Congress sends hurricane Aid, Debt Ceiling Bill to President Trump

The U.S. House voted today to send a package of emergency aid for Hurricane Harvey that also extends government spending until Dec. 8 and suspends the public debt limit to President Trump for his consideration.

The 316-90 vote on the bill would appropriate $15.3 billion in emergency supplemental funding for fiscal 2017 as an initial payment to cover the costs of responding to multiple natural disasters, including Harvey, Roll Call reported.

The Senate passed the measure on Thursday 80-17 with Alabama Republican Sens. Richard Shelby and Luther Strange voting yes.

The package of bills pairs emergency funding for hurricane relief with measures to increase the debt ceiling and keep the government open for three months. The bills include about $22 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund, $15.25 billion of which is new. Another $6.7 billion was in the pipeline.

Ninety Republicans voted against the bill with conservatives criticizing it for combining the emergency funding in the same bill that provided government funding and suspended the debt ceiling.

The measure keeps the government operating until Nov. 8. President Trump this week said he had the backing of Democrats to avoid a government spending shutdown.


House Speaker Paul D. Ryan suggested Thursday that President Donald Trump’s proposal to lower the current 35 percent corporate tax rate to 15 percent is unrealistic. “The numbers are hard to make that work,” the Wisconsin Republican said at an event hosted by the New York Times, according to Roll Call. “He obviously wants to push this as low as possible, and I support that.”

Ryan said a more realistic rate would be something in the low- to mid-20 percent range. “Our goal is to be at or below the industrial world average, and that’s 22.5 [percent]. … And we think that’s an achievable goal,” Ryan said. That means the rate might end up higher than 20 percent, as proposed in the “A Better Way” blueprint that Ryan and House Republicans campaigned on last year, Roll Call reported.

Translation: Congress will not cut spending to accommodate lower tax receipts without seeking to displace any loss of revenue with other taxes.

Ryan addressed Trump’s decision Wednesday to back Democrats’ debt limit proposal that the speaker had panned. “I sort of noticed that,” Ryan said of the notion that Trump bucked Republican leaders’ recommendations.

Ryan said Trump wanted to have a bipartisan deal, given the need to unite around the relief efforts and “he made that very clear.”

President Trump went to Democrats to bypass a Congress that, so far, won’t agree to his bidding.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has posted an excellent two-part article about the history of tax reform and what it means for business.


David Farr, chairman and CEO of Emerson and chair of the board of the National Association of Manufacturers, urged Congress to agree to advance tax reform for the future of American manufacturing.

Speaking at the Economic Club of New York, Farr addressed the global manufacturing economy and tax rates American manufacturers have to compete against. “We must cut the federal corporate tax rate to 15 percent and lower the tax rate for the two-thirds of manufacturers that pay taxes at individual tax rates as pass-through entities,” he said.

“It is backward and unfair to saddle them with marginal tax rates of up to 44 percent on these small business owners!” Farr said.

President Trump has called on Congress to lower tax rates, including the federal corporate tax rate of 39 percent, among the highest in the industrialized world.

“As the leader of a truly global American company, I can tell you the United States faces immense competition for our jobs and for our manufacturing businesses that grows fiercer and tougher every year,” Farr said. “And there is no question that our Washington, D.C., policies put American companies like Emerson-and our employees and families in all 50 states-at a clear disadvantage-a competitive disadvantage.

“In America, the top corporate tax rate can exceed 39 percent when you add up the federal and state rates-the highest corporate statutory rate among the 35 industrialized nations of the OECD and more than 50 percent higher than the average rate,” he said. “Why is Washington, D.C., making it harder for America to win in the world?”

A 2015 NAM study concluded that a reform package could add more than $12 trillion in GDP over 10 years, deliver more than 6.5 million jobs to the U.S. economy, and increase investment by more than $3.3 trillion, Farr said.


Treasury Secretary Also Urges Tax Reform
The Hill (Beavers 9/7) “Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is optimistic that the Trump administration can reform the nation’s tax code before the year’s end, calling it a ‘number one priority’ for President Trump. ‘I think it’s still very viable to get it done this year’, Mnuchin told host Maria Bartiromo on Thursday during Fox Business Network’s ‘Mornings with Maria’.

“‘The major blueprint has been outlined, it’s going to go to the committees. The committees will add to different parts of this, but we have a path to get this done this year and we’re still very hopeful we can get it done’, he continued, pointing to the many months he has been working on the plan.

“Mnuchin’s remarks came a day after Trump stunned Washington and dismayed Republican congressional leaders by agreeing with Democrats to extend government funding and raise the debt limit until mid-December. The deal will also include passing funding to deal with recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey.

“Just hours before the president’s meeting with congressional leaders from both parties, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had criticized the Democrats’ three-month proposal as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘unworkable’. The Treasury chief stood by the deal, saying this temporary agreement will quell Democrats and allow the administration to stay on course with its tax reform plan.”


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Tours and Likes What She Sees in Mobile Classroom (Specker 9/7) “President Donald Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, covered a lot of ground Thursday in a tour of Mobile, dropping in on students ranging from grade-schoolers to adults learning to weld and shape metal for jobs in the shipbuilding industry.

“The day’s visit, hosted by U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, began with a stop at the state’s first charter school, the ACCEL Day and Evening Academy. The school very recently opened its first semester of operation, but DeVos, an enthusiastic supporter of charter schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools, spoke highly of it. ‘It provides other options and opportunities for students who need it the most’, DeVos said. ‘I’m very impressed by what I’ve heard and seen so far’.

“Byrne said the real win was engaging students who hadn’t been able to thrive in more conventional settings. ‘We’ve met some of the students, heard some of their stories, and these are the kids we’d have lost’, he said. ‘This isn’t for everybody, there are other schools that are for other children. These young people, this is the place for them’.

“Her second stop was at the AIDT Maritime Training Center. After a meeting with Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle, she explored an industrial work floor where adult students were learning to weld and shape metal, and other skills that would help them win jobs at Austal or other shipbuilders. Devos’ final stop of the day was the closest thing to a conventional public school on her itinerary, Council Traditional School. As a magnet school with International Baccalaureate programming, Council is one of the Mobile County Public School System’s flagship elementary schools.”


U.S. House Unanimously Approves Sweeping Self-Driving Car Measure
Reuters (Shepardson 9/7) “The U.S. House on Wednesday unanimously approved a sweeping proposal to speed the deployment of self-driving cars without human controls by putting federal regulators in the driver’s seat and barring states from blocking autonomous vehicles. The House measure, the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would allow automakers to obtain exemptions to deploy up to 25,000 vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards in the first year. The cap would rise over three years to 100,000 vehicles annually.

“Under the bill, manufacturers seeking exemptions must demonstrate self-driving cars are at least as safe as existing vehicles. States could still set rules on registration, licensing, liability, insurance and safety inspections, but not performance standards. Automakers would have to submit safety assessment reports to regulators, but the bill would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies. The measure now goes to the Senate, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers has been working on similar legislation.

“Current federal rules bar self-driving cars without human controls on U.S. roads. States have issued a variety of different rules in the absence of clear federal guidance, and automakers have complained that California’s rules are too restrictive. The House bill would also require automakers to add a driver alert to check rear seating in an effort to prevent children from being left behind, and to consider performance standards for headlights.”