In the News
Source: Omaha World-Herald
Nov 01 2017
WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, wants to include a bit of tax pain for Congress itself in the Republican tax package.
Ernst unveiled legislation Tuesday that would eliminate Capitol Hill lawmakers’ ability to deduct up to $3,000 in living expenses in Washington, D.C.
“To achieve the ultimate goal of lowering tax rates for hardworking families and businesses, Congress is going to have to eliminate various loopholes and deductions in our outdated tax code,” Ernst said in a press release. “Congress should lead by example and offer up its own unnecessary tax break.”
This bill comes after Ernst recently reintroduced legislation to trim perks enjoyed by former presidents.
The budget savings from either proposal represent tiny drops in the ocean that is the $20 trillion national debt, but Ernst has defended such measures as symbolically important.
She has dubbed her new legislation the Stop Questionable, Unnecessary and Excessive Allowances for Legislators — or SQUEAL — Act.
That title refers to an early Ernst campaign ad that went viral, helping launch her onto the national political radar.
In the “make ’em squeal” spot, Ernst said her childhood experiences castrating hogs on an Iowa farm would help her in cutting pork in Washington.
Her legislation targets what she described as a loophole in the tax code that allows legislators to claim deductions for their living expenses in Washington even though they spend a lot of time there. It would affect the taxes of, at most, 535 people and, if it had saved each of them $1,000 in tax liability, it might bring in $500,000 more in tax revenue.
Details of a massive GOP tax measure are expected to be released this week.
Congressional compensation and perks represent a potent political issue.
The annual salary for rank-and-file members of Congress rose to $174,000 in 2009 but has remained frozen as lawmakers have acted year after year to stop any raises for themselves.