A long list of unfinished business has been waiting for Congress to return this month, much of it vital to improving U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Important spending, tax and trade issues need immediate attention, as do a nearly insolvent highway trust fund and a deal aimed at disarming a dangerous international regime. 

Iran nuclear agreement

Congress has until September 17 to vote on a resolution either approving or disapproving the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by six world powers, including the United States. Despite strong opposition from both parties, it appears the momentum is moving in President Obama’s favor, as more Democrats have announced their support for the deal. Although the President doesn’t technically need Congress’ support, legislation could effectively kill the deal by blocking Obama’s ability to lift billions in economic sanctions – a concession that was instrumental to the final deal. 

Appropriations

The clock is also ticking on government spending, as funds run out on September 30. The parties do not agree on a path forward. Democrats are pushing for bipartisan budget negotiations that end the automatic spending caps known as sequestration and increase spending. Meanwhile, the GOP leadership wants to keep sequestration in place and pass a continuing resolution (it’s been done for the past 15 years) that rolls all program funding into one package. A battle over funding for Planned Parenthood could bring us to the brink of another government shutdown. 

ExIm Bank

The ExIm Bank has been unable to grant new loans since its charter expired on June 30. Unless Congress acts by the end of this month, the bank will be forced to close its doors for good. ExIm Bank reauthorization has passed with no major issues in previous years, but conservative members have long labeled the bank’s financing tools for exporters as “corporate welfare.” This year, emboldened by an increased GOP majority, the opposition is louder and stronger. The business community has launched a significant counter-offensive to save this important tool for U.S. exporters.

Highway bill

The Highway Trust Fund runs dry on October 29. Before the August break, the Senate passed a six-year, $47 billion reauthorization that also renews the ExIm Bank, and the House leadership has made it a priority to pass a long-term reauthorization as well. But the two chambers disagree on how to pay for the additional funding. A repatriation tax holiday has been discussed as a possible revenue raiser. 

Tax extenders

Unfortunately, the aforementioned must-dos set up another end-of-year scramble on a slew of tax provisions whose deadline has already passed. The R&D tax credit, increased Sec. 179 expensing and 50 percent bonus depreciation expired last year, as did dozens of other tax provisions commonly packaged together and referred to as the “tax extenders.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated during a recent press conference that he did not want to wait until the end of the year to deal with this issue, but he didn’t sound convincing on the likelihood of that actually happening. 

Free trade agreements

Also on the congressional to-do list is a possible Pacific Rim trade agreement, although the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have stalled over disputes unrelated to manufacturing. Congress is watching the negotiations carefully.

The items on this list are only a fraction of the issues vying for Congress’ attention. Manufacturers have their work cut out for them making sure that the issues important to our industry are addressed in the short time Congress has left for legislative work this year. Join the chorus of MFG Advocates around the country who are using their voices and telling their stories to make sure that manufacturing is at the center of the congressional agenda.