Congressmen on Parade
Yesterday, close to 20 senators and representatives spoke about tax, trade, security, and more at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill. It was the 25th annual Legislative Seminar hosted by BakerHostetler, the Federal Policy Group, and the Yale Club.
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch is poised to head the committee if Republicans get control of the Senate. Between making jokes (ask him for the one about the congressman and the genie), he discussed tax reform, saying repeatedly that the current code is a "disaster." In an election framework though, he says he doesn't know many people are hopeful that it'll happen this year. On international trade, Reps and Dems should come together around the TPP and TTIP trade agreements, he says. Both are in danger of failing unless Congress renews the Trade Promotion Authority.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's big takeaway: "start looking up" to see problems 20 years on the horizon, and address them now. The single biggest factor restricting development of the economy and human capital, she says, is student loan debt. What can we do about it? Possibly refinancing. About energy, she calls "a diverse energy economy the best energy economy" and says the US exporting oil and natural gas could help stabilize international conditions.
Rep. Paul Ryan snapped a photo with some fellow alums of Miami University of Ohio, after he talked about reforming Medicaid and Medicare and tackling tax reform. Former Congressman BakerHostetler's Mike Oxley (yes, of Sarbanes-Oxley) is second from right. He welcomed the crowd before the conference by recalling the 25-year-old conference's first year: held in the basement of Georgetown, where participants availed themselves of the school cafeteria for lunch.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte held up an imaginary pen to discuss a patent litigation reform bill he sponsored and would like the President to sign. The "patent troll bill" was passed in the House by a (strongly bipartisan!) vote and is being marked up by the Senate this week. His committee is also still undertaking a comprehensive review of copyright law.
HPSCI subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff says a bill was introduced in the committee last week to curb telaphone metadata collection. When asked about Ukraine, Schiff said that if the Russians are going to invade, "nothing we provide to Ukraine will stop or slow it down." Instead, we should move to sector-based sanctions. Russia's main objective now is to hamper Ukrainian elections so it can claim they're illegitimate.
Senate Budget Committee chair Patty Murray is the highest-ranking woman in the Senate. She talked about the Highway Trust Fund—which is expected to run out of funding this summer—the skills gap holding back economic recovery, and college affordability.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver returned from Cuba the night before. He said that our longheld embargo there is unworkable. The country has 1,200 cell phones, and he saw TVs, toilets, and motorcycles being unloaded from the plane—sent to Cuba by family members. "We're missing a big business opportunity."
House Ways and Means chairman Rep. Dave Camp started out with his favorite joke: the tax code is 10 times the size of the Bible, with none of the good news. Pfizer's offer to buy AstraZeneca, he and other congressmen emphasized, is a sign of corporate over-taxation. His tax reform proposal, the Tax Reform Act of 2014, lowers the corporate rate to 25%.