Green New Deal. Medicare For All. The colors red and blue - all things that drive a wedge between policy makers of the two political parties. With politicians seemingly focused on unrealistic policy ideas and the upcoming election, taxpayers are often left wondering “does Congress even work anymore?” It’s a fair question, but believe it or not, there is still room for optimism on Capitol Hill.
For the ninth consecutive year, National Taxpayers Union is proud to present ten “no-brainer” bills that can bridge the partisan divide. Each bill meets two important criteria: bipartisan support and a common-sense solution to a real problem facing taxpayers. That means no renaming post offices, “expressing the sense of the Congress” resolutions, or commemorative coins. Each bill demonstrates that there can be broad support across a variety of issues when partisan politics are put aside.
1. Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (H.R. 1994), Rep. Neal (D-MA) & Rep. Brady (R-TX):
Saving for retirement can be a significant challenge, especially for lower-income workers. Thankfully, the SECURE Act would increase the accessibility and affordability of retirement products for millions of workers, thereby making it easier for people to grow their savings. Specifically, the SECURE Act makes it easier for small businesses to band together to offer retirement plans, enables part-time workers to participate in 401(k) plans, and raises the required distribution age for individual retirement accounts from 70 ½ to 72. Additionally, the SECURE Act allows employers who offer retirement plans with automatic enrollment to be eligible for tax credits. These meaningful reforms will help families save more and earlier for their future.
2. Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (S. 362/H.R. 1175), Sen. Wyden (D-OR) & Rep. Kind (D-WI):
This legislation would make permanent reforms enacted in 2017 that significantly lowered taxes for brewers, winemakers, and distillers. With these important tax benefits expiring at the end of 2019, American alcohol producers could be hit with a large tax increase if Congress takes no action. In large part due to a reduced tax burden, brewers, vintners, and distillers are using extra capital to invest in new products, inventory and equipment, all of which create employment opportunities for the men and women that work in the beverage alcohol industry. This legislation will provide long-term certainty from Washington so producers can continue to innovate and invest to meet consumer demand.
3. Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act (S.684/H.R. 748), Sen. Heinrich (D-NM) & Rep. Courtney (D-CT):
This legislation would permanently repeal the “Cadillac Tax,” a 40 percent excise tax on some employer-provided health plans that is slated to go into effect in 2022. Despite the tax not even implemented, employers have already restricted their health care benefits to avoid the tax by offering high-deductible plans. These realities will raise health care costs on middle class families and subsequently lower family take-home pay.
4. Respect the Caps Act (S. 1171): Sen. Tillis (R-NC) & Sen. Warren (D-MA):
This legislation would close a loophole that has allowed compensation for executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to go well beyond Congressionally-mandated limits. In 2015, then-president Obama signed legislation placing a salary cap of $600,000, however a recent IG report found Fannie and Freddie have paid their CEOs $4.2 million and $3.85 million in annual salary, respectively. The Respect the Caps Act will ensure these taxpayer-backed entities continue follow the law as intended.
5. Presidential Allowance Modernization Act (S. 580/H.R.1496), Sen. Ernst (R-IA) & Rep. Hice (R-GA):
This legislation would reduce the pension of former presidents and limit the taxpayer money spent on staff, office space, and other supplies. Additionally, it would reduce this allowance dollar-for-dollar if a former president makes over $400,000 per year, and would decrease the total allowance by almost 50 percent over ten years. Since 2000, taxpayers have paid out $63 million in benefits and office allowances to the five living former presidents, whose estimated net worths range from $8 million, to $76 million. While this legislation would only amount to an annual savings of $2 million, it is symbolically important in an era of record debt and growing deficits.
6. Financing Our Energy Future Act (S. 1841/H.R. 3249), Sen. Coons (D-DE) & Rep. Thompson (D-CA):
This legislation would level the energy playing field by allowing renewable energy projects to have the same tax treatment as non-renewable energy projects. Specifically, this legislation would amend the tax code to all renewable fuel companies to form master limited partnerships, which combine the funding advantages of corporations and the tax advantages of partnerships. As a result, renewable power projects would finally have access to the same low-cost capital as other energy sources and promote more energy production without additional tax credits or other distortions within the tax code.
7. Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act (S.2177/ H.R. 3830), Sen. Lankford (R-OK) & Rep. Walberg (R-MN):
This legislation would increase transparency and accountability in government by requiring every federal agency to disclose basic information about the cost and performance of the programs they administer. Specifically, this bill would require an annual agency-by-agency “report card” outlining the programs under the purview of each agency, including the cost, number of people served, number of staff involved, and any overlapping areas in order to identify wasteful spending. Such facts will make it easier for concerned Americans to conduct well- informed examinations of federal programs that interest them. Likewise, lawmakers and agencies themselves will be able to better recognize inefficiencies on a systematic basis, thus enabling them to reduce expenditures while maintaining services.
8. A bill to repeal automatic pay adjustments for Members of Congress (S.1444), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL):
This legislation would repeal a provision of federal law that provides an automatic pay increase to the salaries for members of Congress. With members of Congress currently earning $174,00 a year, triple that of the average U.S. salary, their pay is already considerably higher than their constituents. This sum does not include taxpayer funds used for lavish pensions, health plans, and generous allowances for travel, staff, and office expenses. The voluntary public service by members of Congress should be focused on improving the economic conditions of their constituents, not fattening their own pockets.
9. Stop Improper Federal Bonuses Act (S. 2119), Sen. Fischer (R-NE):
This legislation would eliminate bonus payments or require bonus repayment by federal employees found guilty of serious misconduct. According to a 2018 Department of Treasury Inspector General report, between October 2015 and December 2016, the IRS issued more than $1.7 million in awards to employees with disciplinary or adverse actions during the prior year. With this legislation any federal employee who has been suspended for more than 14 days for violating agency policy would not be eligible for bonus payments or could be required to repay their bonus if found guilty of serious misconduct. In the private sector, workers with serious misconduct charges would not likely be eligible to earn a bonus, and it is only fair that public sector workers are held to that same standard.
10. 9-1-1 Fee Integrity Act (H.R.2165), Rep. Collins (R-NY), Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) & Rep. Pingree (D-ME):
This legislation would prevent states from diverting 9-1-1 fees collected from consumers on their phone bills, to other non-9-1-1 programs. According to the FCC, nearly $1 billion in 9-1-1 fees, intended to boost local emergency response service,s has been misdirected toward unrelated items in state’s budget. When states siphon fees that are paid by consumers away from important response services, it can lead to a shortage of staff at call centers and longer wait times for first responders to get to the scene of the call.
Previous lists are available at the links below:
2018: 8th Annual "No-Brainers" List: 10 Bills We Can All Get Behind
2017: 10 Bills That Can Bridge the Partisan Divide
2016: 10 Bills That Can Bypass Congressional Gridlock
2015: Can Congress Be Tempted By This Legislative Low-Hanging Fruit?
2014: 10 Bipartisan “No-Brainer” Bills Congress Should Pass
2013: 10 “No-Brainer” Bills: Does Congress Have the Aptitude for This Test?
2012: Congressional Aptitude Test: 10 “No-Brainer” Bills Even a Caveman Could Pass
2011: Federal IQ Test: 12 “No-Brainer” Bills Congress Should Pass for Taxpayers