DC Memo: Dems’ high hopes for lame duck; Trump’s taxes; Biden’s student loan moratorium

DC Memo: Dems’ high hopes for lame duck; Trump’s taxes; Biden’s student loan moratorium

WASHINGTON – The clock is ticking on the time Democrats hold control of the U.S. House, setting up a robust year-end push on spending, taxes and, potentially, raising the debt limit.

When Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break next week, the Senate will hold a final vote on a bill that would codify the right to same-sex and interracial marriages. The bill is expected to pass with the support of all Democrats and more than a dozen GOP senators. The U.S. House has already approved a similar bill but will have to hold a vote on the Senate’s bill, because the chamber made some changes to the House legislation.

Also a priority for Democrats in the lame duck session of Congress is passing a spending bill to prevent a government shutdown when the current stopgap bill expires on Dec. 16. That requires the votes of at least 10 Senate Republicans, and GOP lawmakers are balking on some of the funding for domestic programs proposed by Democrats and more money for Ukraine’s war effort.

A compromise on a package of tax breaks might also be considered in the lame duck. Republicans want tax breaks that include a new deduction for research and development costs, an increase in interest expense write-offs and a deduction for “bonus depreciation,” which allows businesses to write off equipment purchases in a year. Democrats want to expand the child tax credit, making permanent a maximum $3,600 per child tax credit that was offered temporarily in a 2021 stimulus bill.

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Meanwhile, before the next Congress gavels in on Jan. 3, Democrats in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are trying to find common ground on a bill that would make it more difficult to challenge presidential election results.

The Senate version of the election bill would greatly increase the number of lawmakers needed to raise an objection to a state’s electors. It would also create a new process to rein in governors who refuse to certify an election and strike vague language from the 1887 Electoral Count Act that former President Trump and his allies tried to leverage to stop certification of Biden’s victory. 

The Senate bill has attracted enough GOP support to pass, but the House version of the bill goes much further and would not clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.

Before the party lost the U.S. House, some Democrats had hoped to pass legislation that would codify the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, which allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to live and work here.  The program, established under former President Obama’s executive authority, is being challenged in court.

Republicans are insisting that stringent border security provisions and restrictions on asylum seekers are included in any immigration reform proposal. So a deal on “Dreamers,” as the young people who would benefit from the legislation are known, appears an uphill climb.

Meanwhile, Minnesota lawmakers are also looking to the holiday-shortened lame duck session to win approval for their priorities.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th District, hopes for a House vote on her bill that would permanently ban hard rock mining in the Rainy Rivers Watershed. McCollum, environmentalists and others who support the legislation, say a proposed Twin Metals copper mine in the watershed would wreak havoc on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

If McCollum can secure House passage of her bill, the plan is to add the legislation in a public lands package that could come up in the U.S. Senate or put it in another “must pass” bill, such as legislation that would fund the federal government. That legislative maneuver is needed because there is no companion bill to McCollum’s legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is also hoping her legislation to rein in big tech companies is considered in the lame duck.

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She received a big boost because the White House is privately pushing Democratic leaders in Congress to pass her legislation before Republicans take over the House.  Klobuchar’s bill would prohibit Amazon, Google and other big tech companies from prioritizing their own products on their platforms over competitors

But her bill, co-sponsored with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has been the victim of a massive multi-million lobbying and advertising campaign by the nation’s technology giants.

“The Biden administration has weighed in: House passage of my bipartisan bill to reign in Big Tech is a big priority before the end of the year. It’s time to protect competition. Let’s get it done,” Klobuchar tweeted this week.

Trump’s taxes, student loans

Also this week, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the Internal Revenue Service to release  six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, which until January remains under Democratic control.

The high court’s decision is a major loss for Trump, who sought to shield his taxes from Congress and the public.

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement that his panel would “now conduct the oversight that we’ve sought for the last three and a half years.” But Neal did not say whether the committee would make the returns public.

Meanwhile, Biden is waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on his plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt for those who qualify.

In the meantime, the president announced this week that he would once again extend a pause on federal student loan payments until June 30.

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The moratorium on federal student loan payments began in March 2020 to help people struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If Biden’s loan forgiveness program has not been implemented by June 30, payments would resume after 60 days.

“I’m completely confident my plan is legal,” said Biden said of his student loan forgiveness plan in a video posted on Twitter.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday. What’s not to like when the whole point is to eat (a lot) and visit with friends and family? 

The holiday also allows us a pause from everyday stresses to enjoy life and be grateful for the things you may not appreciate fully during the rush of day-to-day living. I think this quote from Charles Dickens encapsulates the introspection the holiday calls for: Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” 

D.C. Memo wishes everyone a great Thanksgiving.