|October 20, 2017 |
"to elevate the condition
of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair
chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln
Note: Real Progress Towards Tax Relief for American
It’s not every day that good news comes out of Congress, but last night the United States Senate made firm progress
on tax reform that included a strong bipartisan message that the final legislation must include real tax relief for working families.
Make no mistake: Any tax reform legislation that is produced this year will do so largely
along partisan lines. That is why the Senate’s passage of a budget resolution last night was so important for tax reform. It checked the first
box in the budget reconciliation process created by the 1974 Congressional Budget Act that allows the Senate to pass certain budget-related
legislation by a simple majority vote.
Now the House must either pass the
same budget the Senate did last night, or go to conference to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and the House budget that passed
earlier this month. However, all signs point to the House just voting on the Senate budget as is.
After the House passes the Senate budget, it will again be the House’s turn to initiate by introducing actual tax reform
legislation. We got a glimpse of what that legislation will look like last month when the White House released its nine-page tax reform outline.
As we mentioned in September, that outline was a good start, but it also left
one key policy area unclear: the size of an expected child tax credit expansion.
This is potentially a huge problem for tax reform since the most recent draft would eliminate the personal exemption, a tax provision that
benefits many working families. According to analyses of the current tax outline, millions of working families could be facing a tax hike, not a tax
That is not what President Trump or the Republican Party promised
Luckily, there is a simple fix to this problem, it is
popular across party lines, and it received a unanimous vote of confidence in the Senate last night.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and I introduced an amendment to last night’s budget resolution that created a
“deficit neutral reserve fund” for future legislation that would increase per-child tax relief by amending the existing child tax
In practical terms, this only made it slightly easier for an
expanded child tax credit to become law. However, the unanimous bipartisan nature of the vote sent a strong signal to the House and White House that a
robust child tax credit is central to getting tax reform done. Better yet, the child tax credit may be just the right policy to convince one or two
red-state Democrats to vote with Republicans for tax relief.
Click here to watch video
Issue in Focus: Senate Blue Slips
More than 140 federal
judgeships are currently unoccupied, a record high number. President Trump has nominated almost 60 candidates to fill those slots but so far only
seven have been confirmed.
There are many reasons why the Senate
has not been able to confirm more of President Trump’s nominees, but a major obstacle has been Democrat abuse of a Senate Judiciary Committee
practice more commonly known as the “blue slip.”
candidate is nominated to a federal judicial vacancy, the two senators from the states of that vacancy are given blue slips of paper by the Senate
Judiciary Committee chairman soliciting the senators’ opinion of the nominee in question.
The written opinions of the home-state senators are then taken into consideration when the Judiciary Committee considers
the nomination. But sometimes senators choose not to return the blue slip at all, thus delaying and sometimes even blocking a nomination entirely.
Senate Democrats are currently refusing to return blue slips on a
number of President Trump nominees and when the possibility of proceeding to committee consideration without the blue slips has been raised, these
same Democrats have claimed Republicans are trying to destroy one of the Senate’s most sacred traditions.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The blue slip was invented in 1917—128 years after the First Congress convened. It was never treated as a veto until 1955,
when Senator James Eastland became Chairman of this Committee. Eastland was an ardent segregationist and, by turning the blue slip into a veto, he was
trying to block the implementation of Brown v. Board of Education.
Eastland’s successor, Senator Ted Kennedy, immediately changed the status of the blue slip when he became chairman. To make a long story short,
since 1955, there have been eight chairmen of the Committee, including Eastland. By my count, two have treated the blue slip as a veto. The remaining
six either said the blue slip was not a veto or did not treat the blue slip as if it were a veto. So the practice, even since 1955, is mixed. And of
course those first 128 years of the Republic also count.
slip has taken on added importance because, in 2013, the Democrats eliminated the filibuster from the executive calendar. We should be cognizant that
when we change the rules—the actual, written protections we can rely on—we are left reliant on customs. Customs can always be changed,
especially when they are not particularly strong customs.
That’s something I hope we all consider as we move forward and determine how to process pending nominees.