We all know about the Paul Ryan budget, which will get a vote on the House floor this week, only one week after it was introduced. Both sides feel they have a story to tell about that budget: Republicans because they’re passing a budget at all, Democrats because that budget is unnecessarily cruel, forces the vast burden of the pain onto the poor and the elderly, and will be a time bomb come November.
But the Senate Democratic leadership is not above scheduling message votes for November themselves. In fact, over the next couple weeks, they’re going to bring to the floor a series of votes, in particular on taxes, to force Republicans to side with corporations and the wealthy. The first will come today:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a procedural vote Monday on legislation to repeal billions of dollars in tax breaks for the largest oil companies.
A Senate Democratic aide told The Hill that Reid filed cloture on the bill, authored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), on Thursday, setting up a procedural vote on Monday at 5:30 p.m. [...]
The legislation eliminates a slew of oil industry tax deductions for major integrated oil companies, using the savings to finance the extension of key renewable energy tax credits.
While this is no-brainer policy in an era of record oil profits, especially when the proceeds get used to further the transition to renewables, it won’t do much for gas prices, and if oil companies stay greedy for the same level of profits, it’ll raise them. Furthermore, Republicans won’t do this in a million years. So that’s a message vote.
Another message vote in the upcoming weeks concerns the Buffett rule:
The third ranking Democrat in the Senate said lawmakers will debate legislation on “tax day” in mid-April, on the filing deadline for personal tax returns, that would ensure millionaires pay at least a 30 percent rate.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that the Senate will debate Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) proposal to enact the so-called “Buffett Rule.”
“You should, if you are very wealthy, God bless you, you made a lot of money, we love you in America, but let’s be fair. You should pay more than your secretary, and that will be on the floor April 15, Tax Day,” Schumer said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
The Buffett rule actually got a really bad CBO score, showing that it only raised $47 billion in revenues over ten years. However, Think Progress explains that this is set against the current law baseline, meaning that it describes an environment where the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are already repealed. They cite other studies showing that the Buffett rule would raise $171 billion or $264 billion over that same ten-year window.
But the numbers are somewhat irrelevant, since this isn’t happening either. The positioning of the vote on Tax Day is a dead giveaway.
Once you sift through all the election-year message votes, you can distill down the work of Congress this week to one priority – removing longstanding securities laws, reducing transparency and increasing the probabilities of fraud against investors:
The House is also expected to sign off on the Senate-approved version of a capital-formation bill dubbed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act. By a wide margin, the House approved the bill, only to see the Senate tweak it following concerns from Democrats that it lacks sufficient investor protections.
That’s your expected Congressional output for the week.