Happy tax season, everyone! You should have received your W-2 forms from your employer by now and are probably dreading sorting through a pile of old papers searching for receipts from charitable contributions made in 2013. And then once you’ve gotten that done you have the pure joy of trying to make sense of the tax forms themselves. But no worries: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp has got your back. On Wednesday afternoon, the Chairman is set to hold a press conference unveiling his reform of the U.S. Tax Code. “Tax reform needs to be about strengthening the economy and making the code simpler and fairer”, Camp wrote in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal. Camp would eliminate a number of tax incentives and deductions. On the other hand, for individuals the top income tax rate would fall to 25 percent from almost 40 percent; for businesses, the taxes would also go to 25 percent, down from 35. Chairman Camp contends that the reforms will boost the economy, leading to higher earnings. Senate leaders from both parties have said that major tax reform will not be able to pass their Chamber this year—a regrettable situation for Camp, who is in his last term as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Chairman Dave Camp might not be alone in his disappointment with Congress this year. The House Democrats might not see two of their major priorities, a hike in the minimum wage and immigration reform, completed before the end of the session. However, they are planning a gambit to force the House to move on these issues: The House Democratic leadership is mulling the possibility of filing discharge petitions on both a minimum-wage bill and an immigration bill. A discharge petition is a request submitted to the Clerk of the House that a committee be relieved of its duties of considering a bill—in reality, the committee is usually not working on it in earnest—so that the legislation may be debated on the Floor. A simple majority suffices for a petition to succeed, but since it typically requires some Members of the majority to work with the minority, they generally do not pass. At the same time, those who support the petitions do not necessarily expect them to succeed; rather, they realize that a discharge petition may pressure the House leadership into bringing a bill to the Floor.
Even if the Democrats’ discharge petition on the minimum wage were successful, they’d have another obstacle to contend with: The U.S. Senate. The Hill is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not yet given the green light to a minimum-wage bill. He has cited Republican opposition to changing the minimum wage as a reason for the holdup. At the same time, it is unclear if there are enough Democratic votes for it to pass. A number of Senate Democrats who are facing rough reelection races have not signed on as cosponsors of the minimum wage bill that Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa has introduced. “Based on the number of holdouts, there is a chance the bill could fall short of a simple majority if the vote were held today. Such an outcome would sap the movement of significant momentum”, Alexander Bolton wrote for The Hill.
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