Congressional leaders ostensibly reach an agreement to avoid government shutdown
February 12, 2019
Lawmakers announce agreement to avoid government shutdown. On Monday, after resuming stalled talks, congressional leaders reached an ‘agreement in principle’ on border security to keep the federal government open. The proposal provides $1.375 billion for fences along the border, caps the number of beds for immigrants detained within the US in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers, and funds all government operations through September. Although the deal has been approved by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-C.A.), related legislation has to pass in both houses of Congress and be signed into law by President Trump to officially avoid a shutdown. Many prominent conservatives have expressed disapproval concerning the terms of the deal, and Trump’s stance remains unclear. [Washington Post]
Legislators propose drilling ban in Alaskan wildlife refuge. A bipartisan group of House legislators introduced a bill to end drilling to extract oil and natural gas in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The move comes after decades of Alaskan government officials pushing to open the refuge for drilling, which was ultimately allowed in a section of the 2017 GOP tax-cuts. Under current law, the U.S. Department of the Interior must complete an environmental review before drilling rights can be auctioned. The first auction is expected to be held in 2020. [The Hill]
Legislators propose creating cyber workforce exchange. A bipartisan bill aiming to attract cybersecurity experts to the public sector would establish an exchange program between private companies and the federal government. The proposal comes amid a nationwide push for federal employees to increase their knowledge of cybersecurity and shield federal agencies against potential cyberattacks. Through the exchange, cyber experts working in academia or at private firms could work at federal agencies for up to two years and bridge gaps in the current cybersecurity workforce. [The Hill]
Lawmakers attempt to repeal cap on tax deductions. Legislators in historically Democratic states have launched efforts to repeal the cap on State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions enacted in 2018. Efforts to repeal the SALT cap are gaining traction in states such as New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and California, where middle-class Americans have experienced increases in their federal tax bills due to the presence of high state and local taxes. New Jersey’s Democratic senators, the primary sponsors of the bill, say the cost of removing the $10,000 cap on deductions would be offset through a restoration of the 39.6 percent income tax in the top income bracket. Controversy surrounding this proposal stems from the fact that it would significantly benefit the top 1 percent of taxpayers. [Politico]
Economic Indicators and News
JOLTS report soars to record high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. job openings rose to 7.34 million in December 2018 from 7.17 million in November 2018. This is the highest level of job openings reported since the BLS began tracking this data in 2000. The rise in openings is primarily attributed to a large increase in postings in the construction sector. This data indicates a widened the gap between vacancies and hiring. [CNBC].