Here’s how Mississippi members of Congress voted on major issues in the week ending Nov. 17.
Republican tax overhaul: Voting 227 for and 205 against, the House on Nov. 16 passed a GOP-drafted bill (HR 1) that would reduce business and personal taxes by $1.5 trillion through fiscal 2027. In an attempt to prevent a corresponding increase in deficit spending, the bill invokes pay-as-you-go budget rules that require its revenue losses to be offset in coming years, possibly by cuts in entitlement spending. For businesses, the bill would permanently reduce the top tax rate on corporate earnings from 35 percent to 20 percent; lower the rate for pass-through entities including S Corporations from 39.6 percent to 25 percent; give multinationals a onetime opportunity repatriate cash from overseas tax havens at a 12 percent rate and introduce new breaks including expedited write-offs of equipment purchases. The bill would initially lower most personal tax bills. But those reductions would be temporary, and by 2023 only 40 percent of households broadly defined as middle class would be paying less income tax than at present, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The bill would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to four; permanently increase the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for joint filers; eliminate the $4,050 personal exemption; increase the child tax credit from $1,000 to $1,600 and grant annual tax credits of $300 for each adult filer over the bill`s first five years. In addition, the bill would end itemized deductions for state and local income and sales taxes and limit deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes. It would repeal deductions for health care expenses, student-loan interest, teachers` personal outlays for school supplies and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring specified groups including veterans. Affluent households would benefit from the bill’s repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which now prevents wealthy filers from using loopholes to avoid taxation, and its scaling back and eventual repeal of the estate tax, which applies to 5,500 of America’s wealthiest families.
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Voting yes: Trent Kelly, R-1, Gregg Harper, R-3, Steve Palazzo, R-4
Voting no: Bennie Thompson, D-2
State and local tax deductions: Voting 234 for and 193 against, the House on Nov. 15 blocked an attempt by Democrats to effectively strip HR 1 (above) of provisions that would end the deductibility of state and local income and sales taxes on federal tax returns and cap the deductibility of local property taxes on federal returns at $10,000. Had Democrats prevailed on this roll call, they would have had an opportunity to force a direct vote on whether to keep those deductions in the tax code.
A yes vote opposed a motion aimed at retaining state and local income and sales tax deductions.
Voting yes: Kelly, Harper, Palazzo
Voting no: Thompson
National Flood Insurance Program: Voting 237 for and 189 against, the House on Nov. 14 passed a bill (HR 2874) to extend the federally run National Flood Insurance Program through fiscal 2022. The bill would allow private insurers to compete for residential customers; permit businesses in flood plains to opt out of the program; impose financial penalties on some properties that have generated repeated claims and require residential premium hikes of 6.5 percent per year compared to 5 percent at present. Backers said private-sector participation is needed to salvage a failing program. Opponents said private insurers would sign up the most actuarially sound customers, leaving behind an unsustainable pool of high-risk properties. Nearly five million residential and commercial properties located in flood plains in 22,000 communities are covered by national flood insurance, which Congress created in 1968 to serve a market shunned by private insurers and to hold down federal disaster payments. But now $20.5 billion in debt despite two recent taxpayer bailouts, the program is borrowing from the Treasury to cover claims from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
A yes vote was to extend national flood insurance through fiscal 2022.
Voting yes: Kelly, Harper
Voting no: Thompson, Palazzo
Unresolved Hurricane Sandy claims: Voting 190 for and 236 against, the House on Nov. 14 defeated a bid by Democrats to delay the effective date of HR 2874 (above) until after the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security have certified that all flood-insurance claims arising from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 have been resolved.
A yes vote was to adopt the motion to help victims of superstorm Sandy.
Voting yes: Thompson
Voting no: Kelly, Harper, Palazzo
$700 billion for military in 2018: Voting 356 for and 70 against, the House on Nov. 14 adopted the conference report on a $699.9 billion military budget (HR 2810) for fiscal 2018, which includes $65.7 billion for combat operations in countries including Niger, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria; $50 billion- plus for active-duty and retiree health care; $706 million to boost Israeli missile defenses; $350 million in military aid to Ukraine and $100 million to bolster Baltic defenses against Russia. The bill requires the administration to develop a strategy to counter Russia`s undermining of Western democracies. In addition, the bill designates climate change a threat to U.S. and global security; funds a 2.4 percent pay raise for uniformed personnel; bars the transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison; funds programs for military victims of sexual assault; prohibits base closures and authorizes tens of billions of dollars to fund conventional and nuclear weapons programs. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said the bill “recognizes the importance of land forces in current and future operations and authorizes over $2 billion to accelerate armored brigade combat team modernization, to include additional Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.”
A yes vote was to adopt the conference report.
Voting yes: Kelly, Thompson, Harper, Palazzo
Floor debate On Dreamers’ Bill: Voting 234 for and 189 against, the House on Nov. 14 blocked a Democratic bid to force floor debate on a bill (HR 3440) now in committee that would grant permanent legal status to the so- called “dreamers” who were brought illegally to the United States as children. The bill would grant relief to up to 800,000 undocumented aliens who were younger than 18 when they entered the United States and have met several conditions including continuous residency for at least four years. This vote occurred during debate on H Res 616. President Trump on Sept. 5 revoked former President Barack Obama’s executive order known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that temporarily shielded dreamers from potential deportation and gave them the right to work legally. Trump allowed six months for Congress to either to put protections into law or stand aside as removals go forward. With the president and congressional Republicans showing little interest in developing a legislative solution as the March deadline approaches, Democrats are forcing votes such as this one to focus public attention on the issue.
A yes vote was to block floor debate on the DACA bill.
Voting yes: Kelly, Harper, Palazzo
Voting no: Thompson
Steven Bradbury confirmation: Voting 50 for and 47 against, the Senate on Nov. 14 confirmed Steven G. Bradbury, a partner in a Washington law firm, as general counsel for the Department of Transportation. The nomination proved controversial over Bradbury’s authorship of memos used by the George W. Bush administration to justify its “enhanced interrogation,” or torture, of detainees suspected of terrorism. He was acting head of the Department of Justice`s Office of Legal Counsel at the time.
A yes vote was to confirm the nominee.
Voting yes: Thad Cochran, R, RogerWicker, R
David Zatezalo, Mine Safety Regulator: Voting 52 for and 48 against, the Senate on Nov. 15 confirmed David G. Zatezalo, a former coal executive and miner, to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Democratic critics noted that his company, Kentucky-based Rhino Resources, clashed repeatedly with Obama administration regulators over health and safety violations in 2011-12 while he was its CEO. Before joining the management side of the industry, he belonged to the United Mine Workers of America.
A yes vote was to confirm Zatezalo.
Voting yes: Thad Cochran, R, Roger Wicker, R
Joseph Otting, Comptroller of the Currency: Voting 54 for and 43 against, the Senate on Nov. 16 confirmed Joseph M. Otting to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an independent Treasury Department unit that oversees national banks and federal savings associations. Otting was president and CEO of OneWest Bank between 2010-15, working with bank founder and now Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin. Otting signed a consent decree with the federal Office of Thrift Supervision in 2011 over the bank’s role in the mortgage-foreclosure crisis.
A yes vote was to confirm Otting.
Voting yes: Cochran, Wicker