Daily Archives: July 25, 2013

Tax writers promise 50 years of secrecy for senators’ suggestions

By Bernie Becker

The Senate’s top tax writers have promised their colleagues 50 years worth of secrecy in exchange for suggestions on what deductions and credits to preserve in tax reform.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), assured lawmakers that any submission they receive will be kept under lock and key by the committee and the National Archives until the end of 2064.

Deeming the submissions confidential, the Senate’s top tax writers have said only certain staff members — 10 in all — will get direct access to a senator’s written suggestions. Each submission will also be given its own ID number and be kept on password-protected servers, with printed versions kept in locked safes.

The promise of confidentiality was revealed just two days before the deadline for senators to participate in the Finance Committee’s “blank slate” process, which puts the onus on lawmakers to argue for what credits and deductions should be kept in a streamlined tax code.

A Finance Committee aide said Baucus and Hatch were trying to prove to colleagues that they were making secrecy a priority. Officials on the panel circulated the news to senators in a memo that was dated last Friday.

“The letter was done at the request of offices to provide some assurance that the committee would not make their submissions public,” the aide said. “Sens. Baucus and Hatch are going out of their way to assure their colleagues they will keep the submissions in confidence.”

Keeping the submissions confidential for a half century, the aide added, was “standard operating procedure for sensitive materials, including investigation materials.”

The lengths Baucus and Hatch have gone to reassure their colleagues underscores the importance the tax writers are placing on the blank-slate plan, and it shows they are working hard to ensure that all 100 senators engage in the process.

Baucus told The Hill he fully expects more senators to participate in writing because of the secrecy guarantee.

“Several senators have said to me how important that is to them,” Baucus said. “It’s quite significant.”

It also illustrates the enormous pressure being brought to bear by K Street lobbyists, who are working furiously to protect their clients and the tax provisions that benefit them.

The move raises the stakes for Baucus and Hatch, who stand to lose credibility if the submissions start to leak out despite their vow to keep them in the vault.

Baucus announced this week that the Finance panel would mark up a tax reform bill this fall, after he has a chance during the August recess to consider his colleagues’ submissions. He suggested that the senators who take part in the blank-slate process would have greater influence.

From the start of the process, senators have expressed concerns that Baucus and Hatch wouldn’t be able to keep their proposals private. Given the enormous amount of money on the line — more than $1 trillion a year in tax expenditures are up for possible elimination — blowback from interest groups and businesses could easily derail the process.

The blank slate, some senators argue, forces them to choose sides on tax breaks that can have fervent backers back home and make them appear to be favoring special interests.

Hatch stressed that he still expects a fair number of GOP senators to give him oral suggestions, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told The Hill that he thought all Republicans would decide against putting ideas down on paper.

“We’re getting a lot of input regardless,” Hatch said. “All I want is input. I don’t care how they do it, whether it’s in writing or whether it’s personally.”

Under the confidential procedures set by the Finance panel, other committee staffers will only be allowed to handle senators’ suggestions if supervised by at least of the 10 authorized staffers.

Both the Democratic and Republican sides will receive a copy of a submission, and authorized staffers are supposed to log when copies of those proposals are made, who made them and how many.

The submissions can be released publicly, the memo says, if they’re scrubbed of any way of identifying the senator behind them.

But the confidentiality agreement might not be enough to get some senators off the sidelines.

Many have questioned whether it makes sense to move forward on the blank-slate approach when Democrats and Republicans have yet to resolve their long-standing differences about revenue.

While Republicans want the additional revenue from a simplified code to be used solely for lowering tax rates, Democrats want some of the windfall to go toward paying down the deficit.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) stressed that he didn’t think any leaks would come out of the committee, even as he said he didn’t think it would have much impact on what senators actually write.

“If anything comes out, it’s certainly not going to be attributable to the leadership of the committee or the staff,” Cardin said. “It’ll be some other way it comes out, which is always possible.”

Still, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who said that all Republicans were meeting one-on-one with Hatch, added that the two top tax writers were taking a chance.

“I think that, unfortunately for them, people around here tend to believe that anything in Washington — there are no secrets,” Thune said. “But they’re doing their best.”

“That should be somewhat reassuring,” Thune added. “I think people will feel a little bit more freedom.”

Source

About That US Recession…

by Tyler Durden

Whenever the annual change in core capex, also known as Non-Defense Capital Goods excluding Aircraft shipments goes negative, the US has traditionally entered a recession. Where is this number now: +0.8%, and declining fast. Feeling lucky?

Of course, in no other previous recession, was the US Fed holding $3.5 trillion in securities and increasing at a pace of $85 billion per month.

Source: Dept of Commerce

Source

134 House Republicans Vote Against Our Unalienable Rights

Asylum Watch

On a long enough timeline,

the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

**********

The above is the tagline for the blog, Zero Hedge, where I found two articles related to the now infamous National Security Agency (NSA). From the first article, I share this partial quote:

When it comes to the conversion of the US into a totalitarian state, few things are quite as symbolic as the construction of the NSA’s Bluffdale, Utah Data Canter,…

I agree with that sentiment. But, it was the second article the got my blood boiling when I read the following:

Moments ago, an unlikely grouping between a 33-year old Republican, Rep-Justin Amash, and an 84-year old Democrat, Rep-John Conyers, resulted in a House vote, that if passed, would have suspended the NSA’s “indiscriminate collection of phone records” and effectively ended the program’s statutory authority. Yet despite significant lobbying by the White…

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Gulf of Mexico: W&T Offshore Makes Discovery at Mahogany Field

W&T Offshore, Inc. announced that it has made a subsalt discovery in a deep shelf exploratory target beneath its Ship Shoal 349 “Mahogany” Field.

The SS 359 A-14 well has exceeded the Company’s expectations and is currently producing from the targeted T-Sand (in excess of 17,200′ total vertical depth), at an initial flow back rate of 3,030 barrels of oil per day and 5.6 million cubic feet of gas per day, for a total of approximately 4,000 barrels of oil equivalent (Boe) per day (3,310 Boe per day net of royalty to W&T) with a flowing tubing pressure of approximately 9,400 psi surface pressure. The T-Sand is the deepest sand discovered in this field, as there is additional pay identified in the M-Sand, N-Sand, and O-Sand, all of which represent future reserve additions to the Company. The well also penetrated a thicker than expected P-sand interval (the main field pay sand) which will also serve as a future recompletion. In total, the A-14 well logged over 370 feet of net oil pay, with the T-Sand accounting for 108 feet of the total net pay. Success from the A-14 T-sand will stimulate additional drilling in 2014 to exploit the four newly discovered oil sands that were encountered in the A-14 well. W&T holds a 100% working interest in the field.

Tracy Krohn, W&T Offshore’s Chairman and CEO, stated, “Our exploration team utilized our subsalt imaging technology to identify and deliver this subsalt discovery which is a deep shelf exploration extension to our producing Mahogany Field. This new oil discovery is part of our organic growth plan and adds substantial value to the Company. We found a very high quality oil sand in the T-sand reservoir with great flow characteristics. Another key value driver on this project is our ability to produce this discovery immediately through our existing infrastructure at Mahogany. We are evaluating additional targets in this highly prolific field based upon our continuing success and look forward to our next exploratory well at Mahogany, the A-15 well, which should begin drilling in in September.”

The platform rig at Mahogany is currently working on a major recompletion in the A-4 well, designed to bring a behind pipe P-Sand interval into production at an expected rate of 1,000 Boe per day, net of royalties to W&T with an anticipated production date of August or September. Following the A-4 recomplete the Company expects to spud the A-15 subsalt exploratory well, a multi-horizon target that is anticipated to encounter multiple stacked oil sand targets. The A-15 well is scheduled to reach total depth near the end of 2013 or early 2014 with a target IP rate of 1,390 Boe per day, net of royalty to W&T. The unrisked reserve potential associated with the A-15 well is anticipated to be in the range of 1.8 to 6.2 million Boe.

Source

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