Michael Choate Associates CPA

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Congress at Work for January 2015

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Congress at Work: Fiscal Year Budget Passed, With Extras

The 113th Congress, coming to a close, passed the second fewest laws of any Congress since 1947. Thanks to an outright sprint to the finish, the legislative body passed 96 bills in just the first half of December. The President had 10 days to sign each of those bills into law.

Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (H.R. 83) – Congress finally passed a budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2015, but not without controversy. In addition to $1.014 trillion allocated to continuing federal government operations, the act included $585 billion for military operations (more than 10 percent earmarked for military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq), increased funding for cyber security for several government agencies, an extension for another one-year ban on state and local sales taxes for Internet access, an increase to the cap on political campaign donations from $32,400 to $777,600 per person per year, and money allocated to the National Institute of Health specifically for response and preparedness for Ebola and other infectious diseases. Agencies that will suffer budget losses include the Environmental Protection Agency ($60 million), a 10 percent cut for the IRS, and a provision to allow trustees of severely underfunded pension plans to reduce retiree benefits. The act also included a provision to reverse the previous Dodd-Frank requirement that banks stop trading derivatives. And finally, the bill specifically bars funding for portraits to be painted of the President, Vice President or any member of Congress.

To repeal the provisions of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 5887) – This bill, introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), would amend the provision in the H.R. 83 budget bill that provides for increased individual donations for campaign funding. Specifically, the act calls for establishing separate limits for contributions made to national parties to support presidential nominating conventions, national party headquarters buildings and recounts.

Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2014 (H.R. 2901) – This bill was passed by both houses of Congress on Dec. 15 and was sent to the President for signing. It is intended to strengthen provisions of the previous Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 by improving the ability of government to implement, leverage, monitor and evaluate programs to improve access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to the world’s poorest populations on a sustainable basis.

United States Anti-Doping Agency Reauthorization Act (S. 2338) – This act authorizes appropriations for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for fiscal years 2014 through 2020. It also changes the Agency’s role from preventing the use of performance-enhancing genetic modifications (accomplished through gene doping) by U.S. amateur athletes to the role of preventing the use of prohibited performance-enhancing methods adopted by the Agency. The bill, originally sponsored in May 2014 by Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV), passed both houses in mid-December and was sent to the President for signing.

No Social Security for Nazis Act (H.R. 5739) – Passed unanimously in both houses, this bill terminates OASDI benefits to individuals whose citizenship has been revoked based on their participation in Nazi persecution, having admitted to such conduct and renounced status as a U.S. national. This bill came on the heels of an Associated Press investigative news story revealing that the Justice Department allowed the payment of Social Security benefits to Nazi war criminals who voluntarily agreed to leave the United States starting back in the 1980s. As of this writing, the bill was awaiting the President’s signature.

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