With the holidays right around the corner, most lawmakers have left Washington for the year. Congress is now in recess, save some brief pro forma sessions meant to thwart any attempts at recess appointments, until the 115th Congress officially convenes on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. Lets take a brief look at how 2016 ended and what we might expect from Congress in 2017.After Thanksgiving, lawmakers were engaged in a brief “lame duck” session that quickly and quietly, at least in DC terms, addressed some major issues that had gone unresolved heading into the election. The biggest issue was government funding that, absent Congressional action, was set to expire on December 9th. After extensive negotiations, which included the President-elect’s transition team weighing-in on a number of key matters, lawmakers did approve legislation that will continue funding for federal programs and services through April 28, 2017.
That funding package, which President Obama promptly signed into law, also included a number of so-called “policy riders,” which are commonly attached to fast moving legislation at the end of a Congressional session. One policy rider of interest to the tax-exempt community is language extending an existing restriction on the Internal Revenue Service from issuing any new guidance that would expand the definition of political activity by nonprofit organizations. The funding legislation was also noteworthy for what it did not include. The legislation did not contain any major tax provisions, including provisions CGP had been closely watching throughout the year that could have harmed, or helped, charitable giving.
Now that the 114th Congress has come to a close, attention in DC has turned to the 115th Congress and what promises to be a significant amount of legislative action on taxes in the first half of the year. As discussed during the last CGP members-only conference call, President-elect Trump and Republican leaders have pledged to move on tax-reform, in one form or another, very early in the next Congressional session. Negotiations as to the substance of such legislation, and the process by which it would advance in Congress, are taking place now and will continue over the coming days and weeks. Notably, Republican leaders have indicated they plan to use a maneuver known in Washington as “reconciliation,” which would allow comprehensive tax reform legislation to move on a fast track and not be subject to a filibuster in the Senate, thereby virtually assuring passage in Congress if introduced.
CGP expects this legislation, as well as some other bills the Republican leadership are preparing to unveil, will have the potential to dramatically affect charitable giving in America and the work of charitable gift planners across the country. Therefore, it is critical to stay with CGP into the New Year to remain aware of this legislation and the many opportunities we will have to shape it.