ACR Newsletter

Welcome to the Alliance for Charitable Reform’s biweekly newsletter. Here we’ll provide you with news and views on issues that impact philanthropy.

Washington Roundup | Consider This | Top Reads

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Friday, November 26, 2014

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Latest Development: IRA Charitable Rollover Deal is Still Tentative
>> Federal: Updated Election Results
>> Federal: House Ways and Means Committee
>> Federal: Senate Finance Committee
>> Consider This: Big Picture
>> Bonus Consider This: Pardon Me
>> Top Reads: ACR Signs Letter Calling for Charity-Related Provisions to be Made Permanent

With Thanksgiving celebrations kicking off tomorrow, we present you with an early edition of the ACR newsletter. Make sure you check out our Thanksgiving “Did you know?” at the end of this newsletter about the annual pardoning of the turkey.

Washington Roundup

Congress is in recess for the week of Thanksgiving and will return on December 1.

Latest Development: IRA Charitable Rollover Deal is Still Tentative

Yesterday, press reports were that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) were closing in on a deal to renew and make permanent various expiring tax provisions. This tentative deal – or trial balloon – would make permanent ten provisions, including the IRA charitable rollover. Two other charitable provisions would also be permanently extended: the deduction for conservation easement contributions and the deduction for gifts of food inventory.

However, just hours after these reports surfaced, the White House issued a veto threat on the tentative deal, saying the package would be too generous to businesses and too stingy towards working families. While it’s certainly better to be included in a tentative deal than excluded, the deal is far from done. Members will return to town on Monday, at which point we expect congressional Republicans and Democrats to weigh in on the Reid/Camp negotiation.

Updated Election Results

Since our last newsletter update, two of the outstanding Senate races have been resolved – Virginia’s Democratic Senator Mark Warner defeated challenger Ed Gillespie (R) by less than a point, and in Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R) ousted incumbent Senator Mark Begich (D) 48.8 to 45.6 percent. Republicans have now gained eight seats in the Senate, bringing the ratio of Republicans to Democrats to 53-46. Republicans have the chance to gain one more seat on December 6 when incumbent Mary Landrieu (D) faces Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) in a run-off. Current polling does not bode well for Landrieu – a November 19 poll showed Cassidy leading Landrieu by 11 points.

In the House, Republicans increased their majority to 244-188, with three races still outstanding, two of which are expected to stay Republican. The third, Arizona’s second district, will involve a recount, which will start on December 1 at the earliest. Regardless of these outstanding races, Republicans captured their largest majority in decades.

House Ways and Means Committee

Last week, the House Republican Steering Committee finalized its recommendations for chairmen next year. As expected, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will assume the Chair for Ways and Means. His challenger, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) reportedly withdrew his name from consideration after he realized he would not win. The full House GOP conference approved Ryan’s recommendation late last week.

For the Democrats, the House Democratic Caucus selected current Ways and Means Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI) to retain his post in the next Congress. Levin said he looks forward to working with Ryan, and he has “admired his determination, his interest in a broad range of issues, and the humor with which he has approached his intensive work in Congress.” In a letter to his colleagues last week, Levin told Democrats he would push ardently for tax policies that reform corporate tax inversions and trade negotiations.

Regarding filling vacancies on the committee, the House Republican Steering Committee formally added Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD), Congressman Pat Meehan (R-PA), Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congressman George Holding (R-NC) to Ways and Means for the 114th Congress.

On the Democratic side, final committee ratios have yet to be determined. If Democrats retain the same number of seats, current Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is expected to fill the available position left by Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), but no timeline has been set as of this writing.

Senate Finance Committee

In the Senate, committee assignments may not be set until after the Louisiana runoff, since the size and ratios of each Committee typically reflect the Senate’s overall breakdown. It is all but assured that current Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will take over the Senate Finance Committee chairmanship. Republicans will likely add at least one new member to the Finance Committee to reflect their majority, and they could add an additional seat if Senator Landrieu loses the runoff. Early reports suggest Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) are the contenders for these spots. Both Heller and Coats confirmed their interest in joining the Committee.

Due to the new ratio in the Senate, Democrats will lose at least one seat on the committee, and will likely not replace the retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). However, they may lose an additional seat if Senator Landrieu loses, in which case Virginia Senator Mark Warner could also be dropped, since he is the most junior Democrat on the panel. We expect the committee makeup to resemble the current ratio (13 Democrats and 11 Republicans) but, ultimately, incoming Majority Leader McConnell must make that final determination.

Consider This: Big Picture

As Democrats reflect on their losses and Republicans get ready to assume control in both the House and Senate, attention is already turning to 2016. This means that the window for any major legislative initiatives could be just six months once the new Congress convenes. Additionally, to protect their majority and increase their chances of taking back the White House in 2016, Republicans need to take a thoughtful approach to what bills they decide to support and oppose over the next two years.

One of the most important considerations for Senate Republicans is that they could lose their majority in two years. In 2016, Republicans will have to defend 24 seats to Democrats’ 10. Seven of those Republican seats are in states won by President Obama in 2008 and 2012. What does that mean in terms of legislating? Some hope Republicans will attempt to compromise and pass legislation, rebranding themselves as the party ‘for’ something, rather than ‘the party of no’ and giving their vulnerable members and their Presidential nominee a platform in 2016. However, given the factions within the Republican Party and the fact that neither chamber has a supermajority to override Presidential vetoes, only time will tell if incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will be able to unite their party and work with the administration to achieve their policy goals.

Bonus Consider This: Pardon Me

After such a positive response from our last “Did you know?” about Halloween, we give you a bonus DYK about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday rife with tradition—from splitting the wishbone to watching the Detroit Lions (since 1934, at least). One DC-centric tradition is the annual pardoning of the turkey by the President. The tradition, while a little silly, raises the question, when was the first official turkey pardon?

According to this blog post from the White House, the pardoning tradition may find its roots in Abraham Lincoln’s day when he honored the wish of his son, Tad, and spared the turkey destined for the family’s Christmas dinner. In 1963, President Kennedy was said to have sent a turkey provided for him back to the farm, as did President Nixon during his administration. Nixon even held a formal receiving ceremony and photo op. However, President George H.W. Bush gave the first official turkey pardon in 1989. The pardoned gobbler was eventually sent to the forebodingly-named Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia.

Courtesy Whitehouse.gov

Top Reads

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Review past editions of the ACR newsletter below.

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2010 (click to expand)