Sep 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Senators launch 11th-hour push to protect broadband from new taxes

Warner on an escalator

Sen. Mark Warner talks to members of the press at the Capitol on Sept. 27. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators is making an eleventh-hour push to shield President Biden’s billion-dollar broadband investment from being diluted by new taxes.

Why it matters: The new legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), will give Congress another reason to push for a lame-duck tax package that addresses problems some lawmakers have been warning about all year.

State of play: A grand December tax negotiation could include everything from extending research and development tax credits for businesses to re-upping a version of Biden’s enhanced child tax credit. Negotiations — and some potential horse-trading — are underway.

  • So-called "tax extender" packages are typically done at the end of the year, sometimes in lame-duck sessions, to either extend popular tax credits or make nonpartisan technical fixes for problems that have arisen throughout the year.
  • It could also be the last chance for Democrats to make the changes they want while they control both chambers of Congress. In the Senate, they will still need 60 votes.

The big picture: With vulnerable lawmakers eager to get out of town and defend their seats on the campaign trail, leaders in both chambers want to wrap up legislative business this week and come back after the election.

  • After passing a short-term funding bill for the government, lawmakers plan to leave Washington and return for a longer lame-duck session, which will be dominated by the debate over funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year.
  • The promise of more than a month of uninterrupted campaign time for senators was threatened today by a suggestion from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he wanted to bring them back the week of Oct. 11 for the National Defense Authorization Act.

Driving the news: Warner and Moran plan to introduce their legislation on Thursday. Their goal is to protect broadband providers from paying taxes on grants they may receive from the federal government to build more infrastructure.

  • The senators are concerned that tax policy scheduled to take effect in 2023 will essentially water down the broadband investments that Biden and many lawmakers have called critical.

What they're saying: "In order to fully reap the benefits of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan, every dollar that was set aside to fund broadband expansion and deployment should be used for that purpose," said Warner, a member of the Finance Committee.

  • "Reliable, high-speed internet is more crucial than ever for Kansans to run their businesses, access telehealth or pursue an education,” said Moran. "This common-sense legislation would make certain federal grants provided for broadband deployment are not counted as taxable income to maximize the impact and success of these resources."
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