NTU’s 11th Annual “No Brainers” List: Bipartisan Legislation Congress Should Pass in 2021

For the eleventh consecutive year, National Taxpayers Union (NTU) is proud to present ten “no-brainer” bills that can bridge the partisan divide. Each bill meets three important criteria: 1) it has bipartisan support, 2) it has not been on a prior NTU “No Brainers” list, and 3) it is a common-sense solution to a real problem facing taxpayers. That means no renaming post offices or commemorative coin legislation. Each bill below demonstrates that there can be broad support for meaningful solutions to a variety of issues when partisan politics are put aside.

Here is our 11th annual “No Brainers” list, separated by broad category but otherwise in no particular order.


American Innovation and Jobs Act

  • Bill Number: S. 749
  • Lead Sponsor/Cosponsors: Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Ben Sasse (R-NE)
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: The American Innovation and Jobs Act (AIJA) would stop a harmful tax policy change scheduled to take effect in 2022 that would increase the costs businesses face when investing in research and development (R&D). Starting in 2022, companies that have long been able to fully and immediately recover R&D costs (i.e., full and immediate expensing for R&D) will instead be forced to amortize, or spread out, cost recovery over five years. AIJA would cancel the five-year amortization scheduled to go into effect, making permanent American companies’ ability to fully and immediately expense R&D. This is a pro-growth change to the tax code that would make it easier for businesses to invest in highly valuable R&D that drives job, wage, and economic growth in the U.S. The legislation also includes an expansion of the refundable R&D tax credit.
  • Honorable Mention: A similar bill, the American Innovation and R&D Competitiveness Act (H.R. 1304), from Reps. John Larson (D-CT), Ron Estes (R-KS), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), and Jodey Arrington (R-TX), also would cancel R&D amortization, leaving full and immediate expensing intact. Because we included identical legislation in our “No Brainers” last year, this bill is ineligible for this year’s list. Instead, we offer an Honorable Mention to this meritorious legislation in 2021.

Improving Child Care for Working Families Act

  • Bill Numbers: S. 987, H.R. 2121
  • Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in the Senate; Reps. Cindy Axne (D-IA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House
  • Why It's a No-Brainer: Congress first allowed parents to set aside their income for child care expenses on a tax-free basis in 1981, and it set the limit at $5,000 per family per year in 1986. The limit has been $5,000 ever since, even though child care costs have increased significantly in the past 35 years. It's long past time Congress lifted the limit on tax-free dependent care assistance program (DCAP) contributions for working parents, and lawmakers took the first step toward doing so -- for the 2021 tax year alone -- by lifting the limit from $5,000 to $10,500 in the American Rescue Plan Act. The Improving Child Care for Working Families Act would lift the limit to $10,500 on a permanent basis. 

Budget and Spending

Prevent Government Shutdowns Act

  • Bill Number: S. 2727
  • Lead Sponsor/Cosponsors: Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH)
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: This legislation would provide for automatic continuing resolutions (CRs) in the event Congress cannot agree to fund the government on time. Given lawmakers regularly fail to enact appropriations bills on time, and given shutdowns cause significant disruptions to the U.S. economy and to taxpayer-funded government programs and services, the Prevent Government Shutdowns Act is a smart bill that would limit costly interruptions to government funding while still compelling lawmakers to get their act together in the event of a failure to pass timely appropriations.

Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act

  • Bill Numbers: S. 636, H.R. 2015
  • Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in the Senate; Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) in the House
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: This legislation would require federal agencies to report on all projects that are $1 billion over budget, five years behind schedule, or both. This kind of transparency and straightforward reporting is essential for both lawmakers and taxpayers to figure out what federal projects are working and what projects are not.

Fair-Value Accounting and Budget Act

  • Bill Numbers: H.R. 3785
  • Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Reps. Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Ed Case (D-HI)
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: This legislation encourages transparency and accuracy in accounting to loan programs administered by the federal government. It would require the executive branch and Congress to use fair value accounting in calculating the cost of the federal credit programs, an important system utilized by the private sector. Adopting fair-value accounting principles provides a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of risk - a welcome change that benefits taxpayers.

Housing and Financial Services

Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act

  • Bill Numbers: S. 1614, H.R. 3198
  • Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) in the Senate; Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) in the House
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: This legislation would take steps towards eliminating discriminatory local land-use policies that needlessly prevent the construction of affordable housing. Importantly, this proposal would help reduce construction costs and build more units without adding more burdens on taxpayers and the federal government. Under the YIMBY Act, local governments receiving taxpayer-funded federal housing dollars funds through the Community Development Block Grant program would need to report whether they have enacted policies to reduce regulations that affect affordable housing supply. At its core, the YIMBY Act is a good government and housing bill, offering transparency on exclusionary policies and ultimately encouraging localities to eliminate barriers to much-needed housing.

Health Care

Homecare for Seniors Act

  • Bill Numbers: S. 1399, H.R. 2898
  • Lead Sponsor/Cosponsors: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Tom Carper (D-DE) in the Senate; Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA) and Don Bacon (R-NE) in the House
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: This legislation would allow seniors to use Health Savings Account (HSA) funds to pay for home-based care as they get older and require assistance with daily activities. NTU has long been supportive of expanding individuals’ opportunities to both put additional dollars into HSAs and use those dollars for additional medical expenses.


Audit the Pentagon Act

  • Bill Number: S. 1707
  • Lead Sponsor/Cosponsors: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Mike Lee (R-UT)
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: The Pentagon has now failed each of its three audits, and projects it will not be able to pass an audit until 2028. This bipartisan legislation would reduce the budget of a Department of Defense (DoD) agency or component by one percent if that agency or component cannot pass an audit. It’s long past time for Congress to use sticks, rather than carrots, in compelling DoD to improve its financial management.
  • Honorable Mention: The House version of the Audit the Pentagon Act (H.R. 4272), from Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Michael Burgess (R-TX), is also a strong piece of legislation. However, the bill includes a carve-out that, under the wrong circumstances, could be misused or abused by executive branch officials to avoid applying spending cuts to a DoD agency or component that fails an audit. The legislation is stronger without the carve-out, and the Senate bill does not include such a carve-out.

Tech and Telecom

Accelerating Rural Broadband Deployment Act

  • Bill Numbers: S. 1113, H.R. 3970
  • Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) in the Senate; Reps. John Curtis (R-UT) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) in the House
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr stated, "the reality is we have enough money that has either been appropriated by Congress or budgeted by various agencies to bridge the digital divide multiple times over." Rather than allocating unnecessary funding or instituting heavy-handed price controls, this common-sense legislation would streamline the regulatory side of broadband deployment. The high cost of deploying broadband, especially in less densely populated areas, can leave Americans unserved. Increasing access to federal rights-of-way is a fiscally responsible way to help close the digital divide and can help lower prices for consumers.

Good Government

Securing Inspector General Independence Act

  • Bill Number: S. 587
  • Lead Sponsor/Cosponsors: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Gary Peters (D-MI)
  • Why It’s a No-Brainer: Inspectors general (IGs) have played a critical role in federal oversight since the passage of the Inspector General Act of 1978, and in that time have come under political fire from both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations. The Securing Inspector General Independence Act of 2021 would enhance IG protections by requiring Presidents to report, in a timely manner, more information to Congress than under current law when an IG is removed from their post or placed on non-duty status. The legislation would also ensure that in most cases, any vacancies for an IG position are filled by a first assistant to the IG who is qualified for the position. This is good-government legislation that would protect and enhance the valuable work done by IGs on behalf of American taxpayers every day.

Previous lists are available at the links below:

2020: Tenth Installment of NTU’s “No Brainers” List: Ten Bipartisan Bills That Can Bridge the Partisan Divide

2019: 9th Annual "No-Brainers" List: 10 Bipartisan Bills Congress Should Pass

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