“Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday took aim at former President Trump for pushing Republican lawmakers to oppose a border deal so that he could use the issue to campaign against President Biden in the 2024 presidential election.
Romney told CNN’s Manu Raju he thought it was “really appalling” that Trump would try to prevent progress on addressing the surge in migration at the southern border.
“I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump,” Romney said. “And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling.”
“But the reality is that we have a crisis at the border, the American people are suffering as a result of what’s happening at the border, and someone running for president ought to try to get the problem solved as opposed to saying, ‘Hey, save that problem. Don’t solve it. Let me take credit for solving it later,’” Romney continued.”
“One-third or so of species in the US are threatened with extinction, according to the Nature Conservancy. Think about that: One in three species could disappear for good. That includes things like owls, salamanders, fish, and plants, each of which contributes some function to ecosystems that we depend on.
Thankfully, there’s such a thing as conservation, and in the US, much of it is done by state wildlife agencies. Fish and game departments have a range of programs to monitor and manage species that include reintroducing locally extinct animals and setting regulations for hunting and fishing.
heir work, however, faces a couple of big problems.
The first is that states don’t have enough money. Roughly 80 percent of funding for state-led conservation comes from selling hunting and fishing licenses, in addition to federal excise taxes on related gear, such as guns and ammo. These activities aren’t as popular as they once were. “That results in less conservation work getting done,” Andrew Rypel, a freshwater ecologist at the University of California Davis, told Vox in August.
Another challenge is that states spend virtually all the money they do raise on managing animals that people like to hunt or fish, such as elk and trout. “At the state level, there’s been almost zero focus on non-game fish and wildlife,” Daniel Rohlf, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, said in August. That leaves out many species — including, say, kinds of freshwater mussels — that play incredibly important roles in our ecosystems.
RAWA could be a fix. The bill would provide state wildlife agencies a total of $1.3 billion a year by 2026, based on the state’s size, human population, and the number of federally threatened species. RAWA also includes nearly $100 million for the nation’s Native American tribes, who own or help manage nearly 140 million acres of land in the US (equal to about 7 percent of the continental US).
One feature of RAWA that makes it so useful, according to environmental advocates, is that it requires states to protect animals that are imperiled, whether or not they’re targeted by hunters and fishers. “That’s funding that doesn’t exist right now,” Rohlf said.”
“After RAWA passed the House last summer, lawmakers turned to the bill’s tallest hurdle: the “pay-for,” a.k.a. how to cover the cost of the legislation, without having to raise the deficit.
Negotiations carried on throughout the fall, and legislators put forward a number of different proposals. In the final weeks of the congressional term, it looked as though the government would pay for RAWA by closing a tax loophole related to cryptocurrency, as E&E News’s Emma Dumain reported.
Ultimately, lawmakers couldn’t agree on the details. That’s why RAWA got cut from the omnibus bill.”
“Twelve Republican lawmakers crossed the aisle and voted with all the Democrats for the bill, which will enshrine federal recognition for same-sex and interracial marriages in states that have legalized it.
The Respect for Marriage Act is intended as a backstop should the Supreme Court ever decide to reconsider and overturn U.S. v. Windsor, which ruled that the federal government must recognize state-approved, same-sex marriages, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled that all states and the federal government must legally recognize same-sex marriage. The Respect for Marriage Act repeals and replaces the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.”
“The Respect for Marriage Act requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it is legal. This is obviously very important in terms of taxes and federal benefits that are tied to marriage. This is not an expansion of the federal government so much as widening the group of people who have access to existing privileges, rights, and benefits.”
“The Respect for Marriage Act does not require any state to legalize same-sex marriages. Many states still have bans on recognition on the books. If the Supreme Court ever decides to overturn Obergefell, those bans will likely become active again. The Times coverage somewhat downplays this, and some gay couples might end up being surprised at what happens if Obergefell ever goes away.
The Respect for Marriage Act does require states to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states. While this feels awkward and intrusive from a federalism standpoint, do try to imagine what would happen if this were not the case. More specifically, try to imagine if this were not the case with heterosexual couples. Each state sets its own marriage rules, but each state historically recognizes legal marriage licenses from other states for heterosexual couples. Gay couples shouldn’t be any different.
The Respect for Marriage Act lets religious organizations decline to participate in gay weddings. The bill specifically provides that churches and other houses of worship, religious groups, faith-based social agencies, etc. “shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. Any refusal under this subsection to provide such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.””
“LGBTQ advocates chafe at the fact that the bill does not truly codify a national right to same-sex marriage, instead repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and requiring all states to recognize marriages performed in other states should the high court reverse its earlier ruling. Supportive Republicans may not have gone further than they did, and the bill only squeaked by Tuesday, 61-36.”
“Democrats’ new climate, health care, and tax package — known as the Inflation Reduction Act — includes nearly $80 billion in new funding for the IRS, which is supposed to help the chronically underfunded agency staff back up and boost enforcement measures to collect unpaid taxes from wealthy Americans.
The funding has become a political flashpoint in recent days among conservatives and some business groups, who have falsely claimed that the IRS will use the money to hire an “army” of 87,000 new agents who will target average taxpayers.”
“Administration officials have reiterated that they will focus enforcement efforts on wealthy Americans and large corporations.”
“The IRS’s budget has been cut by nearly 20 percent since 2010, impacting the agency’s ability to staff up and modernize half-century-old technology. In 2010, the IRS had about 94,000 employees. That number dipped to about 78,000 employees in 2021. Some of the agency’s computers still run on COBOL, a programming language that dates back to the 1960s.
Since 2010, the agency’s enforcement staff has declined by 30 percent, according to IRS officials, and audit rates for the wealthiest taxpayers have seen the biggest declines because of years of underfunding. The new bill is an attempt to change that.”
“The new funding is intended to help reduce the “tax gap,” or the difference between what people pay in taxes and what they owe in taxes, which the Treasury Department estimates is about $600 billion annually. The new money could help the IRS increase revenue by about $200 billion over the next decade, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, although the exact amount is hard to calculate and highly uncertain.
Natasha Sarin, a counselor for tax policy and implementation at the Treasury Department, said that for Americans making less than $400,000 a year, their chances of being audited wouldn’t increase from typical levels in recent years.
Instead, Sarin said, average taxpayers should have an improved experience filing their taxes because the funds would allow the agency to add staff. In the first half of 2021, there were fewer than 15,000 employees available to answer nearly 200 million calls, which is one person for every 13,000 calls, according to Treasury Department figures.”
“As a result of reduced staffing at the IRS, audit rates of individual income tax returns decreased for all income levels from 2010 to 2019, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. Audit rates decreased the most for taxpayers with incomes of $200,000 or more.”
“A 2018 analysis by ProPublica found that while audits had declined most dramatically for the wealthy, the IRS continued to audit the lowest-income filers — recipients of anti-poverty tax credits, including the earned income tax credit — at relatively high rates.
Over the last decade, audit rates for multimillionaires have decreased by twice as much as audit rates for the lowest-income families who receive the EITC because it requires more resources to go after top earners, Sarin said.
The funding should allow the IRS to better target wealthy earners who aren’t paying their taxes because the agency will be able to upgrade its technology, Sarin said, reducing the chances that compliant taxpayers would be audited.
Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, reaffirmed similar commitments in a letter to the IRS commissioner last week.
“Contrary to the misinformation from opponents of this legislation, small business or households earning $400,000 per year or less will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited,” Yellen wrote.”
“Budget cuts and reduced capacity have led to a significant backlog of unprocessed tax forms. As of the beginning of August, the IRS had a backlog of 9.7 million unprocessed individual 2021 returns.”
“Sarin said the IRS would focus on hiring employees who have experience working with complex tax filings from large corporations and high-net-worth individuals. Audits of average taxpayers follow a significantly different process, she said.”
“The policies overall aim to push American consumers and industry away from reliance on fossil fuels. The biggest share of the funding goes to tax credits and rebates for a host of renewable technologies — solar panels, wind turbines, heat pumps, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles. It includes incentives for companies to manufacture more of that technology in the United States. The law will also put funding into energy efficiency at industrial sites that can help lower the sector’s hefty carbon footprint, while dedicating some funds to forest and coastal restoration.
The IRA also breaks new ground on other problematic areas of the climate crisis. It sets the first methane fee that penalizes fossil fuel companies for excess emissions of the especially powerful climate pollutant. Another substantial part of the funding helps disadvantaged communities with monitoring and cleaning up pollution, and builds their resilience to climate impacts.
Beyond cutting climate pollution, the clean energy investments could also make a dent in inflation. According to Robbie Orvis, senior director at Energy Innovation, rising energy prices have driven roughly a third of the 9 percent rise in the overall Consumer Price Index this past year. By helping Americans become less reliant on fossil fuels, the spending helps ease the global oil crunch and cut consumer bills.”
“The agreement also includes a 15 percent minimum tax on corporations with profits over $1 billion. Senate Democrats note that while the current corporate tax rate is 21 percent, dozens of major companies, including AT&T, Amazon, and ExxonMobil, pay much less than that. Originally, the provision was expected to raise $313 billion, though new carveouts were added to win Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-AZ) vote, which give manufacturers and private equity firms more leeway when it comes to the new minimum tax rate. Those changes are likely to reduce the revenue this measure will bring in.
There is also a 1 percent excise tax on corporations’ stock buybacks, which are currently not subject to any taxes at all. That excise tax is estimated to raise roughly $73 billion in revenue.”
“One big question is whether a bill called the Inflation Reduction Act will lower the decades-high inflation numbers that consumers are feeling at the grocery store and the gas pump.
As economists told Vox’s Li Zhou, the average American likely won’t feel the impact immediately or particularly significantly — its effect will be in a longer-term and macroeconomic sense.
“For the most part, this isn’t a bill about 2022,” Marc Goldwein, the senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told Vox. “This is about 2023, 2024, 2025. It’s about helping the Federal Reserve to fight against persistent inflation. It’s not gonna be bringing down the inflation rate in the month of September.””
“the bill will allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper prescription drug prices for certain very expensive medications and cap out-of-pocket prescription costs for Medicare beneficiaries at $2,000 per year. That unprecedented measure will lower the cost for consumers. A further measure requires pharmaceutical companies to pay a rebate to Medicare if they raise drug prices faster than inflation increases, NPR reported — presumably disincentivizing those companies from repeated price increases.”
“In addition to cementing Medicare’s new negotiating power, the bill also holds insurance subsidies for the Affordable Care Act through 2025, making health insurance more affordable for the millions of people who are insured through the health care marketplace. The initial subsidies were supposed to end this year, which would have meant increased premiums for the millions of people who qualified for free health insurance when Congress eliminated the income cap to qualify for federal assistance paying premiums.
The IRA also includes the largest-ever investments in climate change mitigation efforts, clean energy production, and climate justice programs, all designed to mitigate harmful effects of climate change in underserved areas.”
“While much of the financial incentives for pursuing clean energy and climate change mitigation are geared toward companies, there are rebates and tax credits available for people buying clean energy sources like heat pumps and rooftop solar panels. Those measures are aimed at making clean energy more available to more people, although solar panels, for example, cost about $11,000 in 2021 for a household setup.
The legislation also offers a $4,000 tax credit for low- and middle-income drivers to buy a used electric vehicle, and up to $7,500 for a new electric vehicle. Additionally, a study by the Rhodium Group estimates that the bill’s provisions will save households an average of $1,025 per year by 2030.”
“Even though all of these measures are in place, there is no question that the environmental actions and funding aren’t enough. The bill provides far less than what’s actually needed: a total system overhaul. It will be years before these programs will be implemented and pay off in the form of lower greenhouse gas emissions, better health outcomes for low-income communities, and improved clean energy infrastructure. However, it’s hard to deny that the IRA provides a glimmer of hope that it’s possible to start addressing some of the most pressing problems — including overwhelming health care costs and climate change.”
“Farms cover roughly 40 percent of the country, and they’ve replaced countless ecosystems with vast fields of soybeans, corn, and cattle. Agriculture also accounts for about 11 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions.”
“The biggest chunk of money — roughly $8.5 billion — goes toward a program run by the US Department of Agriculture called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. It pays for projects that restore the ecosystem or reduce emissions on farmland.
Farmers often use the money to buy and plant cover crops. These are plants, such as clover, radishes, or rye, that are rooted in fields that might otherwise be fallow to improve the health of the soil and prevent erosion. The idea is that the ground is always “covered” with something.
Cover crops also have a range of other superpowers, said Rob Myers, director of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture at the University of Missouri. During a drought, for example, they can lock moisture in the soil; during a flood, meanwhile, they help water more easily penetrate the ground.”
“The IRA uses tax credits to incentivize consumers to buy electric cars, electric HVAC systems, and other forms of cleaner technology, leading to less emissions from cars and electricity generation, and includes incentives for companies to manufacture that technology in the United States. It also includes money for a host of other climate priorities, like investing in forest and coastal restoration and in resilient agriculture.
These investments, spread out over the next decade, are likely to cut pollution by around 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, according to three separate analyses by economic modelers at Rhodium Group, Energy Innovation, and Princeton University. The legislation helps move the US a little closer to its stated goal of cutting pollution in half within the decade.
The main climate change components of the Inflation Reduction Act look surprisingly similar to the version the House passed last fall, a measure widely celebrated by climate activists — although it’s smaller than the $2 trillion the Biden administration once envisioned. To win Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) support, Democrats added provisions that clear permitting roadblocks for some fossil fuel projects and force the Department of Interior to hold more offshore oil lease sales.”
“There is plenty the act does that is not about climate change. There’s funding for the Affordable Care Act, the IRS, and prescription drug reform. It also sets a corporate minimum tax — one of the ways the law helps tackle inflation. But this is arguably a climate law, as climate initiatives make up the biggest portion of the act’s investments.
The deal retains most of the key programs of the House’s Build Back Better Act, including consumer tax credits for solar panels and electric vehicles, and funding for domestic clean energy manufacturing.”