Mike Thompson

Puerto Rico disaster bill would revive older tax breaks
House Democrats eye bigger refunds for low-income residents and tax relief for distilleries

California Rep. Mike Thompson pushed back on GOP criticism, saying it was common practice to combine relief provisions for disaster-stricken areas into one bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats have tucked tax relief for rum distilleries and more generous refunds for lower-income island residents into a disaster aid package intended to help Puerto Rico recover from an unusually destructive spate of recent earthquakes.

Backers say the add-ons are part of an ongoing effort to help Puerto Rico and other territories such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, also hit hard by hurricanes in recent years. But Republicans call the effort a typical congressional maneuver of piling on to a must-pass bill.

House passes restored ‘SALT’ deduction bill
Democrats deal symbolic blow to Republicans’ tax code overhaul

Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., left, and Mike Doyle, D-Pa., make their way to votes in the Capitol on Nov. 15, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats dealt a symbolic blow to Republicans’ tax code overhaul Thursday on the two-year anniversary of that law’s passage. 

On a mostly party-line vote of 218-206, the House passed a bill that would make good on a top Democratic tax priority: lifting a $10,000 limit on state and local tax deductions, known as SALT. It was amended to prevent households earning more than $100 million from claiming unlimited deductions, however, after a procedural motion offered by Republicans won enough bipartisan support.

House Democrats to move on temporary ‘SALT’ cap increase
Ways and Means panel could take up legislation as early as next week, Pascrell says

New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. says the House Ways and Means Committee could take up legislation to increase the SALT deduction cap as early as next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ways and Means Committee could take up legislation as early as next week that would increase a limit on state and local tax deductions that has riled Democrats from high-cost regions, according to a senior panel member.

The “SALT” bill, which has not yet been released, is still in flux, but the $10,000 deduction limit set by the Republican-backed tax code overhaul would be raised to an as-yet undetermined level for three years, according to Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.. A final figure hasn’t been decided on, the New Jersey Democrat said, describing it as “maybe $15,000 or $20,000, whatever that figure’s going to be.”

Photos of the Week
The week of Nov. 22 as captured by Roll Call’s photojournalists

Workers hoist one of three holiday wreaths into place on the front facade of Union Station on Tuesday morning. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A marathon of impeachment hearings dominated the week, but we also saw former Speaker John Boehner return to the Capitol for the unveiling of his portrait before Congress left town for the Thanksgiving recess.

House Democrats feeling the heat on ‘SALT’ cap rollback
Democrats still haven’t touched the cap on state and local tax deductions

Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., D-Va., says Democrats “have to have a SALT vote.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s been almost a year since Democrats assumed control of the House, and they still haven’t touched the cap on state and local tax deductions imposed by the GOP Congress and President Donald Trump that disproportionately affect blue state districts.

That’s starting to become a problem for the dozen or so freshman Democrats who flipped GOP seats after campaigning in part on getting rid of that $10,000 “SALT” limit, which was included as an offset for the 2017 tax code overhaul.

State and local tax cap rollback included in year-end tax talks
Democrats leading SALT discussions say they hope to have legislation ready for markup in October

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., and House Democrats are looking to roll back the cap on annual state and local tax deductions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A senior House Ways and Means Democrat said Wednesday that a full, though temporary, elimination of the current $10,000 cap on annual state and local tax deductions is among the proposals being discussed for a possible markup in the coming weeks.

Committee Democrats also discussed in a Wednesday caucus meeting how a “SALT” rollback and a raft of other tax legislation the committee has advanced or will soon consider might fit into a deal later this year with Senate Republicans, and what offsets might be offered as part of any package, said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-New Jersey.

Gun control legislation again faces political headwinds following three deadly shootings
Trump addressed nation Monday calling for 'real bipartisan solutions' to stop the attacks

A demonstrator holds a sign on the East Front of the Capitol during the student-led March for Our Lives rally on Pennsylvania Avenue to call for action to prevent gun violence on March 24, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Once again, Congress faces the question of whether it will pass any substantive gun control measures to curb mass shootings, this time in the wake of three events in less than a week where gunmen opened fire on crowds in public settings, killing at least 34 people.

And once again, any effort to change the nation’s gun laws must shake free from years of stalled legislation, lately caused by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican lawmakers, and potentially a conservative Supreme Court that could be poised to stop such measures.

‘Come back ... immediately’: Democrats call for special session in aftermath of mass shootings
There has be no sign that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to change the schedule.

From right, Connecticut Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy attend an event with lawmakers and victims to call on Congress to act on gun violence prevention in 2018. Corey Taylor, who was killed in a 2013 Texas shooting, appears in a photo at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democrats in the Senate have steadily called for a special session to address gun violence after a spate of deaths by assailants armed with assault weapons.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for an end to the Senate's August recess after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio claimed more than two dozen lives. 

The Democrats who voted to keep impeachment options open
Why those who do not yet favor an impeachment inquiry voted against blocking Green’s articles

Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Mass., voted against tabling Rep. Al Green's impeachment articles to keep the option on the table but she does not yet support opening an impeachment inquiry. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A House vote last Wednesday to block Texas Rep. Al Green’s articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump led to some contortions from Democrats yet to support impeachment or opening an inquiry, but it mostly came down to this: keeping those options open. 

About two dozen Democrats who had not been on the record in favor of impeachment proceedings voted with Green against tabling, or basically killing, his articles. A total of 95 Democrats voted that way, but most of those members had previously called for Trump’s impeachment or an inquiry. 

Dems push craft beer tax break renewal, and more in bill headed for markup
House Ways and Means announced its markup of tax legislation, which includes credit expansions for lower-income workers and families with kids

Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., talks with reporters as he walks down the stairs after the last vote before the Memorial Day recess at the Capitol in Washington on May 23, 2019. Neal has long complained about the quick passage of the 2017 tax overhaul, which led to “technical” errors in the bill. He has proposed new fixes along with tax credits and renewals in new tax legislation. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Legislation that would beef up the refundable portions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for 2018 and 2019 also includes a repeal of the so-called ″church parking tax,″ that left some nonprofits paying taxes on transportation-related fringe benefits for their employees as part of a change made by the 2017 tax overhaul. Those and other changes in the bill would cost a total of $102.5 billion over a decade, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, with no offsetting revenue increases or spending cuts.

The panel will take up four separate pieces of legislation Thursday, including the tax extenders measure, which also would provide tax benefits for victims of natural disasters that occurred in 2018 and this year. Two other bills on tap would extend some retroactive tax benefits to same-sex married couples and add $1 billion in each of the next two fiscal years for child care funding under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.