The Opposite of Progress? Congress!
January 09, 2013 - Wednesday
It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta ignore it! That seems to be the view in Congress, where leaders just wrapped up the least productive year on record. Thanks to the Senate's almost perpetual siesta, the Washington Times has declared the 112th Congress the most futile session in modern history. "Together, the House and Senate enacted the fewest laws, considered the fewest bills, and had the lowest number of formal negotiations between them." Leaders in 2001-2002 held the previous record, but these members shattered that--producing 10% fewer than even the 107th Congress. In its heyday, Congress adopted more than 200 conference reports in a single session (compared to these chambers' 10), and enacted more than 1,000 laws (more than quadruple this Congress's 230). Considering the anti-family, anti-faith climate of Washington, fewer laws and policies isn't all bad news!
The biggest reason for the epic sloth of the 112th is Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who as Majority Leader hasn't produced a budget in 1,351 days. While the Senate was protecting its massive deficit spending through inertia, the House kept busy. By October, Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) chamber had passed almost 40 economic or job-related bills--only to watch them die in Harry Reid's badlands without a vote.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, they may have been a do-nothing Congress, but they weren't a spend-nothing one! The most fruitless session in history was also one of the most expensive, racking up in $6,200,000,000,000 spending. (If that's the tab for an unproductive Congress, I'd hate to see what an "productive" one would cost us!) Of course, conservatives probably wish the chambers had slacked off on some of the legislation they did pass--like the latest fiscal cliff deal, which exploded spending by $330 billion, raised taxes, penalized marriage, rewarded the President's pals, and failed to address America's 16.4 trillion IOUs. Based on the lighter workload, Congress should have had plenty of time to negotiate a better bill. What was once a fiscal cliff is now an avalanche of new spending that represents a higher percentage of the GDP --24%--than where the House capped it in 2011 (18%).
For a lot of married couples, the deal hits even closer to home. FRC's Tom McClusky explains in a great column for the Washington Times. In it, he highlights one of the worst parts of the "American Taxpayer Relief Act:" the government penalty on marriage. Although Congress extended the tax breaks for couples in the 15% and lower brackets, they eliminated a lot of deductions and exemptions for couples making more than $300,000--many of whom are small business owners. One estimate puts the marriage penalty at close to $20,000 for these households. "If you are married and make $450,000," Tom warns, "you are hit even harder. In addition to the [income penalties on property taxes, children, and charitable donations], your tax rate skyrockets from 5% to 40%."
On a positive note, the bill does contain an extension of the IRA rollover, which allows people over 70 and a half to direct up to $100,000 in distributions from their IRA to charities, including FRC! To learn more, scroll down to read the details on how a gift completed by January 31 can be retroactively applied to 2012.
The Illusion of Inclusion
It was a long three months, but Gallaudet University finally did the right thing and reinstated its Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill. McCaskill, who had been suspended for signing a petition to put marriage on the Maryland ballot, said she was happy to be back "home" and hopes to be a part of a movement to promote real "inclusion" on campus.
Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz, who publicly humiliated McCaskill for participating in the democratic process, released a statement to students and faculty yesterday, saying he was "appreciative" of the campus's " willingness to consider the differing views others may hold." FRC spoke out immediately on Dr. McCaskill's behalf and helped to lead the effort to defend her while her life and livelihood were put at risk by the university's outrageous handling of the situation. While Dr. McCaskill took the opportunity to publicly thank FRC in her press conference, the real thanks belongs to the thousands of you who rallied to her side and signed our petition for her reinstatement. Your participation made a difference!
Although Dr. McCaskill is back at work, her battle with Gallaudet is far from over. After the controversy, her attorney says he's still working with the university to address the "unresolved legal and financial matters" created by this persecution. "Dr. McCaskill is entitled to some restoration of her reputation. And I think the university has not come to full grips with that [and the] harm [that] has been done to her..."
For now, Dr. McCaskill will try to sort through her inbox, which she says has been flooded with emails--many supportive. Asked by D.C.'s News Channel 8 if she had a message for those who don't welcome her return, she said simply, "I'll pray for them."
Taking Back What's Hours
Senator Harry Reid must believe in the long day theory of creation. How else can he explain keeping the Senate in its "opening legislative day" for 500 hours? According to sources, the chamber's chief Democrat is abusing his power until he decides what to do about the filibuster rule. Although the Senate actually convened last Thursday, Sen. Reid used a parliamentary procedure to block its adjournment so that the window for changing the body's rules stays open.
Reid's ultimate goal is doing away with the two-thirds majority it takes to end a filibuster and replacing it with a simple majority vote. If he succeeds, the minority--in this case Republicans--would be powerless to stop the majority party's agenda on a number of issues. It would consolidate more power for Democrats, discourage compromise, and end what little negotiating the Senate does. While the change would benefit them in the short term, even some Democrats seem hesitant. "What goes around, comes around," Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) warned.
Details on the IRA Charitable Giving Opportunity ...
There are a few positive nods toward charity in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA). As mentioned above, it contains an extension of the IRA Charitable Rollover, or a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD). This permits people over 70 and a half years of age to direct their IRA custodian to forward up to $100,000 in cumulative distributions to charities, such as FRC. If completed by Jan 31, 2013, the law allows you to retroactively apply it to the 2012 calendar. What makes this even more attractive is that it's considered a non-taxable event. You do not have to include it as income during the year it is applied. Also, this can be part of your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). Some FRC supporters have already inquired how they may take advantage of this. If you would like to do the same, there are a few simple steps:
- Contact your IRA custodian for their directions on how to initiate a Qualified Charitable Distribution.
- Explain the amount you would like them to transfer to Family Research Council or another qualified charity, designated as 501(c)(3) charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code.
- If your Custodian requires you to put this in writing, you may be able to use this downloadable sample letter for a gift pertaining to FRC.
You can learn more about the IRA Charitable Rollover and other ways charitable contributions are impacted via ATRA, by visiting our website here. We also have an eBrochure ready for you to print at home, available here. Please also feel free to email or call toll free 877-372-0804 and ask for our Director of Charitable Gift Planning, Chris Curry, if you have additional questions.
** If you missed the third day of our new live show, "Washington Watch with Tony Perkins," check out the archive tomorrow morning on TonyPerkins.com. Congressman Daniel Webster (R-FL) joined us to debunk the claim that the United States will default on its debts after February 15th. Also, Dr. David Jeremiah dropped by to offer his assessment on the spiritual state of the nation.
*** Is America banking on a path to fiscal ruin? Ken Blackwell thinks so. Read his take on Congress's "cliff" deal in the latest Daily Caller column from FRC's Senior Fellow.