• The Lame Duck Wraps
  • February 25, 2015
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • This week, the Senate put the final wrap on the lame-duck session. Saturday the Senate approved the CROmnibus spending package that had been approved in the House last week-but not before a delay led by conservative Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). The delay actually turned out to be a gift to Democrats-giving Harry Reid and the outgoing majority time to approve 69 executive branch nominees, including a controversial Surgeon General nominee.

    Tuesday night the Senate easily passed a deal to extend more than 50 tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013. The bill passed after last month's fight between Reid and the White House, which scuttled a more ambitious deal.

    Reid had negotiated a deal with Republicans in November to extend the tax credits for at least two years, with several tax breaks favored by the business community earning permanent extensions. The bill lacked, however, a permanent extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which the White House had pushed for, leaving both to expire in 2017.

    As a result, the White House issued a veto threat. The president's veto threat ended bipartisan conversation about the deal and forced members back to the drawing board.

    What emerged was a significantly smaller, retroactive one-year tax extender bill that the House passed before leaving town last week and the Senate passed in a 76-16 vote Tuesday evening. The one-year extension will give clarity to Americans as they enter tax-filing season early next year. The bill extends all 50 tax credits that expired last year through December 31, allowing individuals and businesses to claim them on their 2014 filings with the Internal Revenue Service. But, proponents of a bigger deal have pointed out that the deal leaves those tax credits in limbo for 2015.

    It wasn't all positive in the closing days of the lame duck.

    Compromise legislation re-authorizing the Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) was scuttled after Republican Sen. Tom Coburn refused to lift his hold on the bill. Coburn, and other fiscally minded Republicans, objected to renewing the program, believing that the free market will step in to insure individuals and businesses from future terrorist attacks without the federal backstop program. Democrats also mounted strong objections over the last-minute inclusion of a provision reforming the Dodd-Frank Wall Street law by House Republicans.

    The failure of the TRIA compromise legislation - which had been crafted by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) - in the Senate was somewhat surprising after the House passed the same legislation by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 417-7 vote.

    The TRIA program will now expire at the end of December.