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HILL TAX BRIEFING: Narrower Chips Bill Gains Momentum in Senate

July 19, 2022, 10:05 AM

A scaled-down China competition bill that would provide $52 billion to encourage domestic semiconductor manufacturing appears to be gaining support in the Senate.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) previously said he would block the competition package if Democrats continue to pursue partisan economic legislation using the budget reconciliation process.

But Republicans appear more willing to support the chips bill after last week’s revelation that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is currently only willing to support a narrow reconciliation package focused on prescription drugs and Affordable Care Act subsidies—with no tax increases or climate-focused spending.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday that lawmakers need to move on the incentive package soon or manufacturers will invest elsewhere.

“There is a closing window of opportunity for us to act,” Cornyn said.

Several Republicans, including Senate Republican whip John Thune (R-S.D.), said Monday they weren’t sure if they would support the competition package since they haven’t the full text. But Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership, said Monday that he expects Republicans will support moving forward with debate on the legislation, so long as Democrats don’t try to attach additional policies.

Draft legislation circulated by Senate leadership included the $52 billion in funding, plus a 25% investment tax credit for semiconductor manufacturing and funding for worker training.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said a procedural vote on the bill is expected Tuesday. It would need to be approved by the House before signed by the president.

The semiconductor incentives have been a priority for the Biden administration. White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein said during a Monday press conference that domestic chip manufacturing could help fight inflation.

Read more from Daniel Flatley and Erik Wasson.

Stalled Tax Plan

Manchin said he may be willing to revisit tax and climate proposals in September, depending on inflation trends. But the calendar is working against the Biden administration: The Senate’s procedural rules create a very small window to pass legislation that month.

If Congress acts on a health care-focused reconciliation bill—which President Joe Biden urged lawmakers to do—the options for advancing tax legislation would become more limited.

Ashley Schapitl, a spokeswoman for Senate Finance Committee Democrats, said that since the health care bill would affect the tax code, Congress wouldn’t be able to use the same budget to make other tax changes later. That would mean that the Senate would likely need to use a fiscal 2023 budget resolution for the tax and climate policies, which would involve another round of unlimited amendment votes.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Monday his preference would be to pass the prescription drug-focused bill now, then explore the possibility of another reconciliation package including climate policies.

“There’s two bites at the apple,” he said.

Read more from Erik Wasson and Laura Davison.

Climate Emergency: Unconvinced that Manchin will have a change of heart by September on legislation he’s been stalling for months, several Senate Democrats want Biden to declare a “climate emergency.”

This would enable the President to use executive authority to redirect funding to clean energy projects, including through tax credits; put restrictions on offshore drilling; or even curtail the movement of fossil fuels on pipelines, trains, and ships.

“The potential to enact the legislation is dead,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told reporters Monday evening. “This then frees up the president to use the full powers of the executive branch. And those full powers certainly include a climate emergency.”

Former President Donald Trump invoked emergency authority to begin construction of a border wall.

Ari Natter has more.

Wyden: Congress needs to renew clean energy tax credits, most of which have expired, in order to draw long term investment in clean energy, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a Monday statement.

Such investments, he said, are needed to reduce energy prices, lower carbon emissions, and gain energy independence from Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Wyden said he welcomes executive action on climate from Biden, but said that can’t be relied on since executive actions would face litigation.

Net Investment Income Tax: Despite the likely demise of the broader tax and energy deal within the budget bill formerly known as Build Back Better, Senate Finance Committee Republicans are reiterating their opposition to extending the 3.8% net investment income tax to pass-through businesses.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter to be circulated today to other Senate offices, Republicans of the tax policy committee argue that if broadened to pass-throughs, the tax would hurt “businesses already recovering from the pandemic, massive inflation and worker shortages.”

Big Banks Worry About Economy

The four largest US banks upped the funds they set aside to cover future losses for the first time since the third quarter of 2020.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co. boosted their provisions for loan losses by a total of $3.5 billion, an accounting move that signals they are wary about a souring economy.

Nicola M. White has the story.

What to Watch Today

Crypto: Bloomberg News will interview Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on their crypto legislation.

Transfer Pricing: The National Association for Business Economics kicks off its annual transfer pricing symposium. The three-day event concludes with a keynote from Itai Grinberg, Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for multilateral tax.

Infrastructure Law: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee scheduled a hearing on implementation of last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

Russian Oligarchs: The Senate Judiciary Committee convenes for a hearing on supporting Ukraine by seizing the illicit assets of Russian oligarchs.

SEC Enforcement: The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets set a oversight hearing on enforcement activities at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

International Tax: The Practising Law Institute kicks off a two-day event starting on international tax rules.

Beyond the Beltway

Germany: The German Finance Ministry is requesting lawmakers eliminate a tax on intellectual property income.

Last month the government granted companies a one-year deadline extension to apply for an exemption from the levy. That delay offered more time to companies who may still not have been aware of the need to comply with the tax.

“It was a lot of moving parts and a lot of work that was involved, and companies tried to scramble and get the data together until June 30,” said Anke Krueger, managing director of international tax services at BDO LLP in New York.

Read more from Isabel Gottlieb.

UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s successor will have the ability to enact up to $72 billion in tax cuts thanks to a revenue windfall for the nation’s Treasury, according to a prolific economics consultancy. Read more from Philip Aldrick.

—With assistance from Laura Litvan, Zach C. Cohen, Joe Stanley-Smith, Erik Wasson, and Colin Wilhelm.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Tzul at rtzul@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Ambrosio at PAmbrosio@bloombergindustry.com; Alex Clearfield at aclearfield@bloombergindustry.com