BCA's Washington Briefing

follow us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on youtube March 7, 2014



President Obama's proposed budget unveiled this week seeks more than $600 billion in new spending, new taxes, lower payments to health providers, and an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, the Washington Post reported. "The request sent to Congress offers a smorgasbord of liberal policy ideas in a year when riling up the Democratic base and drawing a vivid contrast with Republicans are critical to Obama's hopes of preserving his party's imperiled majority in the Senate," the Post reported.


Obama's budget would raise taxes by more than $1 trillion. Most of the taxes would be on major businesses that provide jobs, dividends to retirees and investors, and the wealthy. Obama wants to expand tax credits for the poor, spend some on roads and bridges and universal preschool education, a program that is the prerogative of states. His budget proposes $56 billion in new spending on federal agencies. (U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions said Obama is asking Congress to raise the spending limit in contravention of the spending law that Obama signed. "This is the way a nation goes broke," Sessions said.)


Obama wants: limit the value of retirement savings accounts, a new tobacco tax, cuts in Medicare, increased premiums on seniors, and drug companies to offer larger discounts on prescription drugs. The budget also would guarantee a less-generous increase in Social Security benefits to keep pace with inflation.

"After years of fiscal and economic mismanagement, the president has offered perhaps his most irresponsible budget yet," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much, it would hurt our economy and cost jobs."

Obama wants to focus on recovery of the economy that he inherited in 2009. "We have made progress over the last 5 years. But our work is not done," he wrote. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the deficit will be 4 percent of the size of the economy in 2024 and the debt will grow to 79 percent of Gross Domestic Product.



The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments against the legal precedent that has caused a proliferation of securities class-action lawsuits over the past quarter-century. The case is Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund, Inc


National Association of Manufacturers Senior Vice President and General Counsel Linda Kelly issued this statement about the case: "Securities class-action lawsuits not only siphon productive capital out of the economy, but they also inflict significant cost burdens on manufacturers, while impairing their ability to grow and create jobs. The result is no net benefit to shareholders and enormous amounts of resources diverted toward legal fees and settlements." 


Conservative and liberal newspapers weighed in on the case. 


The Wall Street Journal said the Supreme Court has a chance to fix a flawed 1988 securities ruling in Basic v. Levinson. The Journal hopes that Chief Justice John Roberts, who could be a swing vote, alters the Basic v. Levinson ruling to make it more difficult for plaintiffs to successfully launch such suits. The Washington Post reported that, after five hours of argument, it did not appear there were five justices willing to overturn the 'fraud on the market' Basic v. Levinson ruling but "it also seemed unlikely the ... court would be satisfied with the status quo." The New York Times reported that the court "seemed ready to impose new limits on securities fraud suits that would make it harder for investors to band together to pursue claims that they were misled when they bought or sold securities," but "did not seem inclined to issue a ruling that would put an end to most such suits." 


The Manufacturers' Center for Legal Action team works to rein in regulatory overreach, protect our hard-fought legislative gains and ensure a level playing field for manufacturers. The team will engage in party litigation, provide amicus support in key cases and promote education about the legal issues that impact the vitality of the manufacturing sector. Our ability to grow, innovate and create jobs is at stake. 


The Business Council of Alabama is the exclusive Alabama representative of the National Association of Manufacturers.



The National Restaurant Association said it's disappointed in new Obamacare regulations requiring employers to turn over significant employee data to the Internal Revenue Service in 2016. The rules for businesses and their insurers under the Affordable Care Act have a timetable of only 10 months before data tracking begins and one year and 10 months until the rules go into effect. 


The reporting rules will help the IRS enforce the health care law's employer and individual mandates and calculate the monthly fines against large employers who fail to offer qualifying health care coverage to full-time employees. The National Restaurant Association last year asked the IRS to give employers maximum flexibility in how they report data, the NRA said. 


NRA President and CEO Dawn Sweeney said in a statement that the NRA is disappointed in the regulations: "We asked the IRS to offer options for a truly streamlined reporting process, taking into consideration the employer reporting requirements holistically. Our repeated requests to the IRS for prospective reporting, which would lessen the burden placed on employers and employees, have gone ignored. Employers will face ongoing costs in order to obtain, maintain and protect their employees' personal information. Many employers will need to add administrative personnel and new IT systems to track the necessary information and process employee notices. Employers will also need to obtain the data storage solutions needed to protect employee information from potential data breaches. Our industry has never needed to track such a massive outflow of employee data."


Lawmakers divided on possible 2017 BRAC round

Federal Times (Medici 3/38) "When it comes to a new round of base closures in 2017, lawmakers are split between lukewarm support, vehement opposition and general uncertainty. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said while Congress has to make tough budget decisions about the Defense Department, he does not think there should be another base realignment and closure (BRAC) round. 'Not at this point in time. I don't think that is necessary', Hoyer said.


"DoD Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a Feb. 24 speech DoD will ask Congress for another BRAC round for 2017 that would cut billions from its infrastructure costs. In 2004, DoD estimated it had about 25 percent excess infrastructure. The 2005 base realignment and closure process cut roughly 3 percent of that. The department saves more than $12 billion a year from the five BRAC rounds announced between 1988 and 2005 and is hoping to save more in a future consolidation.

"The proposed 2017 round would also help DoD reduce the size of its civilian workforce by several percentage points, according to DoD officials. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said many people are attracted to the idea of 2017 BRAC because in theory it takes politics out of the process but he is not sure he would support it. 'I would have to take a closer look at that one and analyze it in the context of the last round', Sarbanes said."

White House announces new Obamacare delay

The Hill (Viebeck 3/5) "The White House on Wednesday announced a new ObamaCare delay that will allow some consumers to keep health plans that do not meet the law's standards until past the end of the Obama presidency. The policy also means that one of the key features of the Affordable Care Act - minimum healthcare benefit requirements - will not be in place for all Americans when President Obama leaves office.


"Obama and many Democratic lawmakers made promises that consumers could keep their current coverage under the healthcare law, and Republicans were eager to use those statements as leverage in their effort to retake the Senate. Under the new rules, insurers in states that allow the extension will be able to maintain policies that do not provide the minimum benefits required by ObamaCare.

"The policy prolongs the administration's 'keep your plan' fix from last fall and applies to the individual and small-group insurance markets, potentially affecting 1.5 million people, officials said. Additionally, the administration extended the next open enrollment period by one month and ordered it to start in November of this year rather than October ... until after the election, another move that could benefit Democrats. The last-minute adjustments have angered insurance companies and provided fodder for Republican claims that Obama officials are rewriting the law as they go."

House votes a zero fine for violating Obamacare

The Weekly Standard (Anderson 3/6) "The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday afternoon to make the fine/'tax' for violating Obamacare's individual mandate $0 for this year, and it did so by the wide margin of 90 votes (250 to 160). That's 83 more than the 7-vote margin (219 to 212) by which Obamacare passed the House four Marches ago.  Moreover, 27 Democrats voted for today's legislation-27 more than the number of Republicans who voted for Obamacare when it passed.  In all, 223 Republicans voted for today's bill, while only one-Paul Broun of Georgia-voted against it.  Here's the member-by-member tally for the vote.


"Earlier today, the Obama White House released a 3-paragraph statement  on the legislation, noting that Obamacare 'helps millions of Americans stay on their parents' plans until age 26' - which, of course, has nothing to do with the individual mandate or the fine/'tax' for violating it-and saying that if President Obama were presented with the legislation, 'he would veto it'.


"Given the wide margin by which the legislation passed the House, along with the significant level of bipartisan support with which it passed, perhaps the Senate will actually take a vote, pass the bill, and give Obama that chance. That would provide a welcome reminder to the American people of the extent to which Obama's centerpiece legislation relies upon coercion."


US Chamber of Commerce   National Association of Manufacturers