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Washington “Insighter”

The end of October brought a new occupant to the biggest office in the U.S. Capitol Building as Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The departure of John Boehner from the Speakership and the election of Ryan, the youngest Speaker of the House since 1875, has brought more changes than just new names above the doors to office suites.

New staff, changed processes, and the potential for longer hours on the House floor debating amendments and casting votes are just some of the adjustments that will impact Congress.

While most of these will not have impacts on PESA members and the rest of the energy industry right away, the elevation of Ryan did leave open the leadership of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for tax issues among other items.

All of us know how much ink has been spent debating issues surrounding taxes and the oil and gas industry in recent years, so this is an important position.  While the goal of tax reform is still seen as a lofty one, if work on this mission does get underway, the Ways and Means chair will have a leading role.

On November 5, 2015, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) was selected as the new chair of the Ways and Means Committee. According to media reports, Brady is hopeful to make progress on international tax reform next year, with a goal of doing more, including both corporate and individual reforms, in 2017.

With these goals in mind and an on-going presidential election in 2016, the oil and gas industry is likely to be the focus of a lot of the discussion regarding taxes once again.  Other tax provisions, from domestic production deductions to research and development credits are focus areas for many PESA members as they manufacture equipment and develop new technologies.

So why is the House Ways and Means Committee so important?  Well, to put it simply, because the Constitution says so.

Specifically, Article I, Section VII of the U.S. Constitution declares that “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.”  And with issues as complex as those related to taxation requiring specialized focus, the Ways and Means Committee was born in 1789.

While the House has the stamp of Constitutional importance, the Senate is not simply standing on the sidelines.  The Senate Finance Committee, currently led by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), holds equal legislative jurisdiction.  Further, any legislation must pass through a closely divided Senate, where 60 votes is the new minimum needed to pass any legislation of consequence.

Last month’s Washington “Insighter” highlighted what remained on Congress’ to-do list for 2016.  With a former Ways and Means Chairman now leading the House from the Speaker’s Office and a Committee that continues to be focused on that goal, tax changes are once again shaping up to be on the to-do list for 2016.

But can it find room on an already crowded plate?