The U.S. Congress went back to work to finish its legislative session. In those pre-new year days they have some clear goals, such as approving a budget by December 12 that would keep the government functioning.
The question is whether Republican antagonism towards president Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration will allow them to do what’s necessary, or their anger will drain all the energy and prevent the legislative session from ending productively.
A package of tax laws to make permanent a series of tax breaks for businesses and individuals is also on those weeks’ agenda. A near accord between Republican and Democratic congressmen and senators fell prey of the Republican outrage over Obama’s executive order.
After Obama’s announcement, Republican negotiators pulled out from the package the two tax breaks most important for the Democrats: the permanent expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit for low income earners, and the child tax credit for children of the working poor.
The official explanation for the change of position is to avoid that those benefited from the President’s executive order could take advantage of these tax breaks. Ironically, this decision will actually harm for the most part the poor whites that depend on these subsidies to stay above the poverty line.
We hope that the same thing won’t happen to the budget. To this day, there is no firm Republican strategy in this regard. There are some who are proposing spending plans for most of the year while withholding funds to implement the executive order – as well as defunding the EPA. Others only want short-term decisions, so that when the new Republican Congress assumes in January, they will be able to impose their legislative agenda.
Nobody wants a government shutdown, but it will all depend on whether in the next weeks Republicans can get over their anger over immigration and do what needs to be done, instead of repeating with the budget negotiation the same thing they did with tax breaks