Republicans consider cancelling August recess to salvage agenda… Tax overhaul in trouble… Budget cuts threaten forests’ roads, hunting, fishing
Alarmed by the stalemate on healthcare reform, lack of progress on tax reform and appropriations bills that are far behind schedule, Republican lawmakers across Congress are increasingly willing to consider cancelling the month-long August recess.
Senate Republican negotiators reported that they are not close to a deal on healthcare reform and that scheduling a vote by July 4, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pushed, is likely unrealistic.
That impasse has held up work on a budget resolution, which is necessary to move tax reform and the annual appropriations bills.
Once Republicans vote on a budget resolution for 2018, it will wipe out the special vehicle they plan to use to pass healthcare reform with a simple majority vote — a vehicle that was set up by the budget resolution for 2017.
Lawmakers calculate there are only 45 legislative days until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
With the party still sharply divided on health and tax reform, it looks increasingly possible that Republican lawmakers will leave town in July for a month-long break without any major accomplishments under their belts.
“I think there’s a majority that probably supports being here,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), referring to the possibility of cancelling or cutting short the August recess.
He said GOP lawmakers need to make progress on the budget and spending bills to avoid a government shutdown scenario in September, as well as progressing on tax reform.
A key part of House Republicans’ plan to overhaul the way corporations pay taxes is on life support, leaving lawmakers scrambling to save one of President Donald Trump’s biggest priorities and increasing the chances the GOP will simply pass a tax cut instead of overhauling the tax code.
A proposed tax on imports is central to the GOP plan to lower the overall corporate tax rate. It would generate about $1 trillion over the next decade to finance the lower rates without adding to the deficit. It would also provide strong incentives for U.S.-based companies to keep their operations in the United States and perhaps persuade companies to move overseas operations to the U.S.
But the tax faces strong opposition from retailers, automakers and the oil industry, and a growing number of congressional Republicans have come out against it. They worry that it will increase the cost of imports, raising consumer prices.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says there probably aren’t enough votes to pass the import tax in the Senate — not a single Republican senator has publicly endorsed it. And a powerful group of House conservatives says it’s time to dump the idea.
“The sooner we acknowledge that and get on with a plan that actually works and actually can build consensus, the better off we will be,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
WASHINGTON — The roads to the national forests could get bumpier. Trails could get messier. Maintenance on bridges, dams and recreation sites could become tougher under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1.
The White House is seeking only about $100 million in funding for capital improvement and maintenance by the National Forest Service, down from $363 million this year.
That 73 percent cut could have a huge impact on recreation, according to Rebecca Turner, senior director of programs and policy for American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization.
Turner said roads are used to access the trails leading to “majestic overlooks,” and lakes and rivers in the forests. She said the budget cuts would also lead to campsites and facilities not being maintained.
Turner said that if the Forest Service is unable to maintain safe roads, boat launches and campgrounds, they’re likely to close.
“When you can’t access the forests, then it’s much harder to enjoy them,” she said.
John Haynes, a spokesman for the Forest Service, said it would be “premature” to comment on before Congress approves a budget.