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Legislative update: Budget resolutions approved by House, Senate

Budget resolutions approved by House, Senate

Before departing for a spring recess, Congress made headway toward possibly adopting a federal budget.


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With the passage by both chambers of their respective versions of the budget this week on a mostly party-line basis, congressional leaders have set in progress a bicameral negotiation which will begin in earnest when an expected conference committee is convened after Congress returns to Washington in early April 2015.

A congressional budget resolution, provided the House and Senate agree to a final version, would establish revenue targets for future appropriations and tax legislation.

A budget resolution does not appropriate funds or change tax law, and it is not signed by the president.

House action

The House passed its budget on Thursday, March 26, after considering several alternative budgets offered by a number of members. The final budget adopted was very similar to the budget approved and reported last week by the House Budget Committee with some modifications largely related to defense spending levels.

Senate action

The Senate passed its version of a budget in the early morning hours on Friday, March 27. During the long floor deliberation, the Senate adopted several dozen amendments to the version of the bill passed by the Senate Budget Committee, including a few amendments that were focused on tax-related matters.

While passage of these amendments does not begin the process of enacting any tax legislation, the show of support for the matters addressed by the amendments may influence the trajectory of negotiations on future tax issues—such as tax reform and the extension of some expiring tax provisions.

Among the amendments to the budget resolution adopted by the Senate were those addressing the following tax-related issues:

  • Support for extending and expanding refundable tax provisions that benefit working families, childless workers, and the middle class
  • Opposition to federal taxes or fees imposed on carbon emissions from any product or entity that is a direct or indirect source of emissions
  • Support for permanently increasing the maximum amount of the section 179 small business expensing allowance to $1 million and the investment limitation to $2.5 million and indexing them both for inflation
  • Support for an undefined decrease in the corporate income tax as a method for preventing U.S. jobs from being moved overseas
  • Repeal of the federal estate tax

In addition, the Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) that requires the Joint Committee on Taxation to provide, in addition to a traditional estimate, a macroeconomic revenue estimate for any future tax legislation with a budget impact of $15 billion or greater.

The issue of macroeconomic versus traditional scoring is likely to be a focus of negotiation between the House and Senate as they enter a conference committee to attempt to reconcile the two different budgets.

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