Voter Education – again

Well, I was wrong about when Congress was going to be in recess (I wonder if they’re outside playing in the snow?). I thought it was last week, but yesterday’s paper had the weekly voting summary for our delegation. I also learned in various ways that they *are* in recess this week – meaning that when they return, they’ll only have 4 days to fund the Department of Homeland Security without it shutting down.

Herewith, the week’s reported votes, how Representative McSally voted, and my verdicts.

  1. “Keystone Pipeline, Climate Change” [R] (S 1) – The House passed the Senate’s bill on the Keystone XL Pipeline, while also including the declaration (from the bill itself, not from the Arizona Daily Star) that “climate change is real and not a hoax.” There is no indication in the paper’s summary of the bill whether it acknowledges humanity’s role in climate change, but at least Congress is on record as saying it’s real. The paper *does* include this [slightly] editorial comment: “Usurping authority over the international project from the Department of State and White House, the bill ‘deems’ that environmental and safety hurdles have been cleared and that US permits for construction, operation and maintenance must be issued.” McSally voted FOR. As I’ve noted before, I don’t have an opinion on whether the pipeline should be built or not, but I *do* have an opinion on whether environmental laws should be adhered to. They must. My verdict: FAIL.
  2. “Liability for Oil Spills” [D] (amendment to S 1, above) – This amendment would have required TransCanada Corp. to contribute to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund at the rate of 8 cents per barrel. They are currently spared from making this payment due to an IRS ruling under which oil extracted from tar sands is exempted. McSally voted AGAINST. I don’t know why or when the IRS made this ruling, but I think it was in error, and that *all* oil transporters (ships, railcars, pipelines, etc.) should contribute to the trust fund. My verdict: FAIL.
  3. “Charitable Deductions, National Debt” [R] (HR 644) – This bill makes permanent the tax deductions received by businesses for donating food inventories to charitable organizations. The loss to the Treasury from this action is estimated to be about $2.2 billion over 10 years. Also, the bill makes permanent the tax deductions for conservation easements, and allows charitable contributions from IRAs. The loss to the Treasury from this part of the measure wasn’t stated. McSally voted FOR. I don’t know all the ins and outs of this bill, but from the summary provided by the Star, these sound like worthy deductions (even though they further complicate the Tax Code and also reduce revenue a bit). My verdict: PASS.
  4. “Corporate Tax Avoidance” [D] (amendment to HR 644, above) – This amendment would have denied the tax benefits in HR 644 to companies that reincorporate overseas to avoid US taxes. McSally voted AGAINST. I don’t see why any company that is avoiding paying US taxes should be getting US tax breaks. My verdict: FAIL.
  5. “Depreciation Breaks, Federal Deficits” [R] (HR 636) – This bill makes permanent another set of tax breaks, this time for small and medium-sized businesses to immediately depreciate the full cost of equipment and certain other assets. The loss to the Treasury from this action is estimated at about $77 billion through 2025. The Star‘s summary doesn’t indicate how “small and medium-sized businesses” are defined, but it does say that the limit for the immediate writeoff would be $500,000 annually, with a total writeoff limit of $2 million per year. McSally voted FOR. I will have to ABSTAIN on this one. Philosophically, I’m opposed to making the Tax Code more complicated (which this doesn’t necessarily do, because these particular breaks have been renewed annually for over a decade), and I’m also opposed to giving more tax breaks to companies – in general. But these are targeted toward smaller businesses, and they’ve been in effect for several years, and like a lot of “temporary” actions the Government has taken over the years, they’ve become more-or-less permanent anyway. I would have to know more about the specific targets, the tax break’s past effectiveness, and other aspects of this bill to make an informed decision on McSally’s vote.
  6. “Pay-As-You-Go Tax Break” [D] (amendment to HR 636, above) – This amendment would have limited the depreciation breaks in HR 636 to one year (as existed previously), and would have required that the lost revenue ($77 billion) be made up elsewhere in the budget. McSally voted AGAINST. I think making HR 636 revenue-neutral would have been a good idea; I don’t know about the year-by-year status of the tax break. Companies don’t like uncertainty. I’m sure many would say, “Either make it permanent (our preference, of course!) or kill it, but give us a certainty one way or the other!” I will give this vote a reluctant PASS.

This week, Representative McSally voted strictly with her party – a perfect 6-0 record. Her cumulative total is now Party Line – 27; Independent – 1; Unknown – 1. As far as voting the way I (think I) would have voted, she’s now at 18 Fails, 7 Passes, and 4 Abstains.

For more information on the tax break votes, here’s an Associated Press article (via the Memphis Daily News). This article was also published in the Star.

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