Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

2014: Rehabilitating Arlington


When Robert E. Lee sided with his state instead of his nation and took command of the Confederate army, the U.S. seized his family estate located on a hill overlooking the nation’s capital from the south bank of the Potomac. Lee’s home—Arlington House, which was built as a tribute to his relative George Washington and modeled on the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens—was turned into a military headquarters. The grounds became the residence of several thousand liberated slaves, and then, in the third year of the war, a cemetery for men killed in the fight to preserve the Union.

In 1925, Arlington House was designated a memorial to Robert E. Lee. By 2014 it was a tattered property operated by the National Park Service. To improve the experience for the 650,000 people who visit each year, Washington-area philanthropist David Rubenstein pledged $12.4 million to the National Park Foundation for restoration of the house and museum, the landscape, and the historic slave quarters.

Rubenstein has a passion for U.S. history and has focused his philanthropy in the national capital region. He said at the announcement of his gift that “the goal is to remind people of American history…. People know so little about our history…. That’s really why I try to do this.”

ACR News 12.12.14 - Down to the Wire

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Congress Mulls Extenders Package
>> Federal: President Leaning in on Tax Reform?
>> Federal: Incoming Finance Chairman Release Tax Reform Report
>> Federal: Cardin Releases Proposal, Preserves Charitable Deduction
>> Consider This: Top Five
>> Top Reads: WH floats veto threat on charitable tax bill


Washington Roundup

The 113th Congress is drawing to a close and lawmakers are rushing to complete a number of legislative actions before heading home for the holidays. The top priority this week was to pass a bill extending government funding beyond December 11 to avert a government shutdown. Late last night, the House passed a $1.1 trillion government-funding measure on a 219 to 206 vote. This bill will keep the government open through September 2015. In order to prevent a temporary closure, the House and Senate both approved a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to extend current funding levels for two days, allowing the Senate more time to debate the larger bill. It is expected to pass the Senate, and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he plans vote on the legislation “as soon as possible.” As of this writing, an exact time table has not been set.


Congress Mulls Extenders Package

In addition to the bill mentioned above, the Senate is also working to pass a bundle of annually expiring tax provisions, also known as tax extenders. You may recall that last week the House passed 378 to 46 a bill to renew roughly 50 provisions through the end of this year. While Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) preferred a longer-term extension, he ultimately failed to garner support. The Senate is expected to pass the House bill.

This one-year bill, H.R. 5771, includes three charitable provisions: the IRA charitable rollover, the deduction for conservation easements, and the deductions for food donations. The Senate expects an extenders vote to be their final action before they adjourn for the year – a vote that could take place as late as Saturday.


President Leaning in on Tax Reform?

Meanwhile, many leaders in Washington commented over the last two weeks on the prospects for tax reform in the next Congress. Incoming House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) both committed to restarting tax reform efforts when they take their gavels in January. But up until recently, the President seemed disinterested in tax reform. That changed last week.

Speaking at the Business Roundtable last Wednesday, the President said he believes he can work with congressional Republicans on tax reform in the next Congress, noting he wants to get started on negotiations early next year because it will take “a full six to nine months before we could really solidify something.” He also suggested the two parties start with reforming the corporate tax code, which provides “fewer variables [and] moving parts,” and noted that Republican insistence on including individual reforms “could be a hang up.” Obama called the problem one that “that is solvable but is tricky,” adding, “[t]here is definitely a deal to be done.”


Incoming Finance Chairman Release Tax Reform Report

On Thursday, incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) released a 350-page report meant to “provide background on where we are and where we have been with regard to our tax system as well as some possible direction on where our reform efforts should go in the near future.” The report discusses both the corporate and individual tax systems. The document outlines seven guiding principles for undertaking comprehensive tax reform:

  1. Efficiency and economic growth
  2. Fairness
  3. Simplicity
  4. Revenue neutrality
  5. Permanence
  6. Competitiveness
  7. Incentives for savings and investment

Note that Hatch does not call for “distributional neutrality” – which would require that the relative tax burden on individuals is the same as under current law. This is fairly significant. Chairman Camp identified distributional neutrality as a key principle for his tax reform draft, and consequently was forced to slash tax deductions associated with higher-income individuals, like the charitable deduction, to maintain distributional neutrality. Rather, Hatch identifies “fairness” as a principle which offers more flexibility.


Cardin Releases Proposal, Preserves Charitable Deduction

On December 10, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) announced a comprehensive tax proposal that would impose a consumption tax, eliminate most taxes for lower- and middle-income families, and lower the corporate tax rate to 17 percent. Of particular note, Cardin’s proposal only preserves four deductions on the individual side of the code: the charitable deduction, the state and local tax deduction, a deduction for health and retirement benefits, and the mortgage interest deduction. The bill also proposes a 10 percent rate on goods and services and sets up three income brackets starting at $100,000 of taxable income: 15, 25, and 28 percent. While it is likely not going to advance very far, Senator Cardin is clearly serious about the idea. The point of him releasing it now is to try and influence next year’s tax reform debate, and we look forward to working with his office in the new year.


Consider This: Top Five

The top five political happenings of 2014…so far.

  1. The Biggest Loser: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) loses his primary to a college professor. It is the first-ever defeat of a House Majority Leader since the post was created in 1899.
  2. The Republican Wave:
    • The Senate flips Republican with a net gain of nine seats. With Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) loss, her seat will be held by a Republican for the first time in 132 years. 
    • The House stays Republican with a gain of 12 seats, their largest majority since 1946. If they win a recount in Arizona, the GOP will have its largest majority since 1928.
    • At the state level, Republican Governors are unexpectedly elected in Maryland, Illinois and Kansas. A Republican is also elected in Massachusetts.
  3. The Start of Serious Tax Reform: Following two years of hearings and analysis, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) released a nearly 1,000 page long tax reform draft. In order to get the corporate rate lowered, he slays many favored tax provisions, much to the dismay of many of his colleagues.
  4. The Turnover on the Tax Writing Committees: Both the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee will have new chairs next year – former VP candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the Senate. Both are keenly interested in tax reform.
  5. The Next Election Has Already Begun! With a wide open Presidential field in 2016, Washington is already abuzz over the considerable pack of those in the running. Who are chief among the speculation as the likely nominees? As of this writing, Secretary Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul, the Republican Senator from Kentucky.

Top Reads


Please feel free to email us at info@acreform.com if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.


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No Good Donation Goes Un-Sniped At

By Joanne Florino

Image © Heatherwick Studio
Image © Heatherwick Studio

As I read David Callahan’s November 30, 2014 New York Times opinion essay about the private philanthropy behind the planned Pier 55—a new offshore public park in a previously industrialized section of the Hudson River—I was reminded of one the old phrase: No good deed goes unpunished. While conceding that park-giving generosity is “admirable,” Mr. Callahan worries that “it also poses a threat to the ability of everyday Americans to have an equal voice in civic life” and “is part of a larger story about rising inequality and shrinking democracy.”

These concerns are worth addressing. Howard Husock makes some interesting observations here. Following are some further thoughts.

At the root of Callahan’s polemic are twin premises:  1) The public sector should make the decisions that affect what he calls “the basic parts of American life.” 2) Our failure to make “a new class of Medicis” pay more taxes prevents the public sector from exerting that appropriate control.

One might ask then how it came to be that in the 1970s, when tax rates on the wealthiest Americans were significantly higher, Central Park fell into such a sorry state that it took private action and the formation of the Central Park Conservancy to restore that jewel. Or why, just this year, the Italian government—no stranger to high income and sales taxes—began to seek private donors to fund the restoration of landmark monuments like the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. If the “public sphere” bloats to the point where effective management is impossible, then is it so hard to understand why private initiative steps up? This is not the replacement of democracy—it is the very soul of democracy.

Callahan also frets that the new park may not be useful for “ordinary people,” since he believes that spaces like amphitheaters, footpaths, and gardens are part of an affluent lifestyle. Whoever these “ordinary people” might be, are we to believe that they don’t enjoy live entertainment, that they don’t walk, bicycle, or rollerblade, and that they never, ever take time to smell the roses? The version of Central Park managed by the private nonprofit Central Park Conservancy is visited 38 million times a year by 9 million different people. There were 3 million visits from people who live in Harlem and East Harlem, and 3 million visits from people who live in other boroughs outside Manhattan. Attendance is more than triple what it was when the park was city-managed.

The High Line park is another philanthropic gift to New York City. Though still not finished, it will thrill 5 million visitors in 2014, and has sparked an estimated $2 billion of economic development in a formerly depressed district. It seems quite reasonable to assume that millions of “ordinary people” will enjoy similar personal use, and neighborhood revitalization benefits, when a Pier 55 park is created out of nothing thanks to the extraordinary generosity of New York donors.

Callahan suggests that the private nonprofit conservancies that manage today’s most public-pleasing parks should be forced to give some portion of the funds donated to them to parks in low-income communities. This shows a shocking indifference to basic fundraising ethics and the principle of donor intent—you don’t take money that people voluntarily give to you for one purpose and blithely redirect it to something different. That deceives and disrespects private givers, and undercuts the primary motive for charitable giving, which is to help out on an issue of your own choosing.

Private philanthropy is a hallmark of American life because it encourages donors to use not only their wealth but also their knowledge and creativity to benefit a cause that engages and excites them. To constrain philanthropic freedom by turning voluntary contributions into mandated tributes distorts the essence of charity and will most certainly discourage future gifts.  Those who complain about the city-run parks might better use their energy asking why the city government is such a poor manager. Or, more positively, they could engage in the sort of private civic action that builds passionate, organic support for good causes. That would be much more socially constructive than browbeating private givers and resorting to the hollow solution of compulsion

Joanne Florino is the senior vice president for public policy at The Philanthropy Roundtable.

House to Vote on One-Year Tax Extenders Package, Including IRA Charitable Rollover

Yesterday, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced H.R. 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, which would extend over 50 annually expiring tax provisions – known collectively as “tax extenders” – just through December 2014. Included in this extenders package is the IRA charitable rollover provision, which allows individuals of at least 70 1/2 years of age to make tax-free distributions from their Individual Retirement Accounts to charity. The bill also extends two other charitable provisions: the deduction for conservation easement contributions and the deduction for gifts of food inventory.

The House is expected to vote as early as Wednesday on the bill and Chairman Camp said he had a “reasonable expectation” it would pass. This bill includes some of the provisions of the America Gives More Act. However, it does NOT include the flat one percent private foundation excise tax nor the April 15th contribution deadline provision.

A path forward for H.R. 5771 in the Senate remains less clear. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) told reporters Monday evening he would fight the one-year plan and continue to push for more permanency. Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said he would “like a two year deal…but it looks like we’re not going to do that,” adding, “right now it does look like a one-year deal.”

Congress has debated the expired extenders package over the last few weeks. Before Thanksgiving, Chairman Camp and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) were close to reaching a larger deal that would have extended some provisions for two years while making others, including the IRA rollover, permanent. However, that trial balloon never took flight. The White House threatened to veto the bill because in their view the package was “too generous to businesses and too stingy towards working families.” Some Senate Democrats also opposed the bill, claiming that Leader Reid had given away too much in negotiations. 

We will keep you updated as this legislation moves forward.

ACR Blog: #GivingTuesday

GT
Thousands of volunteers and organizations will participate in the third annual #GivingTuesday today in an effort to further support the nonprofit sector and charitable organizations. According to the organization’s website, #GivingTuesday is a movement to designate a national day of giving on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Continue reading…

ACR News 11.26.14—The Latest: Tentative Tax Extenders Deal in the Works

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Latest Development: IRA Charitable Rollover Deal is Still Tentative
>> Federal: Updated Election Results
>> Federal: House Ways and Means Committee
>> Federal: Senate Finance Committee
>> Consider This: Big Picture
>> Bonus Consider This: Pardon Me
>> Top Reads: ACR Signs Letter Calling for Charity-Related Provisions to be Made Permanent


With Thanksgiving celebrations kicking off tomorrow, we present you with an early edition of the ACR newsletter. Make sure you check out our Thanksgiving “Did you know?” at the end of this newsletter about the annual pardoning of the turkey.


Washington Roundup

Congress is in recess for the week of Thanksgiving and will return on December 1.


Latest Development: IRA Charitable Rollover Deal is Still Tentative

Yesterday, press reports were that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) were closing in on a deal to renew and make permanent various expiring tax provisions. This tentative deal – or trial balloon – would make permanent ten provisions, including the IRA charitable rollover. Two other charitable provisions would also be permanently extended: the deduction for conservation easement contributions and the deduction for gifts of food inventory.

However, just hours after these reports surfaced, the White House issued a veto threat on the tentative deal, saying the package would be too generous to businesses and too stingy towards working families. While it’s certainly better to be included in a tentative deal than excluded, the deal is far from done. Members will return to town on Monday, at which point we expect congressional Republicans and Democrats to weigh in on the Reid/Camp negotiation.


Updated Election Results

Since our last newsletter update, two of the outstanding Senate races have been resolved – Virginia’s Democratic Senator Mark Warner defeated challenger Ed Gillespie (R) by less than a point, and in Alaska, Dan Sullivan (R) ousted incumbent Senator Mark Begich (D) 48.8 to 45.6 percent. Republicans have now gained eight seats in the Senate, bringing the ratio of Republicans to Democrats to 53-46. Republicans have the chance to gain one more seat on December 6 when incumbent Mary Landrieu (D) faces Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) in a run-off. Current polling does not bode well for Landrieu – a November 19 poll showed Cassidy leading Landrieu by 11 points.

In the House, Republicans increased their majority to 244-188, with three races still outstanding, two of which are expected to stay Republican. The third, Arizona’s second district, will involve a recount, which will start on December 1 at the earliest. Regardless of these outstanding races, Republicans captured their largest majority in decades.


House Ways and Means Committee

Last week, the House Republican Steering Committee finalized its recommendations for chairmen next year. As expected, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will assume the Chair for Ways and Means. His challenger, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) reportedly withdrew his name from consideration after he realized he would not win. The full House GOP conference approved Ryan’s recommendation late last week.

For the Democrats, the House Democratic Caucus selected current Ways and Means Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI) to retain his post in the next Congress. Levin said he looks forward to working with Ryan, and he has “admired his determination, his interest in a broad range of issues, and the humor with which he has approached his intensive work in Congress.” In a letter to his colleagues last week, Levin told Democrats he would push ardently for tax policies that reform corporate tax inversions and trade negotiations.

Regarding filling vacancies on the committee, the House Republican Steering Committee formally added Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD), Congressman Pat Meehan (R-PA), Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congressman George Holding (R-NC) to Ways and Means for the 114th Congress.

On the Democratic side, final committee ratios have yet to be determined. If Democrats retain the same number of seats, current Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is expected to fill the available position left by Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), but no timeline has been set as of this writing.


Senate Finance Committee

In the Senate, committee assignments may not be set until after the Louisiana runoff, since the size and ratios of each Committee typically reflect the Senate’s overall breakdown. It is all but assured that current Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) will take over the Senate Finance Committee chairmanship. Republicans will likely add at least one new member to the Finance Committee to reflect their majority, and they could add an additional seat if Senator Landrieu loses the runoff. Early reports suggest Senators Dean Heller (R-NV), Dan Coats (R-IN), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) are the contenders for these spots. Both Heller and Coats confirmed their interest in joining the Committee.

Due to the new ratio in the Senate, Democrats will lose at least one seat on the committee, and will likely not replace the retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). However, they may lose an additional seat if Senator Landrieu loses, in which case Virginia Senator Mark Warner could also be dropped, since he is the most junior Democrat on the panel. We expect the committee makeup to resemble the current ratio (13 Democrats and 11 Republicans) but, ultimately, incoming Majority Leader McConnell must make that final determination.


Consider This: Big Picture

As Democrats reflect on their losses and Republicans get ready to assume control in both the House and Senate, attention is already turning to 2016. This means that the window for any major legislative initiatives could be just six months once the new Congress convenes. Additionally, to protect their majority and increase their chances of taking back the White House in 2016, Republicans need to take a thoughtful approach to what bills they decide to support and oppose over the next two years.

One of the most important considerations for Senate Republicans is that they could lose their majority in two years. In 2016, Republicans will have to defend 24 seats to Democrats’ 10. Seven of those Republican seats are in states won by President Obama in 2008 and 2012. What does that mean in terms of legislating? Some hope Republicans will attempt to compromise and pass legislation, rebranding themselves as the party ‘for’ something, rather than ‘the party of no’ and giving their vulnerable members and their Presidential nominee a platform in 2016. However, given the factions within the Republican Party and the fact that neither chamber has a supermajority to override Presidential vetoes, only time will tell if incoming Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will be able to unite their party and work with the administration to achieve their policy goals.


Bonus Consider This: Pardon Me

After such a positive response from our last “Did you know?” about Halloween, we give you a bonus DYK about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday rife with tradition—from splitting the wishbone to watching the Detroit Lions (since 1934, at least). One DC-centric tradition is the annual pardoning of the turkey by the President. The tradition, while a little silly, raises the question, when was the first official turkey pardon?

According to this blog post from the White House, the pardoning tradition may find its roots in Abraham Lincoln’s day when he honored the wish of his son, Tad, and spared the turkey destined for the family’s Christmas dinner. In 1963, President Kennedy was said to have sent a turkey provided for him back to the farm, as did President Nixon during his administration. Nixon even held a formal receiving ceremony and photo op. However, President George H.W. Bush gave the first official turkey pardon in 1989. The pardoned gobbler was eventually sent to the forebodingly-named Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia.

Courtesy Whitehouse.gov


Top Reads


Please feel free to email us at info@acreform.com if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.


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Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

1991: Campaign Against Tobacco Use


Each year more than 440,000 Americans die of tobacco use—the nation’s largest cause of preventable death, accounting for about one out of every five U.S. deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control. About two-thirds of smokers say they want to quit, but only about 5 percent succeed in a given year. In 1990, the new president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. Steven Schroeder, aimed his organization squarely at reducing “the harmful effects, and the irresponsible use, of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.” As part of this, the foundation spent $700 million on a range of anti-tobacco programs during the next two decades. Programs were aimed especially at reducing youth smoking, publicizing the bad health effects of smoking and of secondhand smoke, and helping addicted smokers quit. New organizations like the Center for Tobacco-Free Kids and SmokeLess States were formed, and allies such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association were enlisted as partners. Smoking incidence was already in a long secular decline—falling from 42 percent of all U.S. adults in 1965 to 26 percent in 1990. But the decline has continued since then among the remaining harder-core smokers, falling under 19 percent by 2011.

  • “The Tobacco Campaigns of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Collaborators, 1991-2010”
  • Federal | Federal Legislation

    ACR Signs Letter Calling for Charity-Related Provisions to be Made Permanent

    The Alliance for Charitable Reform has signed onto an open letter to Congress written by Independent Sector urging lawmakers to “make permanent the provisions in the America Gives More Act (H.R. 4719) before the end of 2014.”

    “This package of five charitable provisions includes renewing and making permanent three expired tax extender provisions: the IRA charitable rollover, the enhanced deduction for donating land conservation easements, and the enhanced deduction for donating food inventory. Also included is a measure to extend through April 15 the deadline for claiming charitable donations on the previous year’s tax filing and a measure to simplify to 1 percent the excise tax rate for private foundations’ investment income.”

    The letter was issued on November 18 and can be read in full by going here.

    Good Giving | Success Stories

    Philanthropic Achievement of the Week

    2012: Speeding Safe Shale-gas Production

    In 2012, two major philanthropists—oil-and-gas pioneer George Mitchell and Wall Street entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg—announced a joint effort by their foundations to encourage safe and efficient production of natural gas via shale fracking. They proposed to head off problems through “common-sense” state rules and voluntary adoption of best practices by the industry. The two foundations put up millions of dollars for efforts to improve fracking by minimizing water concerns, reducing methane leaks, optimizing well construction, disclosing chemical usage, and reducing local impacts on roads, land, and communities.

    In 2013, a related collaboration of philanthropic organizations, oil and gas companies, and environmental groups established a Center for Sustainable Shale Development. It set 15 voluntary standards for improving shale-gas production in the Appalachian region, and encourages drilling companies to earn certificates of operational excellence by meeting criteria monitored by an independent auditor. It is working with states to encourage sensible rules that will avoid environmental problems which could damage public support for hydraulic fracturing. The significance of this can be seen in the fact that fracking has become one of the most consequential economic, environmental, and national-security innovations of our time—turning the U.S. into the world’s largest gas producer in 2010, and the world’s largest oil producer in 2013.

    ACR News 11.14.14 - The Election: What Happened and What Does It Mean?

    >> Federal: Washington Roundup
    >> Federal: The Balance of Congress & Leadership Changes
    >> Federal: Senate Finance Committee
    >> Federal: House Ways & Means Committee
    >> Federal: Lame Duck
    >> Federal: What the Election Means for Tax Reform
    >> Federal: Key Dates
    >> Federal: ACR in Action
    >> Consider This: Consider This: What Does it Mean?
    >> Top Reads: GOP’s Senate Wins Boost Prospects of Tax Changes for Nonprofits


    Washington Roundup

    Congress returned to Washington on Wednesday after the midterm elections last Tuesday, November 4. Republicans reclaimed control of the U.S. Senate by gaining eight seats, with one state still outstanding, and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. This outcome means Republicans will control the tax reform process on both sides of Capitol Hill for at least the next two years.


    The Balance of Congress & Leadership Changes

    The big news is that Republicans took control of the Senate, picking up eight seats and giving them a majority of at least 53 to 46. While many expected the Senate to flip, few believed it was going to be by such a wide margin. Louisiana will hold a runoff on December 6 between incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican Representative Bill Cassidy. Neither of those candidates earned the required 50 percent plus-1 margin necessary to win the seat outright. Senator Landrieu faces an uphill battle in the runoff: RealClearPolitics polling averages show her trailing Cassidy by 4.8 points.

    Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was elected on Thursday to take over as Majority Leader next year. His deputies are also set to take over leadership positions accordingly. Current Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was also elected on Thursday as the Senate Minority Leader.

    In the House, Republicans increased their margin of control to their largest majority since World War II. Current Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will remain in charge, as will other top Republicans in leadership, following elections in the House Republican Conference on Thursday. For the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to remain Minority Leader and her deputies are expected to maintain their posts as well. House Democrats will hold their elections next week. 

    It is worth noting the Republicans also netted four additional governorships and firmly bucked what was expected to be anti-incumbent fervor across the country. Notably, Republicans picked up two key swing states – Ohio and Florida. This could have a significant impact on the 2016 Presidential election.


    Senate Finance Committee

    Barring any unforeseen events, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is expected to become Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. But there will be other changes to the committee that will be worked out over the coming weeks.

    The first task for Senate Republicans will be determining how large each Senate committee should be, and then the ratio of Republican members to Democrat members. These ratios are negotiated by leaders in both parties and typically reflect the Senate’s overall breakdown. Currently, there are 13 Democrats and 11 Republicans on Finance, which is approximately the same proportion as in the entire Senate.

    Senate Republicans also have their own rules that determine how committee members are chosen, term limits for chairmen, and limits on how many “Super A Committees” (Finance, Appropriations, Armed Services and Foreign Relations) senators can join.

    Under these rules, the party leader gets to fill odd-numbered committee openings, and even-number openings are based on seniority. So if there were only one GOP opening on a committee, Republican leader McConnell would fill the seat with the senator of his choosing. If there were two open slots, McConnell would name one, and the second would go to the most senior candidate hoping to join the committee. 

    On the Finance Committee, Republicans will likely add at least one new member to reflect their new majority. Early reports suggest that Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Dan Coats (R-IN) are frontrunners. Democrats will likely shrink their ranks first by not replacing retiring Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), but Virginia Senator Mark Warner could be dropped since he is the most junior Democrat on the panel.


    House Ways & Means Committee

    While the House majority will remain Republican, the GOP increased its margin and will get to fill a few more seats on the Ways and Means Committee. According to a source on the Hill, committee chairs and new member assignments for the next Congress could be finalized as early as this week, but may also carry over into next week.

    In terms of process, the members of the House Republican Steering Committee are in charge of choosing new members for open committee seats. Per their rules, Speaker John Boehner has five of the 36 votes for each seat, but his influence goes beyond just those five votes. Unless there is a highly contested slot, most members follow the Speaker’s lead. The Steering Committee met this week and consulted its regional representatives to identify potential candidates for open slots on all House committees. Committee chairmanship selections, however, are far more political and often take place behind closed doors, even though the same Steering Committee oversees that process as well. 

    With Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) retiring and the election now over, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) formally announced his intentions to seek the Ways and Means gavel. It is likely he will face a challenge from Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), but Ryan is widely considered the favorite. While every other Ways and Means member won re-election, Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Tim Griffin (R-AR) are retiring at the end of this year. For the Democrats, Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) unsuccessfully ran for governor and had to give up her seat. 

    With Ryan taking the gavel, there are four total spots to be filled on Ways and Means, in addition to those spots reflecting the new House majority. Reports suggest that Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Pat Meehan (R-PA) are the top candidates to fill two of the three vacancies on the majority side. A clear contender for the third spot has yet to emerge, though a number of candidates have been mentioned, including Representatives George Holding (R-NC), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Tom Rice (R-SC), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and Jason Smith (R-MO). On the Democratic side, current Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is expected to fill the available position left by Rep. Schwartz.


    Lame Duck

    Between now and Thanksgiving, the House will set party leadership and organize committee makeups. Since one Senate race will be decided in December, and control will flip to the Republicans, committee assignments and official leadership positions could be set at a later date.

    The “must-do” legislative items will then have to be resolved after Congress returns from Thanksgiving. Current government funding is slated to expire on December 11 and extending this funding is a top priority for both parties. We expect Republicans to aim for a long term spending bill that funds the government through most of next year. Also on the priority list is a tax extenders bill – one that renews nearly 60 short-term tax incentives that expire on an annual basis, including the IRA charitable rollover. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said on November 7 that he hopes to reach a bipartisan deal on the extenders package during the lame duck period, though it remains unclear if a final package will include some of the additional provisions in the America Gives More Act, which passed the House earlier this year. ACR and our colleagues in the sector are currently working to help pass these provisions before the end of the year.

    Other items also remain on the table. We expect outgoing Majority Leader Reid to make a strong push for confirming the remaining Presidential appointments while he still has control of the Senate. This could lead to a heated debate, given the GOP’s anger over Reid’s handling of other nominees earlier this year, and potentially derail some of the issues discussed above. As of this writing, Reid has not announced his intentions. Larger issues, such as legislation to permanently extend authorization for the Export-Import Bank (current authorization expires in June, 2015), immigration reform, and comprehensive tax reform are unlikely to be taken up before the end of the year. 


    What the Election Means for Tax Reform

    We believe that progress will be made on tax reform in the next Congress. Incoming leaders of both tax-writing committees have stated they view comprehensive reform as a top priority. Other Members have also chimed in: Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said he would urge Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to take up tax reform in January. Representative Brady noted there is “no question in [his] mind that a Republican-held Senate enhances the likelihood of a Senate tax draft in this next session.” Incoming Majority Leader McConnell specifically mentioned tax reform as one area of possible compromise with Democrats, and Speaker Boehner recently listed tax reform at the top of his “five key things we should do as a nation.”

    At the very least, Republicans and Democrats alike have called for revamping the corporate tax code and this could be the catalyst for undertaking the individual side as well. Comprehensive reform or not, the window for such legislation is small given the 2016 Presidential election on the horizon.


    Key Dates


    ACR in Action

    ACR Executive Director Sandra Swirksi recently participated in an event sponsored by the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy and Charities project that explored ways that existing charitable giving incentives, along with new platforms and better practices, can be leveraged to encourage philanthropy.

    Additionally, Joanne Florino, senior vice president for public policy at The Philanthropy Roundtable, participated in a panel discussion on tax reform this morning at the Southeastern Council of Foundation’s annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.


    Consider This: What does it mean?

    Well the election is over and most (think Alaska) but not all of the votes have been counted. Still it is clear that Republicans had a very good evening, retaining control of the House by an ever wider margin and taking control of the Senate.

    What does it mean? In the Senate, every senator is a king (or queen) of sorts. Whether your party is up or down, you still can exert power, mostly by throwing a wrench in the works via a filibuster threat. However, controlling the Senate also means you have significant control over the “conversation.” You get to schedule the hearings, choose the topics and set the floor schedule. Being in charge is significant.

    What we also know is that with Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress, there will be tremendous outside pressure to deliver on Republican priorities. One of those priorities is tax reform. Be prepared for a fulsome debate over the next year on that topic. Add to that the fact that in 2016, the Republicans will have to defend more than twice as many seats as Democrats, meaning that the Senate could very well flip again. The pressure is definitely ratcheted up on Senate Republicans to get something done in the next two years to show voters they deserve to keep their majority.

    But first, we have to get through the lame duck. The tenor between the two parties coming out of that lame duck – be it amicable, or confrontational, or something in between – will tell us much about how the next two years play out and whether there is a real shot at getting substantive legislation to the President’s desk that he will actually sign. As we’ve said so many times before, stay tuned.


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