Tuesday, January 09, 2007

CQ Today Midday Update

CQ Today Midday Update
Highlights from today's news on www.cq.com
Published by Congressional QuarterlyE-mail the editor
TUESDAY, JAN. 9, 2007 – 2:08 P.M.
Edited by Martha Angle

Senate Tackles Easy Issues First in Ethics Overhaul Debate

    The Senate began debate today on its lobbying and ethics overhaul by tackling relatively non-controversial provisions dealing with lobbyist-funded travel and gifts.
    The tougher decisions will come later, as a handful of mavericks from both parties try to strengthen the bill and push beyond what Senate leaders are endorsing.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were working on a bipartisan manager’s amendment that they planned to introduce this afternoon.
    Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., the minority whip and former Rules Committee chairman, said there should be little disagreement over prohibiting lobbyists and organizations that employ them from buying dinner or giving gifts to congressional staff or members.
    “Let’s get over that,” Lott said. “I’m so offended that people think we could be had for the price of a meal. Get rid of the gifts. Get rid of the meals. I’d rather go home and have dinner with my wife.”
    But Lott warned that there may be fights if efforts are made to ban travel on corporate jets. “We do have to get places within our states,” he said. “ If you represent Alaska or California, you can’t get there easily.”

Congress Should Block Troop Surge in Iraq, Kennedy Says

    Declaring that “American values and America’s role in the world are all at stake,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said today that he will lead an effort to block funding for a troop surge in Iraq “unless and until Congress approves” President Bush’s plan for such a deployment.
    In a speech at the National Press Club, Kennedy, the No. 2 Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he and Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., would introduce legislation later today aimed at forcing Bush to gain congressional consent for his new Iraq strategy, which the president plans to unveil in a televised address to the nation Wednesday night.
    Bush is expected to announce that roughly 20,000 more soldiers and Marines will be sent to augment the 140,000 troops now serving in Iraq. He also is expected to seek at least $100 billion in supplemental fiscal 2007 war spending next month.
    “The president’s speech must be the beginning – not the end – of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq,” Kennedy said.

Taxpayers’ Advocate Lists AMT, Tax Gap as Top Problems

    National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson, in her annual report to Congress, cited the alternative minimum tax (AMT) as the most serious problem facing taxpayers today.
    Olson, who works independently within the IRS, listed the so-called tax gap between taxes owed and revenue collected as the No. 2 problem.
    The AMT topped the list both because it is hitting millions of Americans it was never intended to reach and because it symbolizes a broader problem of tax code complexity, Olson’s report said.
    “With a new Congress convening, I am pleased to see these issues have been identified as priorities by the leadership of the House and Senate tax-writing committees,” Olson said. “Simplifying the tax code, particularly by repealing the AMT, and reducing the inequities caused by the tax gap will go a long way to helping America’s taxpayers.”
    Democrats heading the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have targeted both issues, but repealing the AMT would cost as much as $1 trillion over 10 years. That could prove an insurmountable obstacle.
    The report criticizes the uses of private agencies to collect overdue taxes, a practice that began in September 2006, and recommends that it be scrapped.

CBO Preparing Reports on Budget Baseline, Unauthorized Spending

    The Congressional Budget Office plans to release a new Budget and Economic Outlook report Jan. 24, the morning after President Bush’s State of the Union Address.
    CBO’s report establishes baseline spending and revenue projections for the next 10 years. Using existing spending and tax law, it projects the expected path of federal revenues and outlays and resulting budget deficits or surpluses.
    Even before that report is released, CBO will issue one that lists all currently funded programs whose authorizations have expired, as well as programs whose authorizations will expire in the coming year. It is intended to help Congress determine what authorizing legislation should be enacted before considering appropriations bills.
    Generally, federal programs are supposed to be authorized before they receive appropriations, but Congress regularly ignores that requirement. Under law, this report must be issued by Jan. 15 each year.

Political Clippings

    CQPolitics.com reports that Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, the new chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is building a quasi-cabinet of House Republicans who will assist in the quest to reclaim the majority in 2008. Cole announced yesterday that Virginia Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, who had a successful run as NRCC chairman early this decade, will head the unit’s executive committee and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the chief deputy Republican whip in the House, will be NRCC fundraising chairman during the 2007-08 cycle. Last week, Cole tapped Pennsylvania Rep. Phil English to head up efforts to retire the NRCC’s post-election debt of $14.4 million.
    According to the The Mobile Press-Register, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., yesterday ruled out a 2008 run for the Senate, “calling it ‘the wrong time’ to seek higher office.” However, state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures “publicly acknowledged that she is taking a hard look at challenging” GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, and state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, “who was easily re-elected in November, but cannot run again because of term limits,” said he is “looking at all other options, including a U.S. Senate bid.” Both are Democrats.
    The Boston Globe reports, “After two years of sending strong signals about a second run for the presidency,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., “has held no public political events in more than two months, even as his potential rivals ramp up their own campaigns.” Kerry aides “said he is still mulling whether he should run again for president in 2008, with a decision likely to come before the end of the month. But Kerry’s low public profile in recent weeks has fueled speculation in political circles that the 2004 presidential nominee will forgo another run.”

Political Trivia

    Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., is a hometown boy who learned politics from his parents. At age 10, he analyzed President Nixon’s landslide victory for his folks on election night 1972. His father was a local news anchor and elections commissioner of Douglas County, which surrounds Omaha, and was also the 1976 Republican nominee for the House seat Terry now holds. Terry’s mother ran unsuccessfully for the county board six years later. (Source: CQ Politics in America 2006) More info

Quote of the Day

    “An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation. . . . Our history makes clear that a new escalation in our forces will not advance our national security. It will not move Iraq toward self-government, and it will needlessly endanger our troops by injecting more of them into the middle of a civil war.”
    — Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
Today in Washington
House
Considers a resolution (H Res 15) honoring President Gerald R. Ford, legislation (HR 1) implementing several Sept. 11 commission recommendations, and a resolution (H Res 35) creating an intelligence spending oversight panel.
Senate
Considers ethics and lobbying overhaul legislation (S 1).
The President
No public events scheduled.
In Washington
The American Enterprise Institute hosts a forum on “Global Financial Warriors: The Untold Story of International Finance in the Post 9/11 World.” Participants include author John Taylor of Stanford University; John Lipsky of IMF; and Faryar Shirzad of Goldman Sachs. 2-4 p.m., Wohlstetter Conference Center, 12th floor, 1150 17th St. N.W.
Today on Governing.com
State and local government news from CQ’s sister publication
OHIO: New Governor Bans Gifts to State Employees
THE NATION: States: Boost CHIP Funding
NEW YORK CITY: Pakistani Sentenced in Subway Bomb Plot
AUSTIN, TEXAS: Dead Birds May Have Been Poisoned
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