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Daily Policy Note for December 17, 2014

RPC News

Administration Puts HealthCare.gov Enrollees at Risk: Last year the Obama administration put Americans at risk as it ignored numerous warnings about the readiness of HealthCare.gov. Its decision to go ahead with the website caused confusion and frustration at the same time Obamacare was causing people to lose their insurance. This year, the administration has created another large risk for federal exchange enrollees. It’s been providing potentially unlawful tax credits for people to buy insurance in states with federal exchanges.

Abusing the Lame Duck: This week, in the last days of the 113th Congress, the Senate is considering a series of nominations. None of these nominees are essential to keep the government running. The Senate could be using this week to debate important tax and spending issues, including matters that actually have a deadline or could help to create American jobs.


GOP Committee News

Finance: Hatch Outlines Seven Principles for Comprehensive Tax Reform: In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) outlined seven principles needed to guide comprehensive tax reform forward, saying such reform should embrace economic growth, fairness, simplicity, permanence, competitiveness, promoting savings and investments, and revenue neutrality. 

Commerce: Thune Comments on 2014 Tax Extenders: “While I’m disappointed the president stymied the bipartisan good-faith negotiations to make a number of important tax provisions permanent, I’m pleased the Senate acted to ensure individuals and businesses can utilize these tax deductions and incentives on their 2014 taxes. From the deduction for state and local sales taxes, to the higher business deduction limits relied upon by small businesses, extending these expired tax provisions is important to South Dakota families and businesses.”


Today’s Headlines

The Hill: Senate clears tax break package: The Senate cleared a $41.6 billion package of tax breaks on Tuesday, sending the legislation to President Obama in one of the last substantive moves of this Congress. By a 76 to 16 vote, the Senate passed a measure that would extend more than four dozen tax breaks for both businesses and individuals just through 2014.

Associated Press: 113th Congress ends with more fights than feats: The tempestuous 113th Congress has limped out of Washington for the last time, capping two years of modest and infrequent legislating that was overshadowed by partisan clashes, gridlock and investigations.

"Thank God it's over," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said as he left the Capitol late Tuesday.


Second Opinion

The Hill: ObamaCare fines loom for uninsured: People without insurance are running out of time to avoid the hefty ObamaCare penalties that the IRS will be handing down in 2016. Consumers face a Feb. 15, 2015, deadline to buy insurance, after which those without coverage could be hit with fines of $325 per adult or 2 percent of family income, whichever is higher.


New Polling Numbers

ABC News: Democratic Allegiance Hits a Low; Can the GOP Seize the Opportunity?: The number of Americans identifying themselves as Democrats has dropped to a record low in nearly 34 years of ABC News/Washington Post polls, marking the party’s challenges after its poor showing in the 2014 midterm elections. The Republican Party, by contrast, has gained sharply in popularity, if not allegiance.


Economic News

Washington Post: Checkmate, Putin. Russia’s economy is stuck in a catch-22.: Well, that escalated quickly. It didn't take long for Russia to go from having a reasonable facsimile of an economy to having none at all. Not when oil prices have fallen 50 percent the past few months. That's because Russia never so much had an economy as an oil-exporting business that subsidized everything else. So now that Russian companies don't have petrodollars to turn into rubles, there's less demand for rubles overall — and its price is falling. A lot.


Red Tape Review

USA Today: Obama issues 'executive orders by another name': President Obama has issued a form of executive action known as the presidential memorandum more often than any other president in history — using it to take unilateral action even as he has signed fewer executive orders.

The Hill: EPA to take comments on ozone plan: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will officially kick off the public comment period Wednesday for its proposal to reduce smog-forming ozone pollution. The proposed rule is set to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, according to a notice. That will start the clock on a 90-day period in which any individual, company, group or other entity can submit input to the agency.


Tweets

‏@RoyBlunt: Check out my op-ed in @TheHill today: Republicans' War for Women http://1.usa.gov/1qZHjNA

@KellyAyotte: .@WSJ edit: #Ukraine Freedom Support Act gives Obama the tools he needs against Russia. Question is will he use them? http://on.wsj.com/1sBRWam


Floor Schedule for Wednesday December 17, 2014

Today, the Senate is not in session.


Key House Action

Today, the House is not in session.

Bipartisan Bill Helping Disabled Heads to President’s Desk: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement after the Senate passed H.R. 647, the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which allows individuals with disabilities to set up tax-free savings accounts for qualified expenses