Top Ten Taxpayer Wins in House Appropriations Bills

As August recess has ended, the House of Representatives must come to terms with a burgeoning docket of appropriations bills waiting this month. While taxpayers should applaud numerous spending cuts in the committee-passed prints, they should also be wary of further budget gimmicks, emergency spending, and other disagreeable policy riders that may surface in the fall.

Furthermore, the committee prints also include several policy wins for taxpayers, and the full House should consider adding other taxpayer-friendly germane limitations riders when they return to session. One such rider could be a limitation placed on funding or enforcing the egregious new overtime rule issued by the Department of Labor.

Below is a list of top ten taxpayer wins included in the current House appropriations bills:


Limitation Rider on Student Loan Repayment Waivers

Sec. 126. As NTU and NTUF have written extensively, the Biden administration’s attempt to unilaterally forgive massive amounts of student loans is both unconstitutional and extremely costly to taxpayers. In total, the full cost would be around $570.5 billion added to the federal debt. Forcing all taxpayers to shoulder the burden of a few select individuals who attended college at a certain point in time would be a gross misinterpretation of the statutory authority granted by the HEROES Act. Even having this action struck down by the Supreme Court did not deter the Biden administration, as they proceeded to try again while also canceling debt for a narrower segment of 804,000 borrowers. Clearly, Congress must take the reins away from the executive branch and limit the ability of the Department of Education to further attempt to shift massive debts from borrowers to taxpayers with this limitation rider.

Limitation Rider on Independent Contractor Rule

Sec. 117. This rider would prevent the promulgation of California-style independent contractor regulations becoming the national standard. The California “ABC” test rule creates significant regulatory uncertainty for many industries, including freelancers on Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Rover, or any number of other useful applications that workers utilize to make extra money. It can also include graphic designers, software engineers, or consultants. National economic estimates for freelancers vary but likely total around $1 trillion in annual earnings. Preventing the Department of Labor from promulgating this rulemaking would ensure that this vibrant engine of the economy continues to thrive.

Limitation Rider on Joint Employer Rule 

Sec. 409. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) joint employer rule, which is currently under revision, will likely upend the longstanding standard in place since 1986. This time-tested regulation has created certainty for many businesses like franchise small businesses, staffing agencies, and other employers that deal with contracted vendors. As NTU has written, the current NLRB rulemaking threatens the entire franchise business model and small businesses nationwide. This new rule could create myriad legal headaches for any type of business that utilizes staffing or contract services from outside vendors, or potentially even destroy contractors’ businesses. Companies of any size that use outside vendors for services may decide that the legal uncertainty of joint employment is not worth it and cancel their contracts. In many cases, these contractors are small businesses that rely on numerous clients to create a sustainable business model. This rider would assure continued investment in small business development and reduce legal uncertainty for millions of small business owners.

Financial Services General Government

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tax Preparation Limitation Rider

Sec. 112. The IRS continues to advance the unnecessary and intrusive idea of government-run tax preparation. The IRS has already pushed the boundaries by using a “study” authorized by Congress to attempt to run a tax preparation pilot program. The need for congressional intervention is clear and this rider would prevent taxpayers from the slippery slope of government-run tax preparation, which is especially important given the IRS’s long history of costly mistakes and poor taxpayer service. Expanding their duties at a time where scrutiny continues to be placed on their ability to carry out current mandates would be unwise for taxpayers. Furthermore, as many examples in other industries like telecommunications have demonstrated, the government should not compete with the private sector in general, but particularly when free services already exist for taxpayers to take advantage of.

SEC Climate Disclosure Rule

Sec. 550. Last year, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed an onerous rule that would require public companies to disclose environmental impact risks, emissions statements, and other related governance policies. As NTU previously stated, this rule, while likely exceeding statutory authority, would also impose major compliance burdens on public companies to further the current administration’s political goals. The SEC’s own estimates peg compliance costs at $10.2 billion, a figure that will likely be much higher in reality since these estimates don’t account for increased compliance hiring. Beyond excessive compliance costs, this is a particularly concerning overstep given the government is essentially mandating ideological policies unrelated to protecting shareholders, as the SEC’s mission entails. Government pressure through this rule would shift companies’ goals from generating returns for shareholders, including retirees and pension funds, to achieving unelected bureaucrats’ policy goals. The appropriations language included would prevent this rule from coming to fruition, thereby saving retiree portfolios from being damaged by the current executive branch’s preferences.

Make the CFPB Subject to Appropriations Process

Sec. 501. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) controversially began its history after the financial crisis as a uniquely designed federal agency placed under the Federal Reserve system. Its design, particularly the lack of an appropriated funding mechanism and its single-director structure, came under scrutiny almost immediately after its formation. In 2020, the Supreme Court found that this single-director structure was unconstitutional. A further lawsuit rightly challenges the agency’s funding structure, which sidesteps annual appropriations in favor of receiving funding from the Federal Reserve. The Fifth Circuit agreed the funding structure as unconstitutional and the Supreme Court agreed to take the case as well. With this background, it’s clear that Congress must retake the reins over federal purse strings and change the funding structure of CFPB and the Bureau’s single unilateral Director.

Restructuring CFPB would restore accountability to a seemingly rogue agency that is not bound by either the executive branch or the legislative branch. Without restrictions, CFPB may continue to issue radical regulations such as the non-bank disclosure rule or credit card price controls.

FTC Policy Riders

(Section unknown, final legislative text unreleased). The current committee-passed print of the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) appropriations bill would reduce funding to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and includes two excellent riders which would limit the Commission’s ability to enforce guidance on merger prior approval and its Section 5 policy withdrawal from 2021. These two riders introduced during the markup are a great start for the final bill and should be retained. However, with recent news of the Hart-Scott-Rodino overhaul and the recently released merger guidelines, as well as the overall lawlessness of the current FTC, more aggressive limitations on this rogue agency are certainly warranted. NTU has written more about this topic here.

EPA Limitation Rider on Clean Power Plan 2.0

(Section unknown, final legislative text unreleased). Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took another stab at remaking a key Obama-era rulemaking - the Clean Power Plan 2.0. This major rule would force power plants to curb their emissions by nearly 90 percent by 2040. Last year, the original plan was struck down by the Supreme Court for regulatory overreach, and this new rule is no better than the first. Preventing the unconstitutional promulgation of another rule is already crucial on its face. The potential damage to the economy, consumers, and national security this rule poses is also an important implication to consider. The EPA claims that this rule will provide societal benefits that will outweigh the costs of compliance. However, a closer look at the proposal reveals that it would have major negative impacts on taxpayers, the stability of the energy grid, and consumers’ wallets.

The EPA’s proposal would set emission standards for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants based on technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), low-GHG hydrogen co-firing, and natural gas co-firing. These technologies are supposed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that power plants release into the atmosphere. However, these technologies are not adequately proven at national scale, and would impose significant costs and challenges on the power sector as well as consumers. Preventing the EPA from increasing energy costs for millions of Americans should be applauded and this rider should be included in the final bill.

Commerce, Science, Justice, Related Agencies

“Jaw-Boning” Limitation Rider

Sec. 597. Government agencies impose undue and potentially unconstitutional free speech burdens on private companies and individuals through pressure of social media companies. This issue, known as “jaw-boning” presents a difficult issue. While private companies certainly have the prerogative to freely moderate the content on their private websites, a topic on which NTU has written extensively, there are limited reasons to involve taxpayer resources in this process. The Bill of Rights only applies to the government, after all. However, it is unlikely that the Framers intended for the government to sidestep these restrictions and pressure private entities into doing this work for them. NTU supports this limitation rider which would prevent the federal government from applying pressure on social media companies or using third parties to facilitate suppression of speech.

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

FDA Nicotine Overreach

Secs. 768 and 769. These provisions specify that none of the funds provided by the act may be used by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a maximum nicotine level for cigarettes, to prohibit menthol cigarettes, or to prohibit menthol or other characterizing flavors in cigars. They would prevent overreach by regulators that would have significant negative impacts on taxpayers, farmers, retailers, consumers, manufacturers, state and local governments, and supply chains across the country.