Capitol to Capitol | Sept. 10, 2018

Tax Cuts 2.0 Tension


The origins of the Democratic symbol of a donkey can be traced to the 1828 presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson in which an opponent of Jackson called him a jackass. Rather than rejecting the label, Jackson embraced it in his campaign posters. The Republican image of an elephant took hold following Thomas Nast’s 1874 Harper’s Weekly cartoon where he labeled an elephant as “the Republican vote.” Nast is considered the father of the modern political cartoon.

House Republicans released details last week on a second round of tax cuts they hope to act on prior to the November elections. Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) released three one-pagers explaining the main tenets of what they are calling “Tax Cuts 2.0.” The three pillars of the proposal are:

  • Protecting middle class and small business tax cuts by extending individual tax cuts
  • Growing brand-new entrepreneurs by encouraging innovation among businesses
  • Promoting family savings

While reception of the recent tax reform package has not piqued public interest as much as many Republicans had hoped, GOP leaders made it clear last week they plan to keep pushing their economic agenda to voters and will hold a vote on Tax Cuts 2.0 before the end of the month.

GOP leaders are convinced that forcing a vote before the midterms will put Democrats  between a rock and a hard place by forcing them to vote against tax relief for the middle class.

However, a dozen moderate Republicans from suburban districts in blue-leaning states like California, New Jersey and New York would also find themselves in jeopardy. These Republicans voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act solely because of the provision to cap the state and local tax (SALT) deduction on personal income taxes at $10,000, which they believe would lead to tax increases on too many of their constituents. This cap currently expires in eight years and while materials released do not specifically mention the SALT cap, it is expected Tax Cuts 2.0 will propose the cap be made permanent.

Legislative text is expected to be released before the end of this week along with a date for a committee markup.

NCSL Contact: Jake Lestock

T-Minus 7 Days

While three weeks remain before the end of the fiscal year, there are just seven working days where both chambers are scheduled to be in session together for Congress to pass appropriations bills or risk a government shutdown. Last week, the House and Senate agreed to conference negotiations on three separate minibus packages of bills. Here’s where they currently stand:

  • House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced that the House is set to take up the first minibus H.R. 5895 this week. It includes energy-water, military construction-Veterans Administration and legislative branch funding, although text has not been released.
  • The House agreed last Thursday to begin conference negotiations on H.R. 6147, that includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and other related agencies. 
  • Talks on the most contentious bill in congressional appropriations, H.R. 6157, which includes funding for the departments of Defense, Labor, Education and Health and Human Services has gotten off to a surprisingly good start in last week’s “four corners” meetings (“four corners” refers to both chambers’ subcommittee chairs and ranking members who have jurisdiction over each appropriations bill).
  • President Donald Trump said last week to Fox News that he “most likely” will not shut down the government before the midterm elections over funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The president said he received commitments from GOP leadership to increase funding for the wall after the election.

A stopgap spending bill that will continue current funding levels until after the November midterm elections is expected for any measures lawmakers fail to negotiate before the Sept. 30 deadline.

NCSL Contact: Jake Lestock

Farm Bill Deadline Looming


Since no one could agree on the realignment for the National Football Conference after the American Football League-National Football League merger, the five best plans were put into a bowl and Pete Rozelle’s secretary selected one at random.

Last week, the 2018 Farm Bill conference committee members met for the first time in person. However, shortly following that meeting, Senate Agriculture Committee leaders signaled that they remain far apart from their House counterparts in efforts to reconcile their respective farm bills.

"We're still working through things," said Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). "It's slower than I would like."

Additionally, in response to a proposal from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Stabenow said that it “wasn't even close to being something the Senate could accept, it was not meaningful enough."

The current Farm Bill expires at the end of the month and the likelihood of an extension appears to be growing. The two chambers remain reportedly far apart on issues pertaining to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). Additionally, there are some significant differences between the two bills within the agriculture titles including conservation program funding and the House’s inclusion of the King Amendment.

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NCSL Contacts: Ben Husch, Kristen Hildreth

Senate Expected to Vote on Bipartisan Opioids Package

On Sept. 7, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, announced the Senate would be voting this week on a bill addressing the opioid crisis.

Earlier this summer the House passed an opioids package that included 58 bills focusing on prevention, treatment and law enforcement measures, among other policies to address the crisis. The Senate and House bills are similar in many ways, but the Senate has also removed contested language around funding levels and repealing limits on Medicaid payments for certain facilities. After the Senate vote the House and Senate packages will have to be reconciled. Read the summary of the Senate bill.

NCSL Contacts: Haley Nicholson, Abbie Gruwell

On This Day, Sept. 10, in …


Over the course of a 60-year career, the late Burt Reynolds turned down many roles, including Han Solo in “Star Wars,” R.P. McMurphy in “One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Edward Lewis in “Pretty Woman,” John McClane in “Die Hard” and even James Bond after stating that “an American can’t play James Bond. It just can’t be done.”

  • 1912: The Lincoln Highway was laid out by Carl Fisher, the creator of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to become the first paved coast-to-coast highway in the United States, running from Times Square in New York City to Lincoln Park in San Francisco.
  • 1984: The daily syndicated version of “Jeopardy!” makes its debut with your host Alex Trebek. Trebek has hosted more than 7,000 episodes and holds the Guinness World Record for most episodes of a game show hosted by the same presenter. 

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NCSL's Advocacy in Washington

NCSL's Washington staff advocate Congress, the White House and federal agencies on behalf of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions that are recommended by the NCSL Standing Committees and adopted by the full conference at the annual NCSL Legislative Summit Business Meeting. As a result of the advocacy that is guided by these policies positions, NCSL is recognized as a formidable lobbying force in state-federal relations.

NCSL Staff in Washington, D.C.

  • Molly Ramsdell | 202-624-3584 | Director
  • Jake Lestock | 202-624-8171 | Budgets and Revenue
  • Danielle Dean | 202-624-8698 | Communications, Financial Services
  • Susan Frederick | 202-624-3566 | Law, Criminal Justice, and Public Safety
  • Abbie Gruwell 202-624-3569 | Human Services
  • Ben Husch | 202-624-7779 | Natural Resources and Infrastructure 
  • Jon Jukuri  | 202-624-8663 | Labor, Economic Development and International Trade
  • Haley Nicholson | 202-624-8662 | Health
  • Joan Wodiska | 202-624-3558 | Education