VETERANS DAY GETS A FULL WEEK IN THE SENATE — AND THAT MEANS A SPENDING BILL. The House is out this week with members celebrating Veterans Day back in their home districts but the Senate is working on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill and the National Defense Authorization Act.
If the veterans bill, sometimes known as MilConVA, passes as expected it would be the first time this year that Democrats have allowed a vote on a spending bill of any kind. Republicans have been happy to cast this as a convenient political move ahead of Veterans Day but many budget observers have said for months that if any bill were going to pass, it would be this one. MilConVA has traditionally been one of the least controversial spending measures for Congress and Republicans were surprised when Democrats blocked it earlier this year.
Now that there’s a spending deal in place it’s easier for Dems to get behind bills that conform to that deal. It also doesn’t hurt that the Veterans bill could provide the foundation for the omnibus spending bill that leaders are currently negotiating. Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski has a good rundown:
The MilCon-VA measure is the first appropriations bill the Senate has proceeded to this fiscal year, with Democrats saying the measure could form the basis for an omnibus bill during the December debate on keeping the government funded past Dec. 11.
“We are one step closer to putting veterans first and partisanship aside,” Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., the corresponding Appropriations subcommittee chairman, said in a statement after the Nov. 5 vote to proceed to that bill. “This bipartisan bill funds veterans’ care at record levels — $1.1 billion above what the president requested.”
PFIZER’S TAX BILL GAME. The world has Burger King and Tim Hortons to thank for bringing the term tax inversion to the national stage last year, but the maneuver to shift a U.S. company’s tax base overseas is still creating controversy in the corporate world. The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin has a look at how pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is strategically managing its tax reporting amid an attempt at an upcoming inversion.
The pharmaceutical company, which is exploring a merger with Allergan PLC that could put the combined company’s legal address outside the U.S., has been complaining that the U.S. tax system hobbles its ability to compete globally. But Pfizer’s accounting methods raise its reported tax rate, without increasing the actual taxes the company pays. More than two-thirds of the company’s 2014 tax expense—$2.2 billion out of $3.1 billion—was money the company will actually pay only if and when it chooses to repatriate foreign profits.
“It gives a distorted picture of how much tax they’re paying,” said Marty Sullivan, chief economist at Tax Analysts, the nonprofit publisher of Tax Notes. “Their tax situation is one of the most advantageous of any major U.S. corporation.”
TRUMP, CLINTON AND THE TRADE DEAL. Trade backers are out this week celebrating the public release of the Trans Pacific Partnership but as Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports the deal faces opponents from both parties. The biggest challengers might be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
When asked whether Clinton’s opposition made it more difficult for pro-trade Democrats to back the sweeping Pacific Rim trade agreement, one Senate Democrat who voted against TPA said bluntly: “Yes.”
On the other end, conservative opponents of Obama’s trade agenda are seizing on Trump’s rise in the Republican presidential primary to blunt momentum for the TPP. The issue has driven a rift through the GOP field: Trump and Ted Cruz are skeptics, while Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been warm to it.