New Congress Set To Tackle Issues

In a recent memo, NACM Washington Representative Jim Wise discussed the new Congress and what business professionals can expect to see in the coming term.

Within the next month, it appears as though little will happen in Congress. “The lame duck session, which begins on December 5, will apparently be a very brief session,” said Wise. “Agreement among the current Congressional leaders has led to a schedule that will consider only a Continuing Resolution Appropriations bill that will fund the government until late January.”

Wise also noted that Congress would more than likely be asked to approve another Defense Supplemental bill for the costs of the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some of the major issues that are expected to come under scrutiny are:

Minimum Wage—“Democratic leadership has indicated a desire to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour,” said Wise, adding that the increase will presumably be spread out over a two-year period of time.

Social Security—The current social security system is expected to be bankrupt by 2040 and Democrats are expected to offer a solution to the problem. “Democrats generally reject any privatization plans but have proffered no plans of their own,” Wise noted. “It would appear that the options are either one or a combination of three elements: raise taxes to pay for social security, reduce benefits or require Americans to wait longer to become eligible for social security benefits.”

Energy—Renewable energy sources and an increase in energy efficiency is at the top of the new Congress’ list. Wise also noted that Democrats would work to provide incentives for ethanol production.

Immigration Reform—“Some Democratic leaders have indicated their desire to increase temporary worker permits and provide a mechanism to allow millions of workers the chance to legalize their status,” said Wise. “The price may be stiffer penalties for companies that hire illegal workers in the future.”

Sarbanes-Oxley Regulations—Senate and House Democrats appear split on the issue of reformations to the post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). “While the incoming chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Christopher Dodd, has cautioned against widespread changes in SOX accountability requirements, Congressman Barney Frank on the House side has indicated that it may be time to review some of the more onerous reporting and compliance provisions of the law,” said Wise. “One of the trade-offs for such a policy change could be greater control over executive compensation packages.

The Senate will convene on January 4 to swear in new Senators while the House will meet on January 3 and begin a pro forma session on January 4.

Source: Jacob Barron, NACM Staff Writer, and Jim Wise, NACM Washington Rep.

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