NARI on the Hill


Congress wraps up the year

After passing two short term continuing resolutions to keep the government running, Congress finally reached an agreement on a $1.15 trillion omnibus appropriations bill and an almost $700 million tax package.

The omnibus package adheres to spending levels that were agreed to in last month’s bipartisan budget deal.  That agreement provided an approximately 5 percent increase to FY 2016 discretionary spending above the post-sequester level. The new omnibus legislation would provide around $548 billion for defense programs and $518 billion for nondefense. The compromise is a product of weeks of long and difficult negotiations.

In the end, Congressional Members dropped the most contentious policy issues that had stalled negotiations in recent weeks, including almost all appropriations “riders.” That decision will make it easier to garner Democratic votes, which will be needed to carry the legislation through both chambers.

In keeping with their promise to give Members time to review legislation, Republican leaders agreed to adhere to the “three-day rule.” They released the package on Tuesday and scheduled votes for later in the week. The omnibus first passed the House of Representatives on Friday, December 18. The Senate then took up a combined omnibus/tax extender package and passed that on Friday as well. 

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers was quoted as saying, “"While an end-of-the-year omnibus is not the preferred way to do business – it is always better to complete individual bills in a timely fashion – this bill will allow Congress to fulfill its constitutional duty to responsibly fund the federal government and avoid a shutdown.”

The passage of the FY 16 omnibus bill will allow Congress to start fresh in January 2017 on the next appropriations process for fiscal year 2017.

Tax Extenders

On Thursday, December 17, the House of Representatives passed an approximately $700 billion tax cut package. The measure passed on a vote of 318–109, with 77 Democrats voting in support and three Republicans opposed. The Senate combined the measure with the omnibus appropriations bill and passed it on Friday.

Included in the measure were three energy efficiency provisions that NARI has supported throughout the year: (1) 25C for improvements made to existing homes; (2) 45L for the construction of energy efficient new homes, and; (3) 179D the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction.

The tax bill is a two year extension through 2016, including a retroactive application to the current 2015 tax year.  There were also a number of tax provisions that were made permanent including the research and development tax credit, Section 179 capital expensing for businesses, and expanded versions of the child tax credit, Earned Income Tax Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit for college expenses.

Silica Rider

Despite overwhelming pressure from the construction industry, Members of the Appropriations Committee did not include the Silica rider in the FY 16 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The absence of this rider increases the likelihood that OSHA will go ahead and finalize the Silica rule in February 2016.  However, there is still an opportunity to weigh in on the proposal before it becomes final. Once OSHA finalizes its draft rule, the agency must send the proposal to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the White House for review. Major rules, such as the Silica rule, must also be accompanied by a final Regulatory Impact Analysis.

OIRA will review the costs and benefits of the rule and determine if the rule fits the Administration's regulatory priorities. OIRA then has a 90-day period in which to complete its review process. It is during this time period that NARI, along with our partners in the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), will, again, try and set up a meeting with OIRA to discuss the rule. This will be the industry’s last opportunity to really influence or change the rule before it is published. There is the possibility that the final OIRA review may involve further negotiations with the agency, and the agency will then, again, have to wait for the conclusion of OIRA review. OIRA is much more attuned to the economic effects of regulations than the Agencies themselves. If there are going to be any last minute changes before final publication, it will be at this junction.

Once the final rule has been published, an Agency usually must wait at least 30 days before implementing it. However, even if OSHA publishes a final rule, there are still steps that can be taken to continue the fight.  For instance, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) grants Congress a 60-day window to review the new rule. This law allows Congress to nullify an Agency rule by simple majority. However, in this case, even if Congress was successful in nullifying the rule, it is doubtful that there would be enough votes to override an expected Presidential veto.

There are a number of other options that could be available and NARI will continue to work with our partners on the Construction Industry Safety Coalition to fight this overly burdensome and technologically unfeasible proposal.

The fight goes on!