The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Corporate tax bill: is a Kennedy filibuster on the cards?

Yet another No Lobbyist Left Behind bill is on its way to final passage: the conference on HR 4520, the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, has done its work (I nearly typed worst), and the bill is winging its way to the House and Senate.

The bill - whose primary purpose is to remove the foreign sales corporation tax break that the WTO found against - is stuffed with tax breaks [1]. Under the conference version, some shelters would be closed down, but, in an example of legislative churning designed to maximise campaign contributions, they get replaced by shiny new tax gizmos [2].

(An interesting piece from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities marks our card with some of the techniques used to minimise the apparent cost of tax breaks.)

The political juice, however, comes in a scheme to end the Tobacco Quota Program subsidies, in exchange for buyout payments of around $10 billion. The Senate version of this legislation had included a provision to place tobacco once more under the jurisdiction of the FDA: the conference committee removed this from its version.

And who should be the leading senatorial light behind the FDA proposal but Kerry stalwart Ted Kennedy. He's apparently threatening a filibuster - his press release has fighting talk without using the F-word.

(It has taken around half an hour to track down that this was SA 3563 to HR 4520 - Jesus! Why don't folks use the bill and amendment numbers that God gave them, for fuck's sake!)

The last time we dealt with a proposed Kennedy filibuster here, it was the Medicare bill I mentioned yesterday: 22 Dem senators screwed that one for him: are the odds better on tobacco?

There's not much time left, of course...

  1. My July 13 piece looks at General Electric's success in lobbying to procure a tax provision (virtually) all of its own. It's not alone in having its own page(s) of the tax code, of course.

  2. It works out from K Street's viewpoint too: no lobbyist gets paid for a tax break he negotiated ten years ago. New breaks every year keep the moolah flooding in.


Lobbying on one provision in the bill pitted Boeing against Caterpillar, apparently.

The tobacco buyout is huge in John Edwards' North Carolina, of course: it's been causing some fun and games in the race to fill the senate seat Edwards is about to vacate.

And a generous write-off for SUV purchases is being scaled back: pick-up trucks still qualify for full write-offs, though. Pick the lobbying bones out of that!


The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has published a short comment on the conference version of HR4520: it computes the underestimate in the Joint Committee on Taxation's number for the effect of the bill on the 2005-14 deficit at $79.5 billion:

The official number assumes that temporary tax breaks will be allowed to lapse; whereas the chances of that happening rank with that of Iraqi WMD turning up.

With a total 2005-14 deficit estimated a month ago by the Congressional Budget Office at $2.29 trillion, the message from Congress seems to be, Why worry about a measly 80 big ones?

And what has Kerry's reaction been to the conference bill's bloat? I've not yet managed to find a specific comment.

The Senate counterpart to HR 4520, S 1637, passed 92-5 on May 11, with both Kerry and Edwards not voting; HR 4520 passed the Senate on July 15, including SA 3563, the FDA amendment that the conference threw out.

(For the record, the vote on SA 3563 passed 78-15, with the naysayers being GOP except for Jeffords; neither Kerry nor Edwards voted.)

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