Iowa U.S. Senatorial Candidate Spending Analysis – Bruce Braley

Total Net Spending Agenda: $41.88 billion


Economy, Transportation, and Infrastructure: $5.003 billion

A. Invest in Infrastructure:

“We need to invest in our infrastructure. We need to invest in our manufacturing base.” (23:10)

Cost: $5 billion ($25 billion over five years).

Source: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 2553 (113th Congress), the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2013. The bill would establish an American Infrastructure Bank to provide federal loans, loan guarantees, and bonds to certain transportation, water, and energy projects. The text of the bill authorizes the spending. Representative Braley is a cosponsor of the bill.

B. Support Small Businesses:

“By helping to strengthen small businesses, we can strengthen job opportunities for every Iowan.”

Cost: Unknown.

Note: It is unclear how Representative Braley proposes to strengthen small businesses.

C. Vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act:

“… I continue to fight for paycheck fairness to strengthen protections against wage discrimination.”

Cost: $3 million ($15 million over five years).

Source: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 377 and S. 84 (113th Congress), the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill would tighten regulations pertaining to equal pay. The text of the bill authorizes $15 million for compliance training, a grant program for negotiation skills training for girls and women, and for research, education and outreach. NTUF assumes the outlays would occur over five years.


Education, Science, and Research: $17.517 billion

A. Expand Pell Grants:

“I believe we must do everything possible to make college more affordable, including expanding the Pell Grant program … .”

Cost: $617 million ($3.084 billion over five years).

Source: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 1924 (113th Congress), the Access to Education and Training Act. The bill would reinstate year-round federal Pell Grants. Representative Braley is a cosponsor. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate from 2011 is available.

B. Help Refinance Student Loans:

“Braley also supports legislation that allows people to refinance student loans to lower interest rates.”

Cost: $16.9 billion ($50.6 billion over three years).

Source: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 4582 (113th Congress), the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. The bill would allow individuals to refinance their federal or private student loans into new federal direct loans. Some of the new outlays would be financed by a 30 percent “Fair Share Tax,” imposed on individuals with annual incomes of $1 million or more; however, tax revenues are not scored as offsets to spending under the BillTally methodology. Representative Braley is a cosponsor. A CBO cost estimate is available for the Senate version.


Energy, Agriculture, and the Environment: Unknown

A. Combat Climate Change:

“Bruce believes we need to tackle our changing climate before extreme weather hurts Iowa farmers even more than it already has.”

Cost: Unknown.

Note: Representative Braley has not clearly defined all of the legislation or actions he would support to address climate change. In March, 2014, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report, Climate Legislation in the 113th Congress. He has cosponsored three of the bills listed by CRS:

  • Clean Energy Firm Support: H.R. 400, the Clean Energy Technology Manufacturing and Export Assistance Act of 2013, which would provide funds to support clean energy technology firms and exports of clean energy. The text of the bill authorizes $75 million over five years.
  • Agriculture and Natural Resources: Unknown. H.R. 2498, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, which would expand current carbon sequestration and reduction research and development and revise strategic plans associated with natural resource supplies and impacts. A related bill, H.R. 2642, the Agricultural Act of 2014, was ultimately signed into law but did not include all of the provisions in H.R. 2498. A cost estimate is available for H.R. 2642 but not for H.R. 2498.
  • Infrastructure Funding: (The cost for this item is included above for the “Investment in Infrastructure” item under Economy, Transportation, and Infrastructure.) H.R. 2553, the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act of 2013, which would include environmental and greenhouse gas emissions considerations for infrastructure project funding.

In the past, legislators have proposed two large-scale methods intended to combat climate change: a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system.

  • Carbon Tax: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of S. 332 (113th Congress), the Climate Protection Act of 2013. The bill would impose an annual $20-per-ton tax on every ton of carbon dioxide or methane, an amount that would increase by 5.6 percent over the next ten years. The tax would only be lifted when an international treaty would levy similar fees or limits on all greenhouse-gas emitters. Revenues, estimated by CBO to raise $1.2 trillion over ten years, would be used to finance advanced technology programs and loans to improve energy efficiency. The text of the bill authorizes $20.5 billion in annual spending. A House version of the bill has not been introduced.
  • Cap-and-Trade: Related legislation was also introduced in the form of S. 2191 (110th Congress), the America’s Climate Security Act of 2007. The bill would establish a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions. A CBO estimate determined that the bill would increase spending by $56.48 billion over five years. A House version of the bill was not introduced.

B. Implement Environmental Protections:

“[Braley] is committed to implementing common-sense protections that maintain the habitat used by folks who hunt and fish in Iowa, like the Clean Water Act, which protects our lakes and waterways from dangerous pollutants.”

Cost: Unknown.

Note: Due to the lack of specificity, NTUF is unable to determine what policies or strategies Representative Braley would support.


Health Care: Unknown

A. Allow for Drug Price Negotiation:

“… [W]e should have given the government the ability to negotiate lower drug prices when the prescription drug bill was passed … .” (28:35)

Cost: Unknown.

Note: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 1102 (113th Congress), the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2013. The bill would permit federal health program officials to negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers. Representative Braley is currently not a cosponsor of this legislation; however, he was a cosponsor of the version of the bill (H.R. 4752) that was introduced in the 111th Congress. A cost estimate is not currently available.

A March 3, 2004 CBO letter to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) notes: “CBO has not estimated the effect on federal spending of authorizing the Secretary to negotiate prices for single-source drugs. The extent of any savings would depend significantly on the details of legislative language; a proposal that applied to a broader range of drugs could generate no savings or even increase federal costs. The effect on federal spending would also depend on how the Secretary would choose to exercise any new authority to negotiate prices.”

B. Improve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA):

“… [W]e need to fix the problems with the new healthcare law and improve the law to make it work for Iowa families. That’s why Bruce crossed the party divide to support legislation that would allow Iowans to keep their insurance, and why he’s working every day to make improvements that help Iowans.”

Cost: Unknown.

Note: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of S. 1642 (113th Congress), the Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act. The bill would permit the continued use of individual insurance coverage plans that were in effect in 2013 if the plans meet Affordable Care Act requirements. Otherwise, the provider must cancel all coverage offered in the individual market and cease operations as an insurer.

Representative Braley has cosponsored two healthcare bills that would in some way change current ACA policy in the 113th Congress:

  • H.R. 1180, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2013, which would adjust the distribution and number of resident positions as they affect medical education costs and require additional studies concerning the health profession workforce. A cost estimate is not currently available.
  • H.R. 4780, the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Extension Act of 2014, which would extend the rural community hospital demonstration program from five to ten years. A cost estimate is not currently available.


Homeland Security and Law Enforcement: $19.36 billion

A. Permit States to Regulate Cannabis:

“My position has always been that [the use of medical marijuana] should be driven by the needs of patients and the determination of whether it’s safe and effective for them to use to reduce their pain. … (paraphrased) [T]he use of recreational use of marijuana would have to be something state lawmakers decide after hearing from Iowans.”

Cost: Unknown.

Note: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 1523 (113th Congress), the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013. The bill would exempt the federal government from regulating the production, distribution, and administration of marijuana, transferring those activities to the state level. An official cost estimate is not available but the bill was scored in NTUF’s BillTally program as a low-cost measure that would not significantly increase or decrease expenditures. It is possible that if H.R. 1523 is enacted, the federal government would spend less on marijuana interdiction activities; however, such a budgetary breakdown is currently not available. Since Representative Braley is currently not a cosponsor of the bill, it is unclear how he would otherwise reform federal marijuana policies.

B. Secure the Border:

“[The influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border] illustrates why we have to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform, which has both law enforcement and humanitarian implications to it.”

“Protecting America and keeping our country safe from terrorism – with secure borders and vigilance against threats – should always be a top focus.”

Cost: $19.36 billion ($96.8 billion over five years).

Source: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 15 (113th Congress), the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The bill would streamline and overhaul the immigration system and increase border security and infrastructure. Representative Braley is a cosponsor of the bill.

Comparing reports for the Senate version, S. 744, and H.R. 15, CBO found that the passed version of H.R. 15 and the conference version of S. 744 are comparable. The only difference in spending between the two is a $38 billion amendment for increased border protection that was included in S. 744. The amendment would result in an additional $4.2 billion in spending over the first five years. Representative Braley has not stated whether or not he would vote for the bill as amended.


National Security and International Relations: Unknown

A. Move Against ISIS:

“… [T]he rise of terrorism is the greatest threat that we face as a country … . [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)] is a threat that must be stopped and anytime that American citizens are attacked by a terrorist group, they need to be brought to justice or to the grave.” (13:00)

Cost: Unknown.

Note: It is unclear how Representative Braley would adjust current anti-terrorism strategies and whether doing so would require additional military resources.


Representative Braley voted in favor of H.J.Res. 124, the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015, which was signed into law in September, 2014. The resolution provides appropriations to federal agencies until December 11, 2014 and authorizes assistance and coordination to vetted elements of the Syrian opposition who are fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the Assad regime. Overseas Contingency Operations, a spending category that is supposedly dedicated to fighting the Global War on Terror and is separate from the regular Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State budgets, will spend $44.8 billion. Overall, CBO estimates that the resolution will spend $1.2 trillion but did not specify how much would be spent toward combating ISIS.


Fiscal Notes:

“Bruce is also working to close tax loopholes for special interests, like billions in tax breaks for oil companies that don’t need them.”

“... Bruce supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and tying the minimum wage to the rate of inflation.”

Note: Representative Braley is a cosponsor of H.R. 1010 (113th Congress), the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. For the Senate version, S. 1737, the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, CBO determined that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017, and then pegging the wage to inflation thereafter, would increase spending by $2 million over five years, which does not meet the budget threshold of the BillTally system. New costs would be in the form of higher wages for fewer than 5,000 federal employees.


In a 2014 report on the effects of a minimum wage increase, CBO noted that “the net effect on the federal budget of raising the minimum wage would probably be a small decrease in budget deficits for several years but a small increase in budget deficits thereafter. It is unclear whether the effect for the coming decade as a whole would be a small increase or a small decrease in budget deficits.” CBO makes special note of the effect of a minimum wage increase upon the earned income tax credit (EITC), which is refundable and is counted as spending. Because many families are currently within the EITC phase-out range, an income increase would make them ineligible for the credit. CBO also makes note that increasing the minimum wage would reduce employment by about 500,000 workers.

“[Removing the $117,000 cap on earnings subject to Social Security taxes is something that Bruce] considers an option.”

Question: Would you support permanent repeal of estate taxes?

Braley: No

Question: Would you support the expired Section 179 small business expensing that allows for immediate business expensing of up to $500,000?

Braley: Yes

Question: Would you support the expired bonus depreciation that allows for an additional 50 percent bonus depreciation for the purchase of new capital assets, including agricultural equipment?

Braley: Yes

Question: Would you support the tax credits that expired in 2014 for cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, and alternative fuel refueling infrastructure?

Braley: Yes

Question: Would you support the Production Tax Credit for wind energy which expired in 2014?

Braley: Yes

Question: Do you support the Renewable Fuels Standard and oppose the proposed reduction in the renewable fuel usage required in the United States liquid fuel supply?

Braley: Yes

Note: In November 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard pertaining to biofuels, including corn ethanol. Citing less overall fuel consumption, the agency proposed to cut mandated fuel levels by 2.94 billion gallons (from 18.15 to 15.21 billion gallons) per year. Thus far in the 113th Congress, no legislation has been introduced to reverse the proposed change.

“[Bruce] opposes any efforts to reduce future Social Security benefits for retirees if cost-of-living increases were shifted to a so-called ‘chained CPI’ calculation.”

Note: Chained CPI is an alternative method to calculate annual cost-of-living adjustments for federal benefits payments and refundable tax credits. In 2013, President Obama proposed a chained CPI approach, which was ultimately not enacted. CBO estimated that such a recalculation would decrease federal mandatory spending by $51.2 billion in FY 2014-2018 because a chained CPI calculation would reduce the rate at which certain federally-funded benefits grow. Revenues would increase by $26.5 billion over the same period because Chained CPI would also affect the indexing of tax brackets.

“What I think is we need to start by eliminating corporate tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping jobs overseas.” (28:20)