02 December 2016

ACR News 12.2.16 – The Transition Begins

>> Federal: Washington Roundup
>> Federal: Ways and Means Leadership
>> Federal: Treasury Secretary
>> Federal: Roundtable Announces New Vice President
>> Consider This: Behind the Eight Ball
>>Top Reads: Nonprofits Brace for Big Changes Under Trump Administration

Washington Roundup

The House and Senate returned this week to their final weeks of legislating in the 114th Congress. Prior to the election, lawmakers were expected to get a lot over the finish line in the “lame duck” period between elections and the end of the year when active legislation expires. However, with the power shift to Republican control of the White House, GOP lawmakers are expected to make the lame duck period short to reserve negotiations for the next Congress and Administration.

Reports indicate a resolution to continue funding the government at current levels until spring will be the last piece of legislation passed, likely by December 9 when current funding expires. A few pieces of legislation could find their way riding on the funding bill, but lawmakers are not expected to include any tax provisions. With that in mind, ACR’s tax priorities to streamline the private foundation excise tax and expand the IRA charitable rollover to include distributions to donor-advised funds (DAFs) are not likely to move before the end of the year.

Ways and Means Leadership

On Tuesday, Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) announced he will not run for reelection for the committee’s top minority post. Both Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Richard Neal (D-MA) indicated they would seek the position. However, just yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown tapped Rep. Becerra to be the next California attorney general, clearing the way for Rep. Neal.

The Democratic steering committee will meet this month to nominate committee leaders, who will then be approved by the Democratic Caucus.

Treasury Secretary

President-elect Trump has been building his cabinet since the election, and on Wednesday he tapped former Goldman Sachs banker and campaign finance chairman Steve Mnuchin to be Treasury secretary.

Following his nomination, Mnuchin said tax reform will be his focus as Treasury secretary, something President-elect Trump has also indicated is high on his to-do list for his first year in office. USA Today noted that Mnuchin stated that “tax deductions for charitable contributions would still be allowed.” While encouraging, Mnuchin’s comments are likely not the final position of the President-elect, and Mnuchin doesn’t say what form the charitable deduction would take.  As you may recall, Trump came out with a tax reform plan in September that would cap all itemized deductions, including the charitable deduction, at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married couples. You can see ACR’s statement here that encourages the President-elect to maintain the full scope of the charitable deduction. We look forward to working with Mr. Mnuchin to ensure our priorities are protected.

Roundtable Announces New Vice President

Since our last newsletter, The Philanthropy Roundtable announced the hiring of Sean Parnell as its new vice president for public policy. Parnell will be responsible for promoting the Roundtable’s mission to protect philanthropic freedom, including preserving the right of charitable donors to make independent decisions of how and where to spend their charitable assets.

Parnell has more than 20 years of experience advocating for causes and candidates, most recently as an independent public policy consultant. He previously was president of the Center for Competitive Politics and also served as vice president for external affairs at The Heartland Institute.

Consider This – Behind the Eight Ball

The last time we wrote in this space was a week or two before the election. What a difference a few weeks make!

While we did not predict a Clinton win in that last update, we certainly thought that was the likely outcome.  And we suspect that a vast majority of the federal policymaking world here in Washington – Republicans and Democrats alike – did as well.  One of our colleagues captured the sentiment by saying, “I feel like I’m behind the eight ball. But thankfully everyone else is as well.”

So what now?  This city, and we suspect much of the country, is undergoing what can only be described as a monumental expectations reset. The questions surrounding a Trump presidency are outsized to say the least, and all of the levers of power in D.C. are struggling to come to grips with what to expect come January 20.

If history is any guide, controlling the House, the Senate and the Presidency can lead to overreach. The maxim “be careful what you wish for” generally applies. Time will tell if that maxim will continue to hold true.

In terms of our sector, the next two years will be a time of potential vulnerabilities as well as opportunities. Controlling both Houses and the Presidency increases the likelihood of tax reform because a budget procedure known as “reconciliation” is much more viable under that scenario. That procedure requires just 51 votes in the Senate instead of the usual 60.  That means we need to be active and vigilant as we don’t really have a clear sense of where the President-elect – or either the House and Senate for that matter – will come down on issues important to us like the charitable deduction. We also suspect that if the new Administration undoes some of the regulations surrounding our sector, states like California and New York might step in to make up the difference.

Much will be revealed over the next few weeks. The one thing we are fairly certain of is that the first 100 days of this Administration will give new meaning to the word “busy.”  Stay tuned for what we suspect will be a wild ride.

Top Reads

Please feel free to email us at info@acreform.com if you have any questions, stories or topics you would like us to include in our newsletter.