Busy Days on Capitol Hill

In a rapid-fire Q&A, NACS fills retailers in on what they need to know about the latest legislative happenings.

October 20, 2021

Capitol Hill

By Sara Counihan

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—There’s so much going on in U.S. legislation and policy right now, it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. But convenience retailers need to know what’s happening on Capitol Hill that affects their businesses, and on this week’s episode of NACS’ Convenience Matters podcast, the NACS government relations team discusses everything retailers needs to know in just 30 minutes.

When asked how the current political situation is, Jon Taets, NACS director of government relations, had one word: difficult.

“We’ve got very narrow majorities in both the House and the Senate. In fact, it can’t get any narrower in the Senate with a 50/50 split, and in the House with a few vacancies, there’s only a three-vote margin over there, so you’re seeing a lot of push and pull between the extremes in the Democratic party,” said Taets.

The infrastructure bill in Congress still hasn’t passed yet, despite it having bipartisan beginnings. The Senate passed the bill, and everyone assumed the House would agree and pass it, but now the House and congressional leadership on the Democratic side want to link infrastructure to a broader reconciliation bill.

“We’re in sort of the all-or-nothing free-fall here. I think most people believe something will have to pass because the Democrats all see their fate tied to it, and […] many folks in the party have said it should cost $3.5 trillion. They’re going to have to cut that price tag, but how much nobody knows,” said Doug Kantor, NACS legal counsel.

The big debate on this bill is how much it’s going to cost, whether it’s $3.5 trillion or $1.5 trillion and how Congress is going to pay for it.

“That’s essentially how they’re going to raise taxes, and that’s where this comes very much to the heart of convenience store issues because they are talking about making a lot of changes to things like how pass-through entities pay taxes, [and] they want to make some significant changes to the corporate tax rate. So, a lot of this ‘pay for’ stuff is where you see the impacts on our industry as opposed to the policies within the bill,” said Taets.

Anna Ready Blom, NACS government relations director, says one of the “pay fors” that’s included in the House’s version of the bill is an increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco and nicotine products and not just a modest increase. It would double the current tax on cigarettes and apply tax parity to all other tobacco and nicotine products.

“We believe an increase of this magnitude is bound to have unintended consequences. It’s going to push current users to an illicit market, which we know their products are counterfeit,” said Blom. “They’re unregulated. IDs aren’t checked. Taxes aren’t collected. And this really undermines the efforts that our retailers make to be responsible tobacco retailers.”

According to Blom, this language stayed in the House package through the Ways and Means Committee markup. NACS has been actively meeting with members of the House and the Senate to raise all of these concerns and why this needs to come out of the bill.

These issues are just the beginning of the synopsis NACS’s GR team gives on this week’s episode No. 306 “Inside Washington: Fall 2021 Update.” Hear what OSHA’s response was when NACS asked the agency about the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and what the latest is on the payments and antitrust front.

Don’t miss the Inside Washington column each month in NACS Magazine, where the most pressing legislation topics are discussed in depth.

Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 300 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than 250,000 times by listeners around the world.

Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at scounihan@convenience.org.