The Senate this week will continue trying to make headway in passing the $115 billion tax extenders bill. Remember, this is the bill that adds about $60 billion to our debt.
The bill extends federal unemployment benefits, which expired June 1, as well as about 50 other tax programs that have expired over the last several months. It also extends federal assistance to states for Medicaid and subsidized insurance for displaced workers. The bill also postpones an automatic cut to doctors for federal reimbursement payments made to them for seeing Medicare patients. This cut also went into effect on June 1.
The House leaders have said that if the Senate hasn't passed the bill by week's end, they may strip out the unemployment benefits, the doctors' reimbursement payments as well as $50 billion in state aid and pass a separate bill with these key elements. The House of Representatives is getting eager to get this $115 billion tax bill passed and signed into law. This bill first passed the House back in December 2009. The Senate passed it in March of this year and the House passed it with further changes in early May. Now it is before the Senate again in the month of June. Each time a chamber of our bi-cameral legislature debates this bill, the price tag gets larger and larger. Maybe that is why the Senate is struggling to pass this $115 billion tax extender bill.
Meanwhile, the House side of our U.S. Capitol will be working on three items this week.
The first is a small business tax relief bill, HR 5486, which increases tax deductions for trade or business start-up expenses from $5,000 to $20,000. This bill will tax large corporations in their third quarter of 2015 to pay the tab for the bill.
The second bill is the small-business lending fund act, HR 5297, which is designed to increase lending to small businesses by creating a $30 billion fund to be used by community banks.
The third bill is the war supplemental appropriations bill that this writer has been reporting on for the last couple of weeks. This bill now totals about $60 billion and was deemed an "emergency" by the president at the time he requested the funds to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the time the House musters enough votes to get this bill passed, they hope to up the price to almost $85 billion.
Part of the additional $20 billion comes from paying for teachers. This new price tag raised some concerns from U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla. a senior "blue dog," or fiscal conservative. "I think that the whole notion of us taking nonrecurring money and sending it to the states to fund recurring expenses, salaries, I think it is a dicey idea," Boyd said.
The spending spree in our nations capital is alive and well. Stay tuned for more on the government's bottomless ATM machine in the next column of Washington Week.
Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, four-times-elected United States Senate Secretary for the Majority and Minority. She is the founder of GradeGov.com.