The 114th Congress is now officially under way, with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the new Majority Leader in the Republican-controlled Senate and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH 8) continuing as Speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where Republicans have the biggest majority since the 1920s.
The beginning of any new Congress is a little creaky, like an engine that hasn’t been run in a while and needs to warm up (or, come to think of it, the way I feel most mornings!). New members need to get oriented to Washington, and there is a lot of shuffling of committee assignments and office locations that must take place.
But a new Congress involving a change in party control is particularly clunky, like an engine that has built up some rust and other deposits. It starts, but it makes some weird noises at first until the oil can circulate enough to lubricate all the parts (or, come to think of it, the way I felt this morning!).
To mix metaphors even more, the early going in the new Senate has been a bit like the beginning of a chess match or a football game between two opponents not quite sure how they want to play the game. Republicans haven’t controlled the Senate in eight years, and Sen. McConnell has never been Majority Leader, although he’s been a member of Senate Republican leadership for years.
Democrats, on the other hand, are still a bit shell-shocked from their November drubbing, and Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is both recovering from a nasty accident he suffered while exercising on New Year’s Day and getting used to his new role.
As for the House, Speaker Boehner may be enjoying the largest Republican majority since the 1920s, but that doesn’t mean he has an easier job. In fact, he lost 52 Republican votes in the first real test of his ability to corral them on a clean bill to extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security. As a result, the bill failed to pass the first time around.
Republicans in the Senate and the House were able to agree on a bill to authorize construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, but that bill was promptly vetoed by President Obama, as predicted.
Although not much happened on other issues of interest to forgers in the first few weeks, there were encouraging signs.
• On tax reform, House Ways and Means Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1), made it clear that he intends to pursue a comprehensive effort, although he would also be open to attacking the code in phases, possibly addressing business tax reform first. However, Chairman Ryan also made clear that any corporate tax reform must address all types of business structures, including S Corporations and pass-through entities such as LLCs and partnerships. That’s been one of the main messages FIA has been sending to Congress during the past several years, since a significant number of U.S. forging companies and their suppliers are organized as pass-throughs, where the income is taxed at individual rates.
• Congressional action on potentially crippling EPA regulations and energy policies also didn’t make the early agenda, but that’s expected to change as House and Senate leaders get the legislative engine tuned up and running smoothly. Action is expected in the spring.
• The House intends to turn to other energy and environmental issues after the Easter recess. These include a number of proposals designed to further enhance exploration and development of all forms of energy and allow the full benefits of affordable energy to flow to U.S. manufacturers.
These and other issues are expected to be under consideration by mid-April, when FIA members will meet in Washington for FIA’s Annual Lobby Day (April 22-23) to push for policies that enhance the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing in general and the U.S. forging industry in particular. Visit www.forging.org for more information.