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Morning Brief: Senate Stalls Buffett Rule

by Renewing America Staff
April 17, 2012

President Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to Warren Buffet at a White House ceremony on February 15, 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters) President Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to Warren Buffet at a White House ceremony on February 15, 2011. (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

The Senate failed to muster the sixty votes necessary to advance the debate on the proposed “Buffett Rule” (TheHill). The mostly party line 51-45 vote comes after the Obama administration stepped up its promotion of the 30 percent minimum income tax rate on those making more than $2 million in a year, which begins to phase in at $1 million. Polls suggest six in ten Americans support the measure, although the plan is expected to raise only $47 billion over the next decade.

As the United States continues to run budgets with high deficits, politicians debate different plans to reduce government costs and to raise revenue. This CFR Backgrounder by Jonathan Masters outlines the competing policy paths on federal fiscal reform and the global consequences for failing to bring down U.S. debt.

Debt and deficits. Read more from experts on the challenges in reducing U.S. debt.

Corporate Regulation and Taxation

Congress Frustrates Business Leaders

As both parties shift into campaign mode, business leaders are increasingly frustrated with Congress (TheHill). Congress has failed to address a variety of issues from the sixty provisions of the tax code that expired last year, to reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and passing a new highway bill. A representative of a business group opined: “It’s generally frustrating that we have not been able to move things along. It’s a huge election year–[that’s] not an excuse in our opinion. There’s work to be done.”

CFR Senior Fellow Ted Alden wrote a blog post earlier this year outlining measures congress could make progress on, even in an election year. His proposals touched upon immigration, infrastructure, corporate taxation, and foreign investment.

Corporate regulation and taxation. Read more from top economists and business experts on solutions for addressing corporate tax reform.

International Trade and Investment

Federal Approval for Largest LNG Terminal

Cheniere Energy received federal approval to build the nation’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal (Bloomberg). Surging shale gas production has pushed the U.S. price of natural gas to record lows, while Japanese utilities are paying ten times more to import LNG to compensate for idled nuclear reactors. Trade opportunities are limited because there are few LNG terminals in the United States. Analysts say expanding LNG infrastructure could change the shale gas boom into an export boom.

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Education and Human Capital

Slow Spending of Race to the Top Funds

After almost two years, Washington, DC and the eleven states that won four year Race to the Top grants have only spent 14 percent of their money (EducationWeek). Most states have cut their own education department budgets, which has weakened their ability to coordinate and support the programs funded by the federal program. Education departments have faced difficulty in hiring people to implement plans; much of the early vendor spending has been to bring in outside consultants.

States Split over Arizona Immigration Law

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the controversial Arizona immigration law that requires local police to verify immigration status of a criminal suspect; twenty-seven states have joined friend-of-the-court briefs, split along party lines (Stateline). The law’s detractors argue it infringes upon the federal government’s role in setting a consistent nationwide immigration enforcement policy, while proponents cite the state’s authority and obligation to protect its citizens.

CFR Senior Fellow Ted Alden recently gave an interview in which he discussed immigration reform and the potential significance of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

Steven J. Markovich holds an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

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