In this file:
∑ Effects of Senate 50-50 Split
∑ In a 50-50 Senate, Kamala Harris can sign off on $2,000 stimulus checks and more
Effects of Senate 50-50 Split
Democratic Control Shifts Nominations, Taxes, Climate Policy
By Chris Clayton, DTN/Progressive Farmer
OMAHA (DTN) -- While Congress recovers from the storming of the U.S. Capitol, policy options for the incoming Biden administration opened up Wednesday when Democrat Jon Ossoff defeated GOP Sen. David Perdue in the second Georgia Senate runoff.
The Georgia victories by Ossoff and Raphael Warnock pushed the U.S. Senate into a 50-50 party split with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris serving as tie breaker. Democrats will hold the majority in both chambers of Congress and the presidency.
The shift turns around committee chairs in the Senate. Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., will reclaim the gavel. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is expected to become the highest-ranking Republican on the committee. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., would become ranking member and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the subcommittee ranking member, would be positioned to become chairman.
In the Senate, most legislation will still require 60 votes to move to a floor debate and final vote. That rule doesn't hold when it comes to nominations so Harris would be able to break any ties for nominees who do not have any GOP support.
Chris Gibbs, a west-central Ohio farmer, chaired Rural America 2020, which criticized Trump's trade and farm policies. Gibbs said he is optimistic about the Biden administration and his ability now to get nominees through Congress after they've undergone proper vetting. "We won't be hamstrung as a government because of nominees being held up," he said.
The incoming Biden team has been reaching out to people in agriculture. Michael Regan, the North Carolina nominee for EPA administrator, met virtually with 16 members of the Ag CEO Council earlier this week. The Biden transition team put out a news release about the discussion, stating the new administration "will work closely with agricultural producers to find practical, common sense solutions" to environmental and economic issues.
John Newton, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, told DTN the group is focused on working on agricultural priorities in a bi-partisan fashion. Trade remains a priority, and Farm Bureau delegates will meet next week to debate policy resolutions.
"Trade is a priority, strengthening the farm bill is a priority, access to farm labor is a priority," he said. "I think preserving the benefits of the Tax Cuts and JOBS Act is likely going to be a priority."
Democratic control of the Senate increases the chances high-income farmers could see their taxes raised. The Wall Street Journal said Thursday that losing the GOP Senate opens up that possibility.
Biden's plan before the election called for raising taxes on people with $400,000 or more in taxable income. For high-end earners, Biden's proposal would roll back many of the 2017 tax cuts signed into law by President Donald Trump. That would move the top rate from 37% to 39.6%.
A DTN analysis of recent tax-return data showed roughly 80,000 tax filers with farm income or losses could be affected by a $400,000 or higher taxable income.
Another big tax proposal would raise payroll taxes for earned income above $400,000. Currently, payroll taxes phase out for earners above $137,700 in income. Self-employed individuals, such as farmers, would pay the full 12.4% on those payroll taxes, but then deduct half -- 6.2% -- on their tax returns.
Biden's plan also called for raising the capital-gains rate from 21% to 28%. For people with more than $1 million in income, the Biden plan calls for treating capital gains as ordinary income as well.
Another key aspect of the Biden plan would reduce the estate tax exemption back to the 2009 level of $3.5 million and increase the top rate to 45%.
Right now, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would take over as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, replacing Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
CLIMATE CHANGE ...
REVERSING REGULATIONS ...
In a 50-50 Senate, Kamala Harris can sign off on $2,000 stimulus checks and more
By David Lightman, The Sacramento Bee (CA)
January 07, 2021
Washington / Kamala Harris suddenly has been handed all kinds of power to get people $2,000 stimulus checks, provide money to fight climate change and win confirmation of President-elect Joe Bidenís nominees.
Because Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Ralph Warnock and Jon Ossoff won Tuesday, the Senate will have 50 members who caucus with Democrats and 50 Republicans. That means once sheís sworn in as vice president January 20, Harris also becomes Senate president.
That means she breaks 50-50 ties.
ďWinning the two seats in Georgia is a big deal for the Democrats because of the VPís power to break tie votes,Ē said Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential expert and professor of law emeritus at Saint Louis University School of Law.
As vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden never had to break a tie. But Vice President Al Gore broke ties that were consequential: In 1993 on President Bill Clintonís economic relief package and in 1999 on a gun control initiative. Many of Vice President Mike Penceís tiebreakers have involved President Donald Trumpís nominees.
Harris has been a U.S. senator from California since 2017, and sought the presidency herself in 2019. Now she finds herself in a position that will mean voting to transform Bidenís campaign promises into national policy...