For the 12th 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 12th annual “No Brainers” list, separated by broad categories, but otherwise in no particular order.
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) for S. 3840, Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH) for H.R. 7079, Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) for H.R. 3425, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) for S. 948, Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) for S. 3546, and Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) for H.R. 6913
Why It’s a No-Brainer: NTU usually selects “No Brainers” legislation with both a Republican and a Democrat on board. For this selection only, we include legislation sponsored separately by Republicans and Democrats, in part because this is a crucial tax fix for potentially hundreds of thousands of workers and we strongly believe Congress must reform 1099-K rules this year. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) lowered the reporting threshold for Form 1099-K – often used by gig economy workers, such as drivers for Uber and Lyft, but also used in online sales such as those on eBay or Venmo – from $20,000 and 200 transactions to just $600 (no transaction limit). NTU has written that “a lower threshold will flood the [IRS] and taxpayers with unnecessary paperwork that will contribute to what is already a very dysfunctional tax season.” Democratic efforts have focused on raising the threshold from $600 to $5,000, while Republican efforts have focused on reverting to the $20,000 and 200-transaction threshold. NTU would prefer reverting to the law before ARPA, but we believe Congress should be able to reach a compromise between $5,000 and $20,000. We strongly urge them to do so.
Emergency Savings Reforms
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) for S. 1870, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Todd Young (R-IN) for S. 4310
Why It’s a No-Brainer: These bills take similar approaches to solving a common problem: most Americans don’t have enough in savings for emergency situations. The legislation from Sens. Lankford and Bennet would allow workers to take a once-per-year, tax penalty-free “emergency distribution” of up to $1,000 from their retirement account. The legislation from Sens. Booker and Young would allow employers to add for their workers an option to contribute to an “Emergency Savings Account,” up to $2,500, that could be withdrawn free of tax penalties at any time. Either bill would incentivize workers to put away small amounts for medical, family, or other emergencies, making it less likely those workers need to go into debt or dip into retirement funds to cover such emergencies.
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Reps. Joe Morelle (D-NY) and Adrian Smith (R-NE) for H.R. 5371, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) for S. 1077
Why It’s a No-Brainer: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) put in place limitations on business interest deductions, in part to help offset the budget impact of other pro-growth changes to the code such as full and immediate expensing for short-lived assets. While interest deductions are limited (in part) to 30 percent of adjusted taxable income (ATI) as measured by earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), this definition changes to just earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) in 2022. This impending change has the effect of punishing companies that invest in depreciable and amortizable assets, like machinery, equipment, software, and factories. These investments contribute to worker productivity and help spur economic, job, and wage growth in the U.S. The Permanently Preserving America’s Investment in Manufacturing Act would reverse this harmful tax policy change. Though the Senate version of this bill is not yet bipartisan, the House version of the bill is broadly bipartisan with six Democrats and six Republicans supporting the legislation.
Telehealth Expansion Act
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) for S. 1704, Reps. Michelle Steel (R-CA) and Susie Lee (D-NV) for H.R. 5981
Why It’s a No-Brainer: This legislation would make permanent the currently temporary policy that allows Americans to open and contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) even if their high-deductible health plan exempts telehealth services from the plan’s deductible. Even as the economy reopens from the closures of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is bipartisan support for a broader shift to telehealth services in both public and private health coverage. Lawmakers must carefully monitor how telehealth utilization impacts the costs taxpayers bear for public and private health plans, but there are some reasons to believe increased telehealth utilization will reduce some health costs in the long run. As Congress monitors these developments, HSA beneficiaries should not be punished for utilizing telehealth services offered by their insurance coverage.
Tech and Telecom
Spectrum Innovation Act
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Bob Latta (R-OH) for H.R. 7624, Sens. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and John Thune (R-SD) for S. 4117
Why It’s a No-Brainer: Unless Congress acts, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) authority to auction off spectrum will expire on September 30, 2022. The Spectrum Innovation Act would extend this authority through early 2024. As a coalition of non-partisan organizations led by the R Street Institute and including NTU wrote in August, “[t]he passage of this bill will ensure spectrum continues to be allocated efficiently, unlocking new potential for connected devices and telecommunications. … H.R. 7624’s short term extension from September 30, 2022 to March 31, 2024 provides the perfect window to complete existing auctions, determine future priorities for spectrum bands, and enable Congress to use proceeds of future auctions as they see fit.”
Cost of War Act
Bill Number(s): H.R. 7147
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Reps. Nikema Williams (D-GA), Peter Meijer (R-MI), and Sara Jacobs (D-CA)
Why It’s a No-Brainer: As demonstrated by the recent reaction to President Biden’s student debt cancellation policy, American taxpayers gain valuable information when the cost of public policies is shared with them on a basic, per-taxpayer basis. The Cost of War Act would expand currently required reporting from the Department of Defense on the per-taxpayer cost of our 21st-century military engagements overseas. It would expand current reporting from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to all overseas contingency operations on or after September 18, 2001. We believe per-taxpayer calculations can often help Americans make more informed decisions about the policies they support, oppose, or consider in the public square.
Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and Don Beyer (D-VA) for H.R. 8666, Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) for S. 2934
Why It’s a No-Brainer: This legislation would amend the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to allow Congress to vote on tariffs or quotas proposed by the president for alleged national security reasons. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the authority to lay duties and regulate foreign commerce. This bipartisan legislation would restore the role of Congress and prevent the ability of future presidents to abuse the law in order to restrict trade without congressional approval.
National Emergencies Act (NEA) Reform
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chip Roy (R-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Peter Meijer (R-MI), and Adam Schiff (D-CA) for Rules Amendment #345, Rep. Roy for H.R. 2996, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) for S. 241
Why It’s a No-Brainer: Presidents in both parties have taken advantage of emergency powers to spend significant taxpayer funds without the approval of Congress. Former President Trump used funds appropriated by Congress for the Department of Defense to construct portions of a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border, while more recently President Biden’s Education Department used the ongoing COVID-19 national emergency to justify Biden’s $400 billion-plus cancellation of federal student loan debt. It is time for Congress to rein in presidential emergency powers, especially those that affect the use (or misuse) of taxpayer funds. The National Emergencies Act (NEA) reforms linked above would require Congressional approval of any presidentially-declared national emergency after 30 days. Under current law, Congress only has power to disapprove of an emergency, an authority which it rarely exercises.
TRUST in Congress Act
Bill Number(s): H.R. 336
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX)
Why It’s a No-Brainer: Though NTU believes lawmakers should have the right to save for retirement, children’s education, and other long-term needs – as every American should – we recognize that lawmakers have access to unique information through their public service and also hold unique influence over the financial and economic direction of the country. For that reason, we believe that lawmakers should have to either divest of certain investments when they are serving in public office, or otherwise place their investments in a blind trust that they cannot influence (and that cannot influence them) while in Congress. We also believe it is sensible to prohibit lawmakers from trading individual stocks during their time in office. The TRUST in Congress Act would accomplish both of these aims, and provides reasonable exceptions to the proposed rules, such as allowing lawmakers to hold assets in widely-held investment funds like those that track one of the broad indices of the stock market (e.g., the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones).
Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act (WPIA)
Bill Number(s): H.R. 2988
Lead Sponsors/Cosponsors: Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Nancy Mace (R-SC)
Why It’s a No-Brainer: Whistleblowers have been the backbone of anti-corruption and anti-fraud efforts in the government for decades, and NTU has long held that whistleblower protections are taxpayer protections. The WPIA includes several best-practice improvements to legal whistleblower protections, including prohibiting federal employees from retaliating against individuals who blow the whistle, and protecting the privacy and confidentiality of whistleblowers so that they avoid unwelcome attention or harassment in the public square. With the government spending more taxpayer dollars than ever before, protections for those who bravely call out waste or abuse of taxpayer funds must be stronger than ever before.
Previous lists are available at the links below: