for not extending coal miners’ health benefits beyond the first four months of 2017. “The CR does nothing to solve the critical pension problem that threatens the future of these miners and their families,” she said in a statement.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has been championing the effort on the Senate side, promising to block the CR until the Miners Protection Bill is passed. The measure would secure more extended pension and healthcare benefits for thousands of miners and their families, according to Manchin. He pledged to block passing the CR by unanimous consent, a path for which many Senate Republicans had been hopeful in order to adjourn on December 9.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took to social media on December 9 to weigh in on the matter. “While some Senate Democrats may want to delay into a shutdown, House Democrats overwhelmingly rejected that approach,” he said. McConnell urged the passage of the CR, saying, otherwise, many of the constituents that Senate Democrats are trying to help will lose their benefits at the end of the month because the House cannot approve further measures. “The House is gone. They are through for this session,” McConnell said.

A number of bipartisan tax-related measures were left awaiting Senate consideration at press time, although it remains unclear whether some or all of them will need to await consideration by the next Congress, rather than be approved by either roll call vote or unanimous consent at this time. These tax bills include, among others: the Emergency Citrus Disease Response Bill (HR 3957); the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Bill (HR 5015); the Veterans TRICARE Choice Bill (HR 5458); and the Empowering Employee through Stock Ownership Bill (HR 5719).

By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

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