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House passes 1099 repeal, but repeal still appears to be a long way off

March 6, 2011

In his State of the Union, President Obama said he wanted to see it happen.

Now, I have heard rumors that a few of you still have concerns about our new health care law.  (Laughter.)  So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved.  If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you.  We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.  (Applause.)

Once again, in this session of Congress, the Senate has passed 1099 repeal.   Now, so has the House.

Both measures passed with whopping bipartisan majorities.

So, why are we no closer to repeal today than we were last summer? 

For observers, it’s a telling symbol of Washington’s partisan gridlock hitting a fever pitch: If an issue that everyone agrees on can’t get resolved, what can?

The issue remains the same as it was in the last Congress, there’s a difference of opinion about the budget offsets used to pay for the repeal ($22 billion over 10 years).  The Senate bill calls on the Office of Management and Budget to pay for 1099 repeal by using unspent funds in several accounts.  
The House bill would reimpose higher penalties on taxpayers who receive higher levels of health care exchange subsidies than they are entitled. 

House Ways and Means ranking member Sander Levin (D-Mich.) argued that the Republican bill could require some families to pay back the tax break for federal healthcare if their salary changes during the year and pushes them over the threshold, forcing them to pay back upward of thousands in tax breaks.

In its statement of administrative position the White House Office of Management and Budget reaffirmed its support for 1099 repeal but expressed opposition to all proposed offsets.
Essentially, a pox on both their 1099 bills.  Here’s what House Republicans are saying:

“Clearly, there is strong, bipartisan support to repeal the 1099 provisions so that small businesses can focus on what they do best — creating jobs,” (Rep. Dave) Camp said in a statement. “With more than 70 percent of the House … I urge the Senate to move quickly to take up and pass this legislation so we can send a bipartisan bill to the president.”

A Senate aide told Politico that after passing repeal with more than 80 votes, it’s unlikely the Senate will reconsider.

“Anything that passes the Senate with 80-plus votes is pretty remarkable and generally something the chamber stands behind and will fight for,” a Senate aide said.

Oh, boy.  

This is a fight over something everyone agrees should be resolved.   We’re talking about $2 billion a year in a $3+ trillion annual federal budget.
Can you say “rounding error?”
Let’s hope before the 2012 tax season begins that Congressional leaders and the President find a way to pay for the repeal the IRS Form 1099 madness before farmers and other self-employed small business people begin paying a real price for political gridlock.
Maybe they ought to flip a coin. 

Rep. Shimkus receives 2011 AFBF Golden Plow Award

March 1, 2011

Illinois Farm Bureau members attending the annual Governmental Affairs Leadership Conference turned out strong early Thursday to give an ovation to Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville, the 2011 winner of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Golden Plow Award. 

The Golden Plow is awarded each year to a single House and Senate member who best exemplies the principles of Farm Bureau.  

President Philip Nelson presented the award to the eight-term Republican who represents citizens in the sprawling 19th Congressional District in southern Illinois.

“Congressman Shimkus is a passionate advocate for farmers,” Nelson said during the presentation.  “Just two weeks ago, the Congressman used my testimony and a photo he took of last October’s soybean harvest to make the point that EPA’s proposed dust regulations defy common sense,” Nelson said.

Illinois Farm Bureau nominated Shimkus for the award because of his work on critical Farm Bureau issues, including his opposition to cap-and-trade legislation, support of biofuels, and his efforts on animal health and food safety.

Shimkus was also recognized for his votes in favor of NAFTA and CAFTA and his support for the stalled Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free Trade Agreements.

“We are pleased to honor Rep. Shimkus with AFBF’s highest award,” Nelson said.   “He has received the Friend of Farm Bureau award each of his seven terms in Congress and is a true champion of U.S. agriculture.”

AFBF’s Golden Plow award recognizes members Congress—regardless of party affiliation—for  distinguished agricultural leadership and support of Farm Bureau policies.

Chairman Lucas, Illinois ag committee members take to the House floor in support of H.R. 72

February 20, 2011

House agriculture committee members recently took to the floor of the House to discuss the increasing regulatory burden on U.S. agriculture. 

It was part of the debate on H.R. 72 which passed the House that day 391-28.

The resolution actually goes well beyond agriculture and calls on each standing committee of House to “inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed resolutions” that hurt job creation, discourage innovation, harm international competitiveness, and fail to use cost-benefit analysis, among other things.

Along those lines, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could soon make dairy farmers do more than cry over spilled milk.

A couple of Illinois members also weighed in on overly zealous regulations.

“None of these usurpations of authority are authorized by the Congress, and all these serve to add dramatically to the cost of doing business and reduce America’s ability to feed our nation and help feed the world. This bill starts the process of restoration of legislative powers and upholding our fundamental constitutional values and obligations to represent people rather than allowing people who are never elected to run our public policy.” – Rep. Timothy V. Johnson

“The USDA has departed from the long-standing science based coordinated framework between the USDA, EPA, and FDA that has been accepted throughout the world. By altering the process through using a rules approach, rather than science, this could have a significant negative impact on trade.” – Rep. Randy Hultgren

Documenting EPA’s overreach: Pardon our Dust

February 12, 2011

Congressman John Shimkus took advantage of Wednesday’s lengthy Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing to illustrate three major points.

Rep. John Shimkus took this photo last fall near his home to illustrate that the dust kicked up during soybean harvest is chaff and efforts to regulate it represent an "EPA gone awry."

First, he showed that EPA regulations will cost energy industry jobs and that passage of the Clean Air Act marked the beginning of a surge of imported oil. 

He shined a light on the hypocracy of members of BICEP –Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy — for supporting EPA greenhouse gas regulations and cap and trade while managing overseas manufacturing operations in countries with low wages and lax environmental standards like China.

In his last statement, Rep. Shimkus referenced a photo he’d taken on his cellphone near his home in Collinsville of a combine cutting soybeans kicking up dust.   In his questioning of Illinois Farm Bureau president Philip Nelson, Shimkus made a point he had been wanting to make since combines were rolling in his district last October.

For how the proposed EPA crackdown on dust is threatening agriculture in the dusty southwest, read attorney Gary Baise’s November 8, 2010 column in Farm Futures.

EPA, in its never ending effort to control agriculture, demonstrates what it can do to agriculture in a proposed rule issued on September 9, 2010, with the innocuous sounding title of “Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans – Maricopa County (Phoenix) PM-10 Nonattainment Area”. This is 80 pages of federal regulatory intrusion. — Gary Baise

According to Baise, the EPA’s proposed Arizona rules would require farm machinery to be modified with “spray bars” so farmers can keep down dust as well as require trained on-site dust control coordinators.

Holy smoke.

So, will Illinois be able to steal Iowa and New Hampshire’s presidential thunder?

February 8, 2011

November 5, 2011.

Mark it down on your calendar.    Three years and a day after President Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, Illinois will hold a Republican presidential straw poll.

“We hope to bring the time and attention of the presidential candidates to Illinois,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said in a release. “New Hampshire and Iowa should not have all the fun.”

No, they really shouldn’t.  Kudos to the Illinois Republican Party for coming up with the idea.   In still very blue Illinois, it might be the best opportunity for recently energized Illinois Republican voters to influence the 2012 presidential election. 

House Budget Committee’s Ryan says “spending spree is over”

February 3, 2011

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan announced that Republicans will cut more than $30 billion in non-security discretionary spending through the end of the current fiscal year.  

A continuing resolution passed in the lame duck session will funding federal government operations through March 4, leaving just the final seven months of the fiscal year to make the cuts.

The committee say the proposal represents $58 billion in cuts compared to the President’s FY 11 budget.   What it amounts to is that non-security discretionary spending will be cut $40 billion before $8 billion is added back for the Defense Department. 

In a statement, Rep. Ryan called the action  a “down-payment” that will help restart America’s engine of economic growth and job creation.

“The spending limit measure marks another step in House Republicans’ continued efforts to change Washington’s pervasive culture of spending. In one of our first acts in the new Majority, we voted to cut Congress’s own budget. We voted to cut trillions of dollars in new government spending by advancing a repeal of the President’s health care law. The President has asked for an increase in the national debt limit, but we must first work to enact serious spending cuts and reforms. Endless borrowing is not a strategy. Business as usual in Washington is not acceptable.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee released spending limits and cuts for each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees including Agricultural, Rural Development, and FDA, which will see $3.239 billion in cuts, representing a 14 percent decrease from FY 2010 spending. 

While specifics have not been determined, a Republican Study Committee budget cutting proposal might provide some clues.  The RSC recommends eliminating the $1.4 billion annual budget for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the $200 million Market Access Program, and the $56 million organic certification cost-share program.

 So what does this mean for farm programs?

With the exception of WIC, rural development loans and grants, research and education, soil and water conservation technical assistance, animal and plant health, management of National Forests, and domestic and international marketing assistance, the rest — roughly 80 percent  — of USDA’s budget falls into the category of mandatory spending.

Mandatory programs are untouched by this action.

The Washington Post reports that a budget resolution could go to the House floor when the chamber goes back into session Feb. 14.    With a projected $1.5 trillion budget deficit, Politico reports the House Budget Committee proposal demonstrates the limits of non-defense discretionary spending cuts on the overall deficit.

Those limits may give added impetus now to a bipartisan effort in the Senate to craft a larger deficit reduction, 10-year plan that would include tax and entitlement reform. Close Senate allies of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) have participated in the talks, and the White House has begun to take notice with Budget Director Jack Lew coming to the Capitol Thursday for a luncheon with Senate Democrats.

U.S. Senate votes 81-17 to repeal Form 1099 filing requirements

February 2, 2011

In the first vote to undo a part of health care reform law, Senators voted 81-17 Wednesday afternoon to repeal the very unpopular Form 1099 filing requirements which were designed to raise $19 billion over ten years to pay for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Senator Mark Kirk voted in favor of Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow’s repeal amendment which does not require the government to raise taxes to make up for the revenue shortfall.  The proposal will be paid for out of unobligated funds that won’t impact defense, veterans affairs or social security.

Sen. Dick Durbin opposed the amendment, instead voting for a previous repeal amendment offered by Michigan’s other Sen. Carl Levin which required new revenue make up the shortfall.

Illinois Farm Bureau has been pushing the past several months for repeal.  Members have been dreading burdensome 1099 filing requirements for all purchases of goods or services totalling more than $600 from any non-employee.

Now halfway home, IFB supports H.R. 4, a 1099 repeal bill introduced in the House that is expected to go to the floor later this month.   That bill is cosponsored by 265 House members, including Reps. Biggert, Dold, Hultgren, Johnson, Kinzinger, Lipinski, Manzullo, Roskam, Schilling, Schock, Shimkus, and Walsh.

In its last vote of the day, the Senate voted 47-51 on a motion to repeal the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The amendment offered by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was identical to the total repeal measure that passed the House last month.

The health care law was again ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in Florida earlier in the week.  Sen. Durbin  chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on the constitutionality of the law.   Durbin argued that a dozen Federal judges have upheld the law.

For those keeping score, twelve federal district court judges have dismissed challenges to the law, two have found the law to be constitutional and two have found the opposite. How is it possible that federal judges who not only study the Constitution but swear to uphold it can read its words and draw such different conclusions?

It is unlikely that this hearing will produce a national consensus or even agreement in this room. But if it serves the Congress and the Nation by fairly laying out the case on both sides, then it will be a worthy undertaking.

Farm Bureau opposes the law’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance and supports repeal.