President & First Lady Test Positive for Covid-19; Biden tested negative Friday
President Trump is experiencing “mild symptoms” of COVID-19, a White House official said according to the Associated Press and the New York Times. Two people familiar with his condition told the Times they were cold-like symptoms. The White House says he is still working from isolation.
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Earmarks Coming Back?
Members on both sides of the aisle said Thursday they support ending the decade-long earmark moratorium.
The recommendation to again allow funding local projects and programs through federal spending measures was mentioned throughout a House Rules Committee hearing at which members expressed what changes they’d like to see in the next Congress.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said earmarks — defined as congressionally directed spending that benefits a particular locality — are important for both individual members and the chamber as a whole. When earmarks were eliminated in 2011, to end what was derided as often wasteful spending, Congress “surrendered part of our power to the executive branch,” Hoyer said.
“Restoring this power in Congress, I believe, is essential to restoring the balance of our constitutional system of checks and balances,” Hoyer said.
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Charitable Conservation Easements Under Attack
Last month, the Senate Finance Committee released a report on syndicated conservation easement transactions. In its report, the committee laid out an unflattering view of the syndicated arrangements, finding that “syndicated conservation-easement transactions appear to be highly abusive tax shelters.” This past week, the Senate Finance Committee released IRS data reflecting a “significant increase in conservation easement transactions,” and its chairman expressed concerns about what he characterized as the “serious and persistent abuse of the syndicated conservation easement program.”
Legitimate practitioners in the land conservation industry are pushing back against the Finance Chairman’s blanket criticism, however. In a recent op-ed Partnership for Conservation’s President Robert Ramsay wrote: “One critical tool designed to encourage private land conservation is the tax deduction available to those who protect their land through conservation easements — restrictions that run with the land forever protecting it from development... Fortunately, there are common sense ways for Congress to address valuation issues without limiting the ability of Americans to conserve land [including] reforms that strengthen appraisal standards.
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Bill Tied to 737 Max Advances in House Panel
A bipartisan bill to overhaul aircraft safety rules in the wake of two Boeing Co. 737 Max crashes cleared a key hurdle Wednesday, weeks after the Senate postponed debate on similar legislation.
The measure (H.R. 8408), like the Senate bill (S. 3969), would tighten the authority the Federal Aviation Administration gives aircraft manufacturers to sign off on a plane’s safety. It would also require manufacturers to adopt better safety management systems and convene an expert panel to review Boeing’s safety culture.
Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and ranking member Sam Graves (R-MO) support the bill.
The aircraft certification process “is broken and we must fix it,” DeFazio said at the markup.
DeFazio said Wednesday he looks forward to advancing the bill to the House floor. However, the measure will have to compete for limited floor time remaining this year, while senators have yet to agree on that chamber’s version of it.
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