Aug 14, 2015 - 12:00pm

Straight Outta Congress: A Busy Fall Awaits


Senior Director, Strategic Communications

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Straight Outta Town
Straight Outta Town

Congress started to make headway on several important pieces of legislation this summer, including measures related to transportation funding, immigration and cybersecurity. However, lawmakers skipped town for recess this month before actually passing any of them.

As a result, they have a long list of unfinished business to attend to when they return in September, with several critical deadlines looming on the horizon. Here, in the spirit of a certain new movie, is why lawmakers must be ready to work quickly when they return to Washington.

For starters, Congress this summer managed to save the nearly broke federal Highway Trust Fund – which pays to repair and replace ailing roads and bridges around the country – but for only another couple months. It's the 35th time Congress has kicked the can down the road on the trust fund, leaving overdue road repairs and other construction projects mired in uncertainty.

Without a long-term plan to rebuild our nation's transportation infrastructure (like, say, raising the gas tax), Americans will continue to find that more roads, highways and bridges are…

Outta Service

 

Meanwhile, lawmakers in both chambers have introduced bills to overturn one of many flawed provisions of the health care law – a provision known as the excise tax, or Cadillac Tax. Under the rule, the government will in the coming years start collecting a 40 percent tax on the value of many employer-sponsored health care plans.

If lawmakers don’t scrap the excise tax soon, health care costs for many businesses and their employees will soon be (even more)...

Outta Control

 

The House and Senate are also considering bills to renew the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, under which foreign investors can obtain residency in the U.S. by injecting at least $1 million into a business or project that creates at least 10 U.S. jobs. The EB-5 program has spurred more than $5 billion in foreign direct investment since 2005, which has supported more than 31,000 jobs around the country.

The initiative is slated to expire at the end September. It’s imperative the lawmakers strengthen and renew the program, because without EB-5, countless new companies and critical infrastructure projects would be...

Outta Funding

 

Devastating cyberattacks against the federal government and several large corporations lately have thrown cybersecurity back into the spotlight in Washington, prompting Congress to move forward on much-needed legislation that would encourage companies to share cyber-related information with one another in an effort to thwart future attacks.

The House has already passed such a bill, but the Senate just before recess abandoned plans to vote on its version, called the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). Without legislation like CISA, U.S. companies – particularly small businesses – will remain overly vulnerable to data breaches and other cyberattacks that can easily put them...

Outta Business

 

Last but certainly not least, it has been six weeks since Congress allowed the Export-Import Bank’s charter expired. For the past 80 years, the bank has helped thousands of U.S. businesses sell their products abroad, and by collecting fees for its services, the agency has returned billions of dollars in revenue to the U.S. Treasury.

Without the agency, the government will lose that much-needed revenue. But more importantly, the 3,000 small businesses and 200,000 American workers that depend on Ex-Im (like Mike Lizotte of Manhasset Specialty Company, pictured below) are...

Outta Luck Ex-Im

 

Clearly, Congress has a lot on its plate, with several deadlines looming later this year. What’s more, all of this falls against the backdrop of a massive budget battle, with Congress and the White House reportedly barreling toward another government shutdown in October if they can’t come to an accord over a federal spending plan.

In other words, lawmakers better return next month ready to hit the ground running, because on many of these issues, Congress is nearly...

Outta Time

About the Author

About the Author

J.D. Harrison
Senior Director, Strategic Communications

J.D. Harrison is the senior director for strategic communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.