Congress is in recess until after Labor Day. Two top policy priorities for AMT saw action in the lead up to the break, with no real results. Plus, a new Manufacturing Innovation Institute is announced.

Ex-Im Bank reauthorization fails

The Senate approved a House plan to authorize highway funding until October 29, which unfortunately does not include a provision to revive the expired Export-Import Bank. 
Earlier, the Senate had approved a plan to link extension of the Ex-Im Bank with the “must-pass” highway bill with wide support. This showed that the chamber had the support to extend the controversial bank, but also complicated the underlying transportation legislation, which had to be passed before the recess or funding would dry up. 

The House leadership, however, declined to consider the Senate bill, which was opposed by many House Republicans – and not just because of the Ex-Im language. Its proposed three-year plan did not meet the usual six-year authorization for highway funding, and its policy prescriptions differ from the House. The House is reported to be considering a repatriation tax holiday to pay for the six-year extension.

Congress’s refusal to renew Ex-Im’s charter by the end of June meant it could no longer make new loans, but it could still service existing loans. If Congress doesn’t act quickly once it returns from break, then the bank will have to shut its doors completely on September 30 when its administrative budget expires. AMT is a vocal supporter of the Ex-Im Bank and participates in two coalitions – Coalition for Employment through Exports (CEE) and the Ex-Im Coalition – that work to improve and extend the Ex-Im Bank charter.

Senate committee approves Tax Extender Bill

The Senate Finance Committee voted 23-3 to renew dozens of expired tax breaks known as “tax extenders” for two years, including the R&D tax credit, increased Sec. 179 expensing and 50 percent bonus depreciation. Senators insisted they don’t want to wait until the end of the year to restore incentives that have broad bipartisan support, but there are serious questions about how quickly Congress can send President Obama a measure reviving the tax breaks.

Compromising to arrive at a singular approach is never easy on Capitol Hill, and this issue is no exception. The House, led by Ways & Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), has taken a different approach than the Senate, passing permanent extensions of some of the individual provisions – including the R&D tax credit and increased Sec. 179 – rather than approving the provisions as one package. Congress will also have to deal with a number of big-ticket items when lawmakers return from break, including a September 30 deadline for government funding, the highway bill and the Iran nuclear agreement, which could push extenders to the backburner. 

One thing is certain – no one wants a repeat of last year when Congress last enacted the tax extenders at the end of 2014, only to watch them expire less than two weeks later. It’s important to keep the pressure on lawmakers to get extenders done early this fall. August is an ideal time to make that point to your local congressional offices.

Innovation Institute announced

The Obama administration announced that the Research Foundation for the State University of New York (RF SUNY) will lead a new innovation institute headquartered in Rochester, N.Y. The Department of Defense is awarding the new Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Integrated Photonics to a consortium of 124 companies, nonprofits, and universities. With a total investment of more than $610 million – $110 million in federal funds, and more than $500 million in non-federal contributions – the announcement marks the largest public-private commitment to date for an innovation institute. The new photonics institute is the sixth of nine announced as part of the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes (NNMI).