Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Senate Concludes Business, Announces New Committee Members

Drew Thies 

The Senate concluded its final session of 2014 Tuesday night, confirming federal nominees and finalizing a tax extender package in what was a more crisis-filled lame duck than many predicted. Party infighting over a spending bill that took the Senate into a weekend session dominated December and forced Members of Congress to stay extra days to conclude legislative business.

Despite the drama, the House passed $1.1 trillion bill late Thursday night with a vote count of 219 – 206. 57 Democrats voted for the budget and were led by the White House—which made personal calls to members—and number two House democrat Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other progressive democrats led the charge against the bill citing controversial campaign finance and financial regulation provisions.

The Senate followed suit, though not without their own hurdles, and passed the spending bill Saturday night, funding all government agencies with the exception of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the end of the fiscal year in September. DHS was only funded through the end of February due to Republican concerns over the President’s recent executive action on immigration.

Senators also voted to approve a tax extenders package that allows businesses to claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit on 2014 returns. The provision gives a credit to businesses that employ veterans and other designated individuals.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was also sent to the President’s desk by the Senate. The act would allow anyone with a disability and their families to save money for education, housing, transportation, employment support and health. Eligible individuals must be severely disabled before turning age 26. AHCA advocates took to the Hill this past March during AHCA’s annual ID/DD conference in D.C. to stress the importance of the ABLE Act to members of congress.

Both parties also announced Senate Committee assignments for the 114th Congress. The assignments are subject to ratification by the party Conferences as well as the full Senate. New Committee Chairs will be selected by a vote of the members of each respective panel and then ratified by the Republican Conference. Those in bold below are new additions to these two important committees.

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