TIME Military

Military’s War on Sexual Assault Proves Slow Going

Soldiers march in the annual Veteran's Day Parade along Fifth Avenue on Nov. 11, 2014 in New York City.
Soldiers march in the annual Veteran's Day Parade along Fifth Avenue on Nov. 11, 2014 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

But latest Pentagon survey shows some signs of progress

Just like the Pentagon’s recent real-world wars, its latest dispatch from the front in the battle against sexual assault contains both good and bad news.

There are enough numbers crammed into the document that military boosters can hail the progress that has been made, while critics can claim the Defense Department still isn’t doing enough.

“There have been indications of real progress,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said as he released the report Thursday afternoon, but “we still have a long way to go.”

According to that latest accounting, the bad news is that reported assaults continue to rise—from 3,604 in 2012, to 5,518 last year, and to 5,983 in 2014 (the report charts fiscal years, which end Sept. 30). That’s an 8% jump in the past year.

The good news, the 1,136-page report says, is that reforms in handling sexual assault have encouraged more victims to come forward and not cower in secret. The study estimates that while only 10% of alleged victims came forward in 2012, 25% did in 2014. The number of active-duty women complaining about unwanted sexual contract dropped from about 6.1% last year to 4.3% in 2014 (for men, the number fell from 1.2% to 0.9%).


An anonymous Rand Corp. survey of military personnel projected that approximately 19,000 had been subject to unwanted sexual contact in 2014 (55% of them male), 27% less than the 26,000 estimated in 2012. It was that spike—up from 19,300 in 2010—that focused attention on the problem and led to a host of changes into how the military investigates and prosecutes alleged sexual assaults.

Commanders are no longer free to reverse court-martial convictions, and each alleged victim is assigned a lawyer. When a commander and prosecutor disagree over whether a court martial is warranted, civilians are called in to review such cases. Statutes of limitations on such crimes have been scrapped. Anyone convicted of sexual assault in the U.S. military gets at least a dishonorable discharge.

But the tribal nature of military service persists: 62% of the women alleging unwanted sexual contact felt they had been shunned or punished for complaining. “The Department was unable to identify clear progress in the area of perceived victim retaliation,” the study said. “The news is a mixed bag,” says Elspeth Ritchie, a retired Army colonel who dealt with the issue as a military psychiatrist. “The numbers persist despite all the public education campaigns.” Reducing retaliation “is the key to further progress,” she adds. “It is very frustrating that so little progress has been made.”

The Pentagon has spent decades trying to rid its ranks of sexual predators—and encouraging victims to come forward—but progress has been slow. “An estimate of 20,000 cases of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact a year in our military, or 55 cases a day, is appalling,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said. “There is no other mission in the world for our military where this much failure would be allowed.” Gillibrand plans to renew her push to take prosecution of such cases away from the alleged perpetrator’s commanders and give it to a corps of independent military lawyers.

“It is unfair to the commanders to put them in this position,” said Don Christensen, who recently retired as a top Air Force prosecutor. “It is a system set up for failure.”

The Pentagon ranks different kinds of sexual offenses. DoD

Dealing with sex among young men and women—especially when there is a commander-commanded relationship, and liquor, or other such substances, are involved—is difficult under the best of conditions. And the military lacks the best of conditions, given its stresses, its work-hard, play-hard ethos, and the fact that the service attracts its fair share of dolts (like the sailor, according to a report Wednesday, who allegedly filmed female officers showering aboard their shared submarine).

As women have become an increasing share of the U.S. military—they now account for 15 of every 100 Americans in uniform—the service’s macho culture hasn’t kept pace. “Sexual harassment stems from certain widespread cultural attitudes that have been prevalent through the ages,” a 1993 Army report said. “Women have lived under male protection–benevolent or otherwise–thereby being forced to live by the rules of men who dominate them.”

That’s slowly changing, with the emphasis on slowly.


TIME Congress

Congress Likely to Give Obama New Authority to Fight ISIS

Obama Addresses Business Roundtable
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable (BRT) at the Business Roundtable Headquarters on Dec. 3, 2014. in Washington D.C. Getty Images

The bill would grant the Administration to train and equip the Syrian opposition through the end of 2016

Congress appears ready to give the President authorization to train and equip the Syrian opposition for two years as part of major annual defense legislation expected to pass the House Thursday, despite concerns that the weapons will turn up in the wrong hands.

The likely passage of the $557 billion defense bill underscores that talk of the president’s recent immigration action “poisoning the well” doesn’t apply to matters with broad bipartisan support. And Congress’ begrudging acceptance of the extended train-and-equip authority—many hawks don’t believe it will be enough to accomplish the American goals in Syria and Iraq—also emphasizes the lack of other politically viable options.

“This effort on the part of the President will ultimately fall short,” says Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who supports American boots on the ground to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria [ISIS]. “I think unfortunately it will be too little too late.”

Still Franks says he will likely vote for the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the provision.

“I’m Mr. National Security—I’m not going to vote against the NDAA unless they absolutely force me to do so,” he added.

Other Republicans said they would likely vote for the bill even if they don’t yet trust the Administration’s vetting process. The bill requires the Administration to inform Congress at least 15 days before the first transfer of the goals of the assistance, what is provided and the number of U.S. armed forces personnel involved, in addition to periodic updates.

“The big concern has always been how do you keep these guys on our side and what do they do with the weapons a year or two after the conflict,” said Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, who is leaning to support the bill. “I don’t know that the Administration has adequately answered that question, however, having said that, we’re in a damned-if-we-do and damned-if-we-don’t [situation] because American people don’t want boots on the ground.”

House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that he wanted President Obama next year to submit a new authorization for the use of military force to defeat ISIS, which some outside legal experts say is necessary since Obama is relying on congressional authority provided more than a decade ago in the aftermath of 9/11.

“The White House needs to show some urgency because the strategy isn’t reversing the terrorist momentum on the ground,” said Boehner. “I’ve got grave concerns that the plan he’s put in place is not going to accomplish the goal of defeating and destroying [ISIS]. We need a more robust, comprehensive strategy and that should start with a new authorization of the use of military force.”

Rep. Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, made sure on the House floor Thursday that his colleagues knew there was no such authorization in the NDAA, knowing that it could imperil support for the bill, which has passed every year for the past 53 years.

“I really wish to emphasize for this body that this train and equip authority is just that,” said Smith. “It in no way, shape, manner or form authorizes the use of military force. And I think it’s the best approach. I don’t want U.S. troops fighting this war. We have learned that U.S. troops cannot win the battle against the evil ideology that Al Qaeda and ISIS have promoted. We need local partners and that’s what this bill helps us do.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin led the NDAA effort, and both will retire after this year after decades in Congress. On the floor Thursday, McKeon concretely summarized how difficult it would be for a Congressman to explain why he would vote against the NDAA.

“What makes this bill such an important piece of legislation are the vital authorities contained within,” said McKeon. “It provides resources for the mission in Afghanistan. It funds our military operations against [ISIS] in Iraq and Syria. It pays our troops and their families. It keeps our Navy fleet sailing and military aircraft flying. It maintains a strong nuclear deterrent.”

TIME Congress

House Passes Bill to Help Disabled Save for Living Expenses

John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio in Congress on Nov. 21, 2014 in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

New program would allow the disabled to create tax-free savings accounts

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Wednesday that will help the disabled pay for a host of expenses—including education, housing, transportation, and health—by cutting Medicare payments for penis pumps.

The bipartisan bill—known as the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE Act—would help the severely disabled establish tax-advantaged savings accounts so they could pocket tax-free savings to cover various qualified expenses. That would allow the disabled to qualify for means-tested benefit programs like Medicaid because much of their savings wouldn’t be included.

The $2.1 billion bill’s largest offset is ending Medicare coverage of vacuum erection systems, or penis pumps, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would save $444 million. A government report last year found that Medicare paid more than twice as much for retail for the pumps.

The bill has wide support in the House and Senate — the largest of any other bill this session, supporters noted — and passed 404-17 on Wednesday. Supporters have been pushing the bill since it was first introduced in 2006 and marked it as a huge victory for the disability community. Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a member of the House GOP leadership team, said that the ABLE Act could help individuals like her son Cole, who was born in 2007 with Down syndrome and joined his mother on the floor for the vote.

“We were told don’t put any assets in his name because it may disqualify him for programs that he may need in the future,” McMorris Rodgers told TIME. “And it just seems wrong to me.”

“And I think that the ABLE Act is going to help fix that,” she added. “It’s going to help create a way for families to save money [and] set money aside to cover qualified expenses. It can go to education, transportation, housing—those are the benefits that would allow our son potentially to live independently and to hopefully work.”

A companion bill in the Senate is expected to pass.

TIME Congress

How Democrats May Help the GOP Avert a Shutdown

John Boehner Obama Immigration
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) holds a news conference with the newly-elected members of the House GOP leadership at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Nov. 13, 2014. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi opposes the plan, but isn't whipping votes against it

Democrats may come to the rescue of House Speaker John Boehner in order to avert a government shutdown next week.

Conservatives are clamoring for the House Republican leadership to use the power of the purse to protest President Barack Obama’s executive order, which could delay deportations for up to five million immigrants who came to the country illegally. Several prominent conservatives, including Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, have rebuked the House Republican leadership’s government funding proposal, but leadership believes enough Democrats will join to pass it, according to a congressional aide.

“I’m waiting to be convinced that it’s a bad idea because on the face of it I think it’s probably the best that we can do right now,” says Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois.

“I think everyone is reluctantly looking at this as probably the most practical solution,” concurs Democratic Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who is considering voting for Boehner’s proposal. “I do not want to have a government shutdown … If that’s where we end up I don’t think the president should veto it.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi opposes the measure, but House Democrats said she hasn’t been whipping against it behind the scenes. Still, several Democrats told TIME they wouldn’t vote for the proposal.

“I hate to give in to their whining,” said Kentucky Democratic Rep. John John Yarmuth of Kentucky, adding that he’ll “probably” vote no. “It doesn’t make any sense to me that we would fund an important agency like that on a piecemeal basis and just having to waste time going through another exercise three months from now.”

The House GOP leadership plan would fund all aspects of the federal government through September 2015, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which would be funded through the next few months. DHS is tasked with carrying out Obama’s executive order. Jennifer Hing, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers’ spokeswoman, said that the language for the bill will be made public “early next week,” which would give little time for conservatives to come up with an alternative.

Conservatives would prefer to have a shorter-term funding solution and some are calling for defunding the programs designated to enact Obama’s executive action.

“That might be something we do closer to the deadline,” says Brian Phillips, the spokesman for conservative Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, of the House GOP leadership plan. “You’ve got to do what you need to do to elevate this issue and put the Democrats on record as to whether or not they do or do not support the President’s amnesty.”

“The message is very clear right now,” he added. “You don’t decide in the second inning that the other pitcher is too good and you’re just going to go ahead and say, ‘Hey it’s a 4-3 ball game and we lost.’ You’ve got to play out the game.”

Senate Democratic leaders, including Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, have indicated they would support the House GOP leaders’ plan. When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Boehner’s proposal a “big accomplishment” on Tuesday, some conservatives thought the deal was cooked.

“That made me feel like the deal was already done,” said Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp. “That they negotiated this awhile back.”

“If Reid likes it I don’t—by definition,” he added.

TIME ebola

Obama Renews Calls for a $6 Billion Ebola Fund

U.S. President Obama talks about Ebola at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda
U.S. President Barack Obama talks about Ebola during his visit to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland on December 2, 2014. Larry Downing — Reuters

He wants Congress to approve the aid package before the holiday recess

U.S. President Barack Obama renewed calls Tuesday for Congress to approve more than $6 billion in emergency funding to help tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The President issued the fresh plea during a visit to the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Maryland, where he praised researchers and scientists working on an experimental Ebola vaccine that has shown promising results during initial rounds of testing.

“If we want other countries to keep stepping up, we will have to continue to lead the way,” said Obama. “And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to approve our emergency funding request to fight this disease before they leave for the holidays.”

The President’s appeal comes as Doctors Without Borders sharply criticized the international community’s slow, uneven response to the Ebola outbreak.

Globally over 17,000 people have contracted the highly contagious virus, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000.

TIME Military

Bipartisan Push for Military to Improve Handling of Sex-Assault Cases

Senators Hold Briefing To Propose An Independent Military Justice System
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) (2nd R) speaks during a news conference on changing the military justice system, as U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (L), U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (2ndL) and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (R) listen December 2, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson — Getty Images

The bill needed only five more votes last time

The former chief prosecutor of the Air Force has thrown his weight behind Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s second push to change how the military handles sexual assault allegations.

Retired Col. Don Christensen joined a bipartisan group of senators, including Republicans Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, to support Gillibrand at a news conference Tuesday, reports USA Today.

“The reality is, the commanders cannot solve this problem because too often they are the enablers,” said Christensen, who quit the Air Force in September after concluding that it was impossible to change the service from within.

The bill would prevent commanders from playing a part in choosing which sexual assault cases will lead to prosecution. Introduced in the Senate earlier this year, the bill was five votes short of getting passed.

Gillibrand says she hopes Christensen’s advocacy and the lack of significant improvements by the military over recent months will persuade senators to switch position.

A new version of the bill could arrive at House and Senate floors this week.

[USA Today]

TIME domestic violence

NFL Executive Breaks Down While Talking to Congress About Domestic Violence

He described watching "helplessly" as his mother be beaten when he was a child.

A top NFL executive broke down in a congressional hearing on domestic violence as he recounted as a child “watching helplessly” while his mother was beaten.

“Domestic violence was a way of life in my home growing up,” said Troy Vincent, the executive vice president of football operations for the NFL. “My brother and I watched helplessly numerous times as my mother was beaten and knocked unconscious while we dialed 911. We saw how she struggled to seek help and find the courage to say no more.”

The hearing, comes days after a court reinstated former Ravens running back Ray Rice, who in February dragged his fiancee, now wife, out of an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice was initially suspended for only two games before a public outcry led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to indefinitely suspend him. Vincent outlined several steps the NFL would undertake, including a “thorough review” of its personnel conduct policy with the goal of setting “clear rules” of misconduct for its players. Vincent added that the NFL would oversee a mandatory education program, training “critical response teams” to help prevent sexual and domestic violence, as well as raise awareness through collaborations with groups like No More.

“Recent events have made clear that we have not kept our standards current with our own values,” said Vincent, who added that “we failed” and “the commissioner failed” in his initial punishment of Rice.”We know now that the right people weren’t at the table…we’ve learned from those mistakes.”

Vincent said he expects that ex-FBI director Robert Mueller will come to the conclusion of his independent investigation “shortly” and that he believes the results would be made public.

“We’ve been humbled,” he said at the beginning of his remarks. “We’ve accepted the criticism we’ve received. And we’re committed to being a part of the solution. We will get this right.”

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who chaired the hearing, called for the four major professional sports leagues to develop uniform policies to “effectively and appropriately” punish players who commit criminal acts against women and children. Many of the senators noted the outsize influence athletes have on America’s youth and lambasted the leagues for its current efforts in responding to domestic violence.

“There is a long list of players in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball who have been charged with, and in some cases convicted of, domestic violence, and the leagues have done little to nothing in response,” said Rockefeller in his opening remarks. “In fact, the press has reported that a culture of silence within the leagues often prevents victims from reporting their abuse to law enforcement. This has to change.”

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller said in the hearing that every minute in the United States 20 people will experience domestic violence, “last night” more than 20,000 phone calls were made to domestic violence hotlines and that one in three women will experience such physical abuse from a partner sometime in their lives.

TIME Congress

House GOP Mulls Short-Term Funding for Homeland Security

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio responds to President Barack Obama's intention to spare millions of illegal immigrants from being deported, a use of executive powers that is setting up a fight with Republicans in Congress over the limits of presidential powers on Nov. 21, 2014 in Washington.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio responds to President Barack Obama's intention to spare millions of illegal immigrants from being deported, a use of executive powers that is setting up a fight with Republicans in Congress over the limits of presidential powers on Nov. 21, 2014 in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

The proposal would head off a government shutdown this year

House Republican leaders are considering funding the Department of Homeland Security through the first few months of next year in order to allow the next Congress—and new Republican-controlled Senate—to rebuke the President on his recent decision to defer deportations for up to five million undocumented immigrants.

Announced Tuesday morning before the House Republican conference, the plan would fund all aspects of the government through September 2015 with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which enforces Obama’s executive action. Congress must pass a government funding bill by Dec. 11 to avert a government shutdown.

The proposal was met with mixed reviews from Republican members, some of whom prefer a plan to fund the entire government through the next fiscal year and others who are looking at other ways to express their frustration, including a disapproval resolution officially stating that Obama doesn’t have sufficient legal authority to carry out the executive action. House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that “no decisions have been made at this point.”

“I don’t think there’s enough support for it yet,” said Florida Republican Rep. Dennis Ross, a member of the whip team designated to drum up votes. “I think we’ve got to flesh some of that out. I think the members by and large are leaning that way … But I think there’s some questions that need to be answered by some of the more conservative ones who want to vote for it but I think they’re wrestling over what the details are going to be.”

Republicans have few options outside of supporting bipartisan immigration reform to counter the President’s executive action. A lawsuit would most likely fail, according to prominent legal scholars, and Obama holds the veto pen. Even when dealing with must-pass legislation, like the package of bills to fund the government, Republicans know they can’t overplay their hand and threaten a government shutdown that would bolster the President.

“There’s no doubt we’re in a box here,” said Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger. “We’re in a tough position.”

The Republican plan will face opposition from the Administration and from Democrats, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said last week that “we will not be enablers to a Republican government shutdown, partial or otherwise.” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a hearing Tuesday that a short-term spending bill through March would be a “very bad idea” as it would hamper border security efforts.

TIME Military

Obama Leans Toward Tapping a Retread to Run the Pentagon

Ashton Carter
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter listens to reporters' question during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on March 18, 2013. Lee Jin-man—AP

Ash Carter has spent years in near-the-top Defense Department jobs

The Obama Administration knows what it is getting by preparing to nominate Ashton Carter to be its fourth defense secretary. More importantly, Ash Carter knows what he’d be getting into.

That’s because the whip-smart doctor of theoretical physics served in Obama’s Pentagon from 2009 to 2013 (as well as Clinton’s Pentagon, from 1993 to 1996, as assistant secretary for international security policy.)

He knows all about the commander-in-chief’s purported micromanagement—something that Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, Obama’s first two defense chiefs, complained about. He has apparently concluded it’s not as bad as they assert—or, even if it is, it’s something he can live with.

“Carter was a veteran of the department who had worked for and advised many secretaries, and was the rare leader who understood both the policy and budget sides of the agency,” Panetta wrote in his memoir, Worthy Fights, released in October. “He was a wonk, a nuclear physicist and author, but he’s also a compassionate commander who would slip out on weekends to visit wounded soldiers at Bethesda and Walter Reed.”

Carter is by far Obama’s safest, most predictable choice (sure, his nomination has to be confirmed by the Senate, but even with Republicans in charge beginning next month, that’s not going to be tough—after all, the Senate already confirmed him as deputy secretary).

Carter has been a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School and an adviser to Goldman Sachs. Since September, Carter has worked at New York’s Markle Foundation, a tax-exempt charitable organization dedicated to improving national security, technology and health care.

Several leading contenders for the post to replace Chuck Hagel already have dropped out. Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a West Point graduate, said he wasn’t interested shortly after Hagel announced his departure. Reed will have to be content serving as the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee (he would have become chairman, following the retirement of Carl Levin, but the GOP landslide last month dashed those hopes).

Michèle Flournoy, who served as the Pentagon’s No. 3 civilian official before leaving in 2012, also took herself out of the running last week. While she cited family concerns, she plainly would prefer to run the Pentagon under President Hillary Clinton. That’d make her the first woman to run the Defense Department, and under a female commander-in-chief, to boot.

Carter’s 2011-2013 background as the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian, largely responsible for the building’s day-to-day management, primes him for the military’s tough budget environment. He’s also an expert on nuclear weapons and military technology, having served as the Defense Department’s top weapons buyer from 2009 to 2011.

Carter is a graduate of Yale—bachelor’s degrees in physics and medieval history—and Oxford, where he earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics. In 2006, while at Harvard, Carter and his mentor, former defense secretary William Perry, urged President George W. Bush to threaten to destroy North Korean missiles that might be outfitted with nuclear warheads.

Unlike Hagel—who served as an Army sergeant in Vietnam and was wounded twice—Carter has never worn a U.S. military uniform. And, also unlike Hagel—twice elected as a Republican senator from Nebraska—Carter hasn’t engaged in partisan politics.

Of course, given Hagel’s vague tenure and unceremonious dumping from his Pentagon post, the value such experience affords may be dubious.

TIME Congress

Senate Dismayed by House Tax Extension Bill

Reid-Nevada Governor
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., talks to reporters in his Reno, Nev. office on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. He said he doesn't intend to waste his time raising money for Democrat Bob Goodman in an unlikely bid to unseat popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in November. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner) Scott Sonner—AP

Proposal would retroactively extend dozens of tax breaks through the end of 2014

The Senate greeted a House Republican tax relief plan with exasperation, resignation and outright opposition hours before it was even officially announced Monday night.

The package, created by House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, would retroactively extend through the end of 2014 dozens of tax breaks worth around $45 billion over the next 10 years. Many senators would prefer to either cut or make permanent many of the tax “extenders,” or—in their wildest dreams—actually pass a comprehensive tax reform bill, which could make the perennial holiday ritual obsolete.

After a closed-door meeting with other Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon promised a fight over the House legislation.

“The reality is you don’t just say ‘it’s my way’ and that’s it,” said Wyden. “We’ve got quite a ways to go. This game is not over.”

“A lot of one-year bills lock in the breaks for the businesses and don’t lock in or cover a lot of the social needs,” said Wyden.

When asked if he would support the House bill, Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said he would “absolutely not.”

“No way shape or form,” he added. “And nobody in that meeting was [supportive of it]. Not one.”

Last week the White House issued a veto threat on a roughly $400 billion proposal hashed out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Republicans because it failed to renew expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which are due to expire in 2017. Rockefeller said that he’s focused on those provisions and the Health Coverage Tax Credit, which supports retirees who lost their health care coverage when their company goes under or abroad.

“They’re friendly to us, that’s all I can say,” says Rockefeller of the White House’s position.

Republicans could have more leverage in determining the extenders policy next session when they control both chambers of Congress, but some Senate members are dissatisfied with the latest House legislation, as the year-to-year schedule continues to cause businesses heartburn. While most affected companies assume that Congress will eventually grant them their tax relief, it’s still a “bit of a complicated expectations game” of what they believe Congress will do, according to Joseph Rosenberg, a Tax Policy Center senior research associate.

“Most of the provisions expired a year ago,” says Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a member of the Finance Committee who prefers a longer deal. “So we aren’t really making much progress—we’re just catching up to where we are.”

“We’re going to have to deal with it again after the first of the year,” he adds.

Portman, like many Senate Finance committee members, prefer a two-year extension for some of the tax provisions, and to make parts of the tax code permanent, like tax relief for research and development. The R&D credit is one of the most expensive in the House bill—$7.7 billion over 10 years—but it has bipartisan support.

In April, the Senate Finance Committee passed a $85 billion package extending the over 50 tax relief provisions for two years; on Monday ranking Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said he preferred that deal to the one introduced in the House. But some Republican senators say that in a crunch the House bill might prove to be the best option.

“My preference obviously is to write the [tax code] in stone so businesses can make legitimate decisions,” says Republican Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho. “[Businesses] have had to live with this before—and they’ve been able to to the best of their ability—but it is not a good deal … Going through this every year is just not a good way to do this.”

Still, Risch says it’s fair to say that he will “probably” support the House legislation. “This is a pragmatic place,” he says.

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