Michael Choate Associates CPA

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Congress at Work for January 2014

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Congress at Work: Budgeting and Keeping Loose Change

Need more evidence that we have a controversially partisan Congress? In the 2013 session, only 58 new laws were enacted – the lowest in any first year of a Congress since at least 1973. In 2011, only 80 new laws were enacted, but prior to that the average was 162. You could say that its numbers were hampered by the government shutdown from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16, but that just reinforces the evidence of dysfunctionality. Clearly, the partisan fever that plagues this Congress has resulted in substantially reduced productivity.

However, we finally have an approved federal budget for the next two years, saving us from yet another year-end cliffhanger in 2013.

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (H.J. Res. 59) – Also known as the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014. In a move demonstrating co-author Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) ability to run as a relatively bipartisan presidential candidate in 2016, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 is designed to replace sequester cuts with savings from spending reductions scheduled in the future. The deal also sets the budget cap for fiscal year 2014 at $1.012 trillion and in 2015 at $1.014 trillion. The bill will require federal civilian and military employees to contribute more to their pensions; and for companies with pension plans insured by taxpayer dollars, it will increase premiums. The bill also levies new airline fees on travelers. However, the deal does not include an extension of the long-term unemployment benefits that expired on Dec. 28, 2013 – a measure sought by many Democrats.

Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013 (H.R. 3350) – Not to be confused with previous versions (S. 1617, If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It and H.R. 3522, Employee Health Care Protection Act of 2013), this act would permit a health insurance company to continue offering health insurance policies for sale in the individual market to help people meet the mandate for minimum essential health coverage. The Act was passed in the House in November 2013 but has not passed the Senate.

TSA Loose Change Act (H.R. 1075) – Over the past two years, airline passengers have left behind a total of about $500,000 at airport security checkpoints. This Act would direct the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (who is in charge of the Transportation Security Administration) to transfer unclaimed money recovered at airport security checkpoints to nonprofit organizations. These organizations would provide places of rest and recuperation at airports for members of the Armed Forces and their families, as well as other purposes. Currently this money is diverted to help pay for civil aviation security. The Act passed the House on Dec. 3, 2013 and is pending in the Senate.

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