2012 Post-Election Analysis: A Narrowly Divided Electorate Has Spoken: How Will The President and The Congress Respond?

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INTRODUCTION -

With President Barack Obama having been reelected and the Senate and the House having stayed in Democratic and Republican hands, respectively, attention now will turn to the lame duck session that will formally get underway the week of November 12 but won’t likely get down to business until the week of November 26. Based on past experience, we expect to hear sleigh bells before the 112th Congress leaves town. Since so much that will happen next year will be driven by what happens in the next two months, we principally focus this introduction on the challenges facing the President and the Congress in the lame duck session.

To put matters in perspective: Unless current law is amended, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of the year, as will various other temporary tax provisions (e.g., AMT relief for middle class Americans, extension of estate tax relief, and a variety of tax credits that are enjoyed by individuals, as well as the R&D tax credit and a host of other tax credits relied upon by the business community, some of which need to be extended retroactively to the beginning of 2012). Congress and the Administration also must decide how to protect physicians serving Medicare patients from sustaining steep cuts in reimbursement rates and whether to extend enhanced unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed. In addition, decisions need to be made whether to extend, replace, or allow to lapse the two percentage point payroll tax cut for all working Americans. Finally, $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts (“sequestration”) mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will begin to kick in on January 2. Half of the automatic spending cuts will hit the Pentagon, while the other half will reduce spending by the rest of the government, with most agencies facing funding cuts of 8.2%. In popular parlance, the United States will fall off a fiscal cliff with potentially no safety net in place unless the President and the Congress agree to amend current law.

Recognizing the dangers to the economy, the Administration reportedly is analyzing the extent to which it could use existing authority to buy additional time to reach an agreement with Congress early next year, such as by freezing the amount of money taken out of payroll checks by not updating tax withholding tables to reflect expiration of the Bush tax cuts on December 31. The Administration also could seek to delay to later in the year automatic spending cuts that otherwise would begin on January 2. We do not expect the Administration to make its plans public any time soon, not least because identifying an escape hatch early could create the very outcome it hopes to avoid. And, in any event, it doesn’t have to come to this.

Please see full publication below for more information.

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Published In: Elections & Politics Updates, Finance & Banking Updates, Health Updates, Labor & Employment Updates, Tax Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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