If you blinked in September, you may have missed that Congress returned from the August recess and left again until after the November elections. In the interim, members  did manage to do a little work, if only to set up the agenda for a lame duck session.

Congress passes continuing resolution

One of the must-pass pieces of legislation was a Continuing Resolution (CR) to continue funding the federal government past September 30. Since approving the 2-year budget deal in December 2013, the House passed only seven out of 12 FY15 spending bills, while the Senate passed zero. That left no other option but to delay the final FY15 budget decisions until after the mid-term elections. The CR that ultimately passed Congress last month and was signed into law by the president includes funding at FY14 levels through December 11, 2014. 

ExIm Bank extended

The CR also extends the charter of the Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015. Without action, the bank’s charter would have expired in October. While the short-term extension temporarily protects the many businesses – large and small – that depend on ExIm financing, a long-term reauthorization is the best way to provide much-needed certainty to American exporters.

Manufacturing Bill passes House

In addition to the CR, the House managed to also approve two important pieces of legislation before adjourning. The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act passed by a strong bipartisan voice vote. The bill, supported by AMT, would create a national network of regionally based hubs, each focused on a unique technology, material or process relevant to advanced manufacturing, with the aim of improving U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. These public-private partnerships would bring together community colleges, universities and manufacturers of all sizes in a collaborative effort to bridge the country’s skills gap and to speed the time between R&D and technology commercialization. 

The bill’s sponsors, Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Joe Kennedy (D-MA), are optimistic that the Senate will follow the House’s example and pass RAMI by the end of the year.

House approves GOP Jobs Bill 

The House also approved The Jobs for America Act (H.R. 4) by a vote of 253 to 163, which included 32 Democrats. The package of 14 bills introduced by Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) includes several measures actively supported by AMT. Among them are the America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act, which would make increased Section 179 expensing permanent; the American Research and Competitiveness Act, which would make the R&D tax credit permanent; and a bill that would make 50 percent bonus depreciation permanent. H.R. 4 also contains regulatory relief in the form of the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, requiring Congress to take an up-or-down vote on all new major rules that would have an economic impact of more than $100 million annually before they can be enforced, and the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act. 

Unfortunately, like RAMI, the Senate did not take up the measure before heading home. However, unlike RAMI, there is little chance it will be considered by the Senate this year. There is hope, however, for extending the expired tax provisions contained in the bill in the lame duck session. Permanence will most likely be left on the table to tackle as part of comprehensive tax reform in the next Congress.

Don’t forget to vote

Take this opportunity before November 4 to find out where the candidates stand on the issues important to manufacturers. Make your voice heard at the ballot box. For information on voter registration and absentee ballots, visit AMT’s Legislative Action Center at www.AMTonline.org/advocacy and click on “Elections.”