Saturday, February 20, 2016

The annual trek to Washington

Before going to Washington, I had a nice birthday party the Sunday before, at home. Then, my actual birthday; Paul and I went out to eat after attending an interesting book presentation at the American Library in Paris (Forgotten: the Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes....) On Claire's birthday, I left -- but not straight to DC. I flew to Orlando to visit the cousins, there. The flight to Philly was an hour late and the line to get through immigration a bit long, but since I only had carry-on, I managed to run to the other terminal and catch the flight to Orlando. The plan was that I would rent a car, but when I took out my licence I took a look and discovered Paul's licence! So, no car rental for me and this meant that Paul must be driving with my licence. I caught a cab and went to Maitland for a very agreeable weekend -- an art show, a visit to an orchid farm, a great dinner at home with littler cousins, dinner out, brunch, a movie (Hail Caesar) and then a Sunday flight to DC.
In DC, I had reserved the same airbnb apartment V. and I had shared two years ago in the Adams Morgan section between the Woodley Park and Columbia Heights metro stations. I arrived by about 3 and my roommate, CLF, arrived at about 10 at night. I had time to go to the supermarket, eat, and take a nap. When CLF arrived, we started talking like old friends, already, and sat down to work, assembling the handouts.
I posted blurbs about our days on facebook, only about meetings that I was able to attend:
"Today, we start our rounds of Overseas Americans Week -- AARO and FAWCO. In fact, this year, we have two delegations: this week's and another to follow at the end of the month."
"First meeting done -- my Congressman's office. The Legislative assistant we met with this year seemed more aware of our issues. She had researched FATCA, for example, so my remarks were not new. This year, though, although we present our overall goals, we are concentrating a one issue, which is the passport revocation business in the FAST Act. She acknowledged that the office had received the letter from the Americans Abroad Caucus heads and would see that the Congressman considered signing it."
"Second meeting -- in Mick Mulvaney's office. He's a co-chair of the Americans Abroad Caucus. What I had not realized before was that the bills go to the Representatives' offices until about 36 hours before the vote. They are parsed among office staff for a quick read through. This explains why everything is a reaction to a passed bill rather than proactive. So we, the organizations, are the ones to alert the caucus to the problems, not the other way around."
"After that, the group spllit and I went to my Senators' offices, first Senator Casey, then Senator Toomey. In both cases, very good meetings. In Senator Casey's office, I met with two people, one legislative aide who was very aware of the FATCA issue and "I brought up the passport revocation business and also expressed my disappointment that the Senator was associated with the idea of not allowing people who had renounced (ostensibly for tax reasons) to re-enter the US. She was accompanied by an aide, more an intern, from Australia, who immediately understood the absurdity of citizenship-based-taxation.
"Immediately after that meeting, I rushed off to Senator Toomey's office. He wasn't around in 2010 for the HIREAct, but he is against FATCA. His aide was very interested in the implications of the passport revocation part of the FAST Act and has bookmarked it in order to keep an eye on it...."
"Then a meeting, very nice, in Carolyn Maloney's office and we talked about the letter that is being drafted and should be ready before we leave (fingers crossed) and how to target Representative's offices with high vollume of voters residing overseas."
"After all that, we all met with H. D. P. -- a very good meeting of the minds." This was particularly interesting, as he is an American living in the DC area who had been thinking of moving, which is how he got interested in the issues of living overseas. He's become a real expert, very helpful in the facebook group, always informative, not inflammatory, and he's even drafted comments and testified at Congressional committee meetings.
"Second day -- my first meeting was in Congressman McGovern's office. He is a member of the Americans Abroad Caucus and the meeting went very well. His staffer was aware of our issues and said she would have the Congressman take another look at the bill on the creation of a commission for his sponsorship. And she'll be looking out for the letter from the Caucus co-chairs on the passport revocation issue."
"Second appointment in Representative Carson's office (IN). He is also a member of the Americans Abroad Caucus and the staffer working with the caucus is the legislative director -- a good thing. He told me that he's heard from many constituents abroad about FATCA and other issues. Proof that your letters count.  Write to your representatives even if they sometimes seem unresponsive, volume will make them sit up and listen, eventually."
"We all got to Representative Beyer's office. He's the former ambassador to Switzerland and now the representative in northern Virginia, around Washington. He's very aware of the problems faced by those of us abroad and or constituents relocating from the US."
"In the afternoon, we had back to back meetings in Senator Rand Paul's and Senator  Ted Cruz's offices. Good meetings.Yes, Keith, we mentioned the conversation you had about the social taxes on income. We found out where Gray, Paul's tax expert from last year went (to a think tank); we had a very good discussion with Cruz's deputy legislative director, who is very much aware of all the tax issues we have and the discussions going on about territorial taxation for corporations and equivalent resident-based-taxation for individuals. He is also aware of the passport revocation implications for US citizens who live abroad."
"Third day -- Meeting 1 done at the Tax Foundation, where good questions were asked and they were truly interested in the individual taxpayer's situation."
".... The meeting at the Tax Foundation was good and concise, so we didn't have to rush to the next meeting in Senator Rubio's office. His aide told us that the Senator was firmly in the "RBT" group. Good to know. He was also concerned about the passport revocation punishment in the FAST Act."
"Then, we all headed to a meeting in Senator Crapo's office, where the implications of citizenship-based-taxation on home-based businesses was not lost.The Senator is in favor of territorial taxation for corporations and the jump to residence-based-taxation for individuals is a tiny step.
After lunch, we headed to the American Banker's Association for another good exchange. Of course, they have no influence over foreign institutions, but since US banks have been clearing out US citizens with foreign addresses, it is good to have these exchanges to see what we can do to help the US banks see the market potential of having us as customers rather than leaving us without accounts."
"Okay, sorry for the lack of updates today, but we were on the move all day.
We started with caucus members' offices: Reps.Capuano (MA), Davis (CA), and Doyle (PA). Again, they all emphasized how important it is to have contituents writing to them. Even if you think they are brushing you off and sending you replies that have nothing to do the subject, keep it up."
"We had time before the next scheduled meeting, so we stopped by Mia Love's office. In this (Facebook) group, earlier this week, someone had posted the article about her proposing a bill that would make bills stick to a single subject. It's a laudable idea, but one that will not really get far, since every expense requires a "pay for", and that guarantees unrelated subjects getting into a bill. However, it seemed to us that perhaps she might be interested in the Americans Abroad Caucus -- that she would see how these other subjects tend to affect us. Her chief of staff came out and was very, very interested."
"Then we stopped by Steven Russell's office, on the suggestion of T.M., and again had a most interesting meeting."
"Then, it was time for a brisk walk over the hill to Senator Hatch's office, where the two staffers we met with asked very pertinent questions. We wanted to visit that office because he was instrumental in the FAST Act. They couldn't tell us who, precisely, came up with the passport revocation provision and they were suitably appalled at the effect it could have on non-US residents. They asked lots of questions."
"Our last meeting on the hill was with Senator Sanders staffer on the budget committee and again, he truly wanted to understand the difficulties due to FATCA, due to our system of taxation. He asked good questions and will talk to the boss."
"Our last meeting on the hill was with Senator Sanders' staffer on the budget committee and again, he truly wanted to understand the difficulties due to FATCA, due to our system of taxation. He asked good questions and will talk to the boss."
"The day ended meeting with our old friend who has become a commissioner on the Election Assistance Commission. Discussion of voting, rather than taxes, for a change!"
"This morning (Friday) -- light schedule -- we had an appointment at Rep.Connolly's office and had a very constructive meeting with suggestions how to be more effective, how to, perhaps, change the language of the position paper on the passport revocation, address committee staffers of upcoming bills... We need  to better monitor upcoming bills."
"We stopped in to "report" back to Reps.Maloney and Mulvaney's offices. And then, we had time to stop at Rep. Perlmutter's office because over in the Americans Expatriates group, one of his constituents had mentioned whom to contact. I've finished for this week. Off to see my aunt and uncle in Bethesda and then return home tomorrow. It's been a good week. Please write to your representatives. Be polite, and diplomatic, and be to the point. Inform them. We can't see them all, although we hope next year, with a new Congressional Session starting, we will be a larger delegation to visit more offices."
There were only three of us for this Overseas Americans Week, so two more are going this weekend for three days of meetings next week. I spent some time preparing those appointments, too. And I still have to do my thank you notes for all the meetings I was in. Oof!

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