U.S. Government & governance February 2024 –

Written by  //  April 26, 2024  //  Government & Governance, U.S.  //  Comments Off on U.S. Government & governance February 2024 –

IRS Direct File Pilot Exceeds Usage Goal, Receiving Positive User Ratings and Saving Taxpayers Money
140,803 Taxpayers Filed Their Taxes Directly with the IRS for Free as users claimed more than $90 million in refunds and saved an estimated $5.6 million in tax preparation fees
Heather Cox Richardson April 26, 2024
…the Treasury Department announced that the pilot program of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that enabled taxpayers to file their tax returns directly with the IRS for free had more users than the program’s stated goal, got positive ratings, and saved users an estimated $5.6 million in fees for tax preparation. The government had hoped about 100,000 people would use the pilot program; 140,803 did.
Former deputy director of the National Economic Council Bharat Ramamurti wrote on social media, “Of all the things I was lucky enough to work on, this might be my favorite. You shouldn’t have to pay money to pay your taxes. As this program continues to grow, most people will get pre-populated forms and be able to file their taxes with a few clicks in a few minutes.” Such a system would look much like the system other countries already use.

21 April
How Mike Johnson Got to ‘Yes’ on Aid to Ukraine
Intelligence, politics and personal considerations converted the Republican speaker, who had largely opposed aid to Ukraine as a rank-and-file member, into the key figure pushing it through Congress.
(NYT) He huddled with top national security officials, including WILLIAM J. BURNS, the C.I.A. director, in the Oval Office to discuss classified intelligence. He met repeatedly with broad factions of Republicans in both swing and deep red districts, and considered their voters’ attitudes toward funding Ukraine. He thought about his son, who is set to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in the fall.
And finally, when his plan to work with Democrats to clear the way for aiding Ukraine met with an outpouring of venom from ultraconservatives already threatening to depose him, Mr. Johnson, an evangelical Christian, knelt and prayed for guidance.
Mr. Johnson’s decision to risk his speakership to push the $95 billion foreign aid bill through the House on Saturday was the culmination of a remarkable personal and political arc for the Louisiana Republican. It was also an improbable outcome for a man plucked from relative obscurity last fall by the hard right — which had just deposed a speaker they deemed a traitor to their agenda — to be the speaker of a deeply dysfunctional House.

10 April
Speaker Johnson to meet with Trump, offers Marjorie Taylor Greene advisory role as own job teeters
(AP) — His job on the line, House Speaker Mike Johnson is dashing to Florida to meet with Donald Trump this week and has offered far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene a seat on his own “kitchen cabinet” as he draws closer to the MAGA forces that now dominate the GOP.
The sudden moves Wednesday come as the House hit a standstill, thrown into chaos once again.
The House Republicans are tearing themselves apart, unable to work together to push party priorities through Congress yet watching their majority fritter away the days without a cohesive agenda or much to show for their 15 months in power.
Johnson was unable to pass a national security surveillance bill that was tanked by his own Republican majority shortly after Trump pushed them to “kill” it. But at the same time, the speaker was being warned off partnering with Democrats on that bill and others, including aid for Ukraine, or risk Greene calling a snap vote that could oust him from the speaker’s office.

26 March

The WaPo Editorial Baltimore’s tragic bridge collapse is a test for American leadership
casts the challenge posed by the accident in a positive light. Let us hope it is widely read and heeded along with President Biden’s statement
— Biden: We will do all it takes to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge: President Joe Biden today vowed that the federal government would provide all the resources Baltimore needed to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge after it collapsed in the early hours of the morning. He said he plans to visit the disaster site and stressed that there was no indication that there was intentionality behind the devastating collapse. “We’re going to send all the federal resources they need as we respond to this emergency. I mean all the federal resources — we’re going to rebuild that port together,” Biden said in the Roosevelt Room, before departing the White House for a trip to North Carolina.

23 March
Weekend read The Fractured Superpower
(Foreign Affairs) This week, the Supreme Court cleared a controversial Texas immigration law, which would give Texas officials the authority to arrest and deport migrants accused of entering the country illegally—only to have an appellate court block it hours later. The Biden administration has challenged the law, known as SB4, on the grounds that it would interfere with the federal government’s ability to enforce U.S. immigration laws. The clash between Texas and federal officials may prove a litmus test of the balance of power between the federal government and states, which have grown more powerful amid intensifying partisan polarization.
The trend toward increasing state power will have far-reaching consequences not only for domestic politics but also for U.S. foreign policy, write Jenna Bednar and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. How leaders in Washington, the courts, and local governments approach this shift, Bednar and Cuéllar warn, “will determine whether state-level action becomes a source of resilience or a destabilizing force for Americans and the world.” The Fractured SuperpowerFederalism Is Remaking U.S. Democracy and Foreign Policy (September 2022)
20 March
Appeals court seems skeptical of Texas’ argument for immigration law
(NBC) The court temporarily paused the enforcement of the law late Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court said hours earlier that it could take effect.
12 March
Supreme Court extends freeze on controversial Texas immigration law

23 March
Biden Signs Final Bill to Fund the Government, Ending Shutdown Fears
The president signed a $1.2 trillion spending package that passed early on Saturday morning, narrowly avoiding a shutdown.
President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion spending package on Saturday, putting an end to the prospect of a government shutdown after the legislation passed a rushed series of congressional votes with bipartisan support and landed on his desk just after 2 a.m.
The government faced a potential shutdown if the measure was not signed into law before midnight on Friday. But as the Senate vote ticked past that hour, the White House released a statement saying that federal officials at the Office of Management and Budget had “ceased shutdown preparations” in anticipation of imminent Senate passage and signing by Mr. Biden.
In a statement, the president said that the measure’s approval was “good news for the American people.” But he alluded to the months of drawn-out negotiations that preceded the last-minute approvals, saying that the agreement was “a compromise” and that “neither side got everything it wanted.”

20 March
Details of $1.2 Trillion Spending Bill Emerge as Partial Shutdown Looms
Tucked inside a massive measure to fund the government through the fall are several initiatives sought by members of both parties. Aides are still writing the legislative language.
Congressional aides raced on Tuesday to draw up the text of a bipartisan $1.2 trillion spending deal to fund the government through September.
While President Biden, Republicans and Democrats have all endorsed the agreement, they had yet to release its details and it was not clear whether Congress would be able to complete action on it in time to avert a brief partial government shutdown over the weekend.
Still, lawmakers in both parties were already touting what they would get out of the legislation, which wraps six spending measures into one huge package.
“The final product is something that we were able to achieve a lot of key provisions and wins and a move in the direction that we want, even with our tiny, historically small majority,” Speaker Mike Johnson said on Wednesday.

8 March
The State of the Union: Biden fights back
William A. Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow – Governance Studies
(Brookings) In a fighting State of the Union address, much of which could have been delivered at a campaign rally, President Joe Biden directly criticized his predecessor more than a dozen times and drew lines that he hopes will define the 2024 presidential election. He was an unabashed liberal on social policy, a populist nationalist on economic policy, and a traditional postwar internationalist on foreign policy.
President Joe Biden directly criticized his predecessor more than a dozen times and drew lines that he hopes will define the 2024 presidential election.
Biden’s forceful delivery was meant to signal that he is not too old to serve out a second term, which most Americans currently think he is.
The defense of democracy against autocracy at home and abroad was a central theme of the speech, which depicted Donald Trump as a threat to both.
Biden presented a lengthy laundry list of liberal proposals on health care, education, housing, education, and taxes.

4 March
The President’s Inbox Recap: Governance of Artificial Intelligence
The United States is behind its peers when it comes to regulating artificial intelligence (AI).
(Council on Foreign Relations) … China, the European Union, and the United States have put forth a “triad” of different AI governance approaches. China has imposed strong oversight measures on the country’s AI systems and models. The European Union’s approach “follows a long pattern now of Europe having led in rights-centric and risk-focused digital governance.” The U.S. government, however, has mostly been hands-off when it comes to AI governance.
AI governance in the United States right now is being driven by the private sector. Biden issued an executive order last October calling for government action on AI regulation. Congress, however, has yet to pass significant AI regulations. In the past, most of the innovation in AI came from investments from the government. Today, innovation comes from private companies. Kat argued “there is this real concern that the development of AI has been so divorced from government that the government now has very little control over how that AI is being developed and rolled out into the world.” This is a problem because “corporate governance is designed to manage investor risk.” It is not, however, “designed to manage or to govern societal risk, and in fact, may be antithetical to it.”

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