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Legislative Updates: August 2012


Capitol Call

Congress started its annual August recess a day early this year, leaving Washington on the evening of August 2. To illustrate Congress’s excitement at leaving the Capitol, a humorous picture appeared on the cover of Roll Call, showing Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin), an accomplished lumberjack (really), running down the stairs of the Capitol like a child racing home after the last day of school. If being the first one out of town for August had been an Olympic sport, Rep. Duffy would be a gold medal contender.

In fact, the Olympic sport most similar to Congress would be soccer, which involves little scoring and is painful for many Americans to watch. In the Congressional version the Republican team advances the legislative ball out of the House, only to watch the Democratic team swat the ball away in the Senate with a superior defense known as the “filibuster.” After two years, the score would still be tied, 0-0.

Two examples of this happened in July. The Senate passed a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts that apply to individuals earning under $250,000 per year while the House passed a bill that would provide $383 million in drought aid to livestock and other agricultural producers. The House team wanted the Bush-era tax cut extension to apply to all taxpayers regardless of income and the Senate team wanted to pass a full, multi-year Farm Bill instead of a partial fix. Neither bill was ultimately passed.

Despite the inability of the 112th Congress to work together, they did not end up entirely scoreless going into the August recess. It is worth noting that in the first session they repealed a provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) that required businesses to report to the Internal Revenue Service all purchases of $600 or more. In last month’s Capitol Call we incorrectly reported that the Senate had not repealed any of the ACA legislation.

And in the second session Congress passed a major transportation bill and a bill to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling. They also passed the legislation necessary to fund the government for another six months and avoid a government shutdown on September 30. But the agreement just keeps government funding at current levels and does not address any of the many outstanding policy disputes that both teams have eagerly blamed each other for not fixing.

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