Week Ending June 19, 2014
New House GOP Leaders Elected
In the aftermath of the surprise primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Cantor announced he would also step down from his GOP leadership position. The announcement set off a chain reaction of internal party elections. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the current Majority Whip, was easily elected to succeed Cantor, but only after a skirmish in the House Republican Conference among different factions as conservatives sought more influence in the GOP caucus. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was elected to succeed McCarthy as Whip.
House Committee Approves Permanent Ban on State & Local Government Taxation of Internet Access
The House Judiciary Committee voted 30 to 4 to approve the “Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act” (ITFA) (H.R. 3086), which would permanently ban state and local government taxation of internet access. The current seven-year tax moratorium ends November 1, 2014. Before final committee passage, the committee voted 12 to 21, along largely party lines, to reject Ranking Member John Conyers’ (D-MI) amendment, which would have extended the moratorium only four years and retain tax authority for roughly 10 “grandfathered” states. We expect GOP leaders to move the measure quickly – possibly next week – to a House floor vote. AFSCME spearheaded labor union opposition to ITFA, and 12 unions signed onto an opposition letter. A coalition of local government interest groups also opposed this bill, and the National Governors Association expressed disappointment with the committee vote.
During the House debate, there was bipartisan support for advancing internet sales tax legislation, which would enable state and local governments to collect sales tax from internet and remote vendors. In the Senate, bipartisan co-sponsors of the Senate-approved Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) are considering options to combine MFA & ITFA into one package and incorporate it in a future “must pass” bill.
President Obama to Sign Executive Order on LGBT Non-Discrimination
President Obama announced he will sign an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This action will protect an additional 16 million Americans, more than 20% of the American workforce, from workplace discrimination. AFSCME applauds this action as the union continues to press for a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to protect millions more. The Senate passed ENDA with strong support last year, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has yet to schedule a House vote.
New Data on Affordable Care Act (ACA) Shows it is Making Coverage Affordable
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released data this week showing the impact that ACA tax credits were having on consumers purchasing health coverage through the federally operated exchange (comparable data for state exchanges is not available). Nearly 7 in 10 consumers who obtained coverage through the federal exchange are paying a premium of $100 or less per month. On average, tax credits reduced the average monthly premium from $346 before tax credits to $82 after tax credits were applied. The most popular level of coverage selected was a “silver” level plan, which is less generous than the coverage provided by most large employers.
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