Prospects for Lame Duck >>

November 11th, 2012

Prospects for Lame Duck

With the highly contentious 2012 elections nearly complete (seven congressional races remain too close to call), Congress and President Obama prepare for what could be a 5-week lame duck session that will convene on Wednesday, November 14th, to close out the 112th Congress.

Addressing the “Fiscal Cliff” will be the primary order of business during the lame duck. The fiscal cliff refers to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and sequestration, which mandates drastic spending cuts to discretionary defense and domestic spending. The tax cuts are set to expire on Dec. 31, 2012 and sequestration will go into effect on January 2, 2013. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warns that the U.S. economy will slide into a deep recession if nothing is done to address these issues. The re-election of President Obama and recent remarks of House and Senate leaderships suggest a possible effort toward a long-term solution or “grand bargain” on the deficit.

For Indian country, the impacts of sequestration would be devastating. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reported that, if sequestration goes into effect, tribal budgets, including Indian health care and Bureau of Indian Affairs programs, will be cut by more than 8% in FY 2013. Tribal leaders have been working with House and Senate leaders to protect tribal programs from these drastic budget cuts.

Tribal leaders are also urging Congress to consider including tribal tax provisions in any tax reform package that is considered during the lame duck. A top tribal tax priority is the need to address the IRS’ discriminatory audits and practices to treat tribal government-provided benefits and services offered to tribal members as taxable income. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) is leading an effort to urge the Senate Finance Committee to include a broad tax exemption of tribal government-provided programs and services to tribal members in any tax reform package. Similarly, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, has signaled support for including tribal tax provisions in a tax reform package.

Additional top legislative priorities of Indian country during the lame duck include: legislation to address the Supreme Court’s attacks on tribal sovereignty in the 2009 Carcieri and 2012 Patchak cases; reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired on Sept. 30, 2011; the Farm Bill Reauthorization, which expired on Sept. 30, 2012; and protection of tribal rights in Internet gaming legislation.

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