No Amnesty Toolkit

America welcomes more than one million immigrants every year who go through a long vetting process. A combination of lax enforcement and lawlessness has broken our immigration system and it no longer works for our nation as as a whole.

America’s borders aren’t secure and temporary visas are routinely misused. The current system also opens the door for family members to get citizenship (also known as chain migration), rather than favoring a merit-based immigration system.

In 2012, President Obama used his pen and phone to bypass Congress and create Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). He felt his unconstitutional act was justified because multiple amnesty schemes failed to pass Congress, even when Democrats were in complete control.

DACA’s goal was to grant temporary “legal” status to individuals who were under 30 years old and brought to the U.S. as minors (often referred to as “dreamers”). The roughly 1.7 million eligible recipients would be required to work or go to school, but could ultimately defer their deportation for two years. Recipients could renew their status.

President Donald Trump made a campaign promise to secure our borders and rollback Obama’s lawless actions and now he intends to rescind the DACA program in six months, leaving time for Congress to act.

It is critical the executive and legislative branches learn from past mistakes, and work together to build consensus around an immigration policy that makes sense for all 320 million Americans. America deserves an immigration system that secures our borders, upholds the rule of law, and works for our economy.

Key Talking Points:

Why the U.S. Immigration System is Broken:

  • Our Federal Government Does Not Enforce the Law. Current U.S. law, written and passed by Congress and signed by the president, makes it illegal for foreign nationals to enter or stay in the country without authorization. Despite this clear provision of law, an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants reside in the United States.
  • America Lacks Strong Border Security. U.S. borders are not secure. Criminals, drug cartels, terrorists, and those that wish to do our nation harm know this and seek to exploit it every day. A basic role of the federal government established the U.S. Constitution is to uphold our national sovereignty.
  • America’s Immigration System has the Wrong Incentives. The current family-based (or chain-migration) system prioritizes “immediate relatives” before meeting more pressing needs for our country such as high-skilled migrants. These policies appeal to political, emotional or special interest agendas dictated by politicians.
  • Real Immigration Solutions are Held Hostage. Liberals, Washington elites and big business are convinced that a sweeping amnesty is the political silver bullet of immigration reform. They continue to send a clear signal to would-be migrants: That the United States ignores the rule of law and will not hold lawbreakers accountable for their actions. This trend must be reversed for commonsense solutions to become reality.

Conservative Solutions:

  • Enforce U.S. Immigration Law. Deporting illegal immigrants, denying amnesty, and simply enforcing current law sends a very strong signal to potential offenders: Do not enter or stay in the U.S. illegally. The Trump administration has begun enforcing U.S. immigration laws and should continue to restore lawfulness. Congress should act if the Trump administration’s efforts to deny funds to so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws are blocked by the courts.
  • Secure our Borders. Congress should approve funding to build more secure fencing along the southern border and implement a comprehensive surveillance system to monitor border activity. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, and the Coast Guard should receive targeted resources needed to enforce the law on the border.
  • Oppose Amnesty. Prioritizing those here illegally is a grave injustice to those waiting in line to come to America the right way. Amnesty creates a vicious cycle. It increases expectations for future amnesties while encouraging more migrants to break the law in the meantime.
  • Oppose Bipartisan “compromise” on DACA. President Trump was right to rescind DACA, but his suggestion to swap codification of the program for additional border security measures is misguided.  Republicans should not repeat the 1986 mistake of agreeing to permanent amnesty in exchange for future promises of border security. It was a bad deal then and a bad deal today.
  • Reform Legal Immigration. Moving away from a blanket, chain-migration system and replacing it with a rational, skills based-migration system should be prioritized after our border is secure. Improving internal enforcement through E-Verify is a critical part of this transition and would allow for better prosecution of companies who hire illegal immigrants.

To learn more read our latest brief on immigration available here.

(Make sure to insert the Twitter handle of your Representative)

  • Click to Tweet: @MEMBERNAME DACA creates a powerful magnet for more illegal immigration. Conservatives must fight to #EndDACA
  • Click to Tweet: Our immigration system is lawless, lacks border security & has the wrong incentives. @MemberName #EndDACA and reform our current system
  • Click to Tweet: @MEMBERNAME DACA never passed Congress and is illegal. Immigration reform must start with enforcing America’s laws.
  • Click to Tweet: The DREAM Act allows illegal immigrants to gain legal status & eventually bring in other family members #EndDACA
  • Click to Tweet: @MEMBERNAME No Amnesty. No exception. #EndDACA
  • Click to Tweet: Want immigration reform?

1 Enforce laws
2 Secure Borders
3 Crackdown on illegal labor
4 Defund Sanctuary Cities
5 Reform Legal immigration

 

These are notes to use when calling your member of Congress. Always remember to make these notes your own and include a personal story if you have one relating to the topic.You can find their phone number on the Heritage Action Dashboard.

Hi, I’m [NAME] from [STATE].

With the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA and urge Congress to act on immigration, I want to tell [MEMBER OF CONGRESS] not to move forward with DACA, but instead focus on passing reforms to strengthen our border and fix immigration laws.

Here’s the five part plan:

First, enforce the law. The Trump administration is already beginning to enforce current U.S. immigration laws and should continue to do so. Deporting illegal immigrants, denying amnesty and simply enforcing the law sends a strong signal to potential offenders not to enter or stay in the U.S. illegally.

Second, secure our borders. Congress should approve funding to build more secure fencing along the southern border and implement a comprehensive surveillance system to monitor the border that includes cameras, sensors and drones. Doing so will make it more difficult to enter the U.S. illegally.

Third, crack down on unauthorized labor. Improve internal enforcement through E-Verify, while prosecuting companies who hire illegal immigrants.  

Fourth, defund sanctuary cities. Municipalities who wish to disobey federal immigration laws should be denied federal security grants. Legislation to do just that is pending Congress, but has been blocked by Democrats.

Fifth, reform the legal immigration system. We need to move away from blanket chain-migration and replace it with a rational, skills based-migration system. There are lessons from the Canadian and Australian models that might best serve the United States’ immigration system.

Below is a sample letter to the editor. We encourage you to adapt and personalize the letter below. Heritage Action regional coordinators are always here to help edit your letter and get it published.

Congressman [X],

The current immigration debate makes no sense to anyone except elites in Washington.

America welcomes more than one million immigrants every year who go through a long vetting process. A combination of lax enforcement and lawlessness has broken our immigration system and it no longer works for our nation as as a whole.

America’s borders aren’t secure and temporary visas are routinely misused. The current system also opens the door for family members to get citizenship (also known as chain migration), rather than favoring a merit-based immigration system.

The solution should be obvious: Border security, enforcement of our current laws, and targeted reforms to our legal immigration system. But these commonsense solutions have been held hostage by politicians in Washington who want amnesty.

Congress should work with the Trump administration to enforce our laws and crack down on illegal immigration through a step-by-step process. We must first secure our borders, enforce existing immigration law, and prosecute those who fail to abide by those laws.

Only after we secure our borders should we consider reforming the legal immigration system. We need to move away from blanket chain-migration and replace it with a rational, skills based-migration system. There are lessons from the Canadian and Australian models that might best serve the United States’ immigration system.

Immigration reform that is done properly can fit with America’s open arms and with our commitment to the rule of law.

With these reasons in mind, I hope Congressman [X] will steer Congress toward conservative immigration solutions.

Read More

Immigration Reform Brief

History of DACA (and conservative/constitutional critique).

Current U.S. law, written and passed by Congress and signed by the President, makes it unlawful for foreign nationals to enter or stay in the country without authorization. Despite this clear provision of law, an estimated 11.4 million people live in the United States without authorization.

In 2012, then-President Obama — under tremendous political pressure from his base — issued a memo through the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) titled “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). DACA sought to grant temporary legal status to individuals who were under 30 years old and brought to the U.S. as minors (frequently referred to as “Dreamers”). The roughly 1.7 million eligible recipients would be required to work or go to school, but could ultimately defer their deportation for two years. Recipients could renew their status.

Conservative legal groups challenged these actions in court as an unconstitutional overreach of executive power. Several states sued the federal government, and appeals courts ultimately ruled in favor of states to enjoin (or prohibit) an extension of DACA. Since the issuance of the DACA memo, and during debate over a larger amnesty, the number of people unlawfully crossing the U.S. border has increased significantly.

In 2013, debate began on a comprehensive immigration bill (the now infamous “Gang of Eight” proposal) that would have included amnesty for most of the unlawful immigrant population, including “Dreamers.” The Senate passed the Gang of Eight amnesty bill, which included a partial codification of the 2012 DACA memo (known as the “DREAM Act,” which the Senate failed to pass in 2010), but the proposal died in the House.

What the Trump administration did.

In response to another impending lawsuit against DACA, the Trump administration officially rescinded the unconstitutional Obama-era program on September 5th, with an effective enforcement date of March 5, 2018. Rescinding DACA fulfills a key campaign promise made by then-candidate Donald Trump to end the program and begin enforcing U.S. immigration laws. By including a six-month delay, the Trump administration is providing Congress with an opportunity to address the larger issue of illegal and legal immigration legislatively.

Effective immediately, the government will no longer accept new applicants for the DACA program — capping the program’s participation at roughly 690,000. However, pending applications and those wishing to renew their applications will continue to be processed until October 5.  

Possible congressional action.  

The day after his administration announced the end of DACA, President Trump told reporters that he’d “like to see something where we have good border security, and we have a great DACA transaction where everybody is happy and now they don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

In setting up a straight DACA codification for border security trade, the president risks repeating the mistakes of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. That law provided amnesty for 2.7 million illegal immigrants and the promise of future border security and internal enforcement. As President Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese III wrote in 2013, the 1986 amnesty “encourage[d] millions more to risk entering the country illegally in the hope that one day they, too, might receive amnesty.”

Americans witnessed this dynamic in full force as the Obama administration’s unlawful DACA program came into effect and Congress debated a more sweeping amnesty in 2013. As The Heritage Foundation explained in 2014, DACA was “creating a powerful magnet for more illegal immigration, since children and their families have hope that they might receive some sort of amnesty, or at least not be deported, if they make it into the U.S.”   

A simple trade would also ignore another major flaw in our nation’s immigration system: family-based chain migration policies. As The Heritage Foundation previously wrote, DACA — or the DREAM Act, would allow illegal immigrants that gain legal status to “convert to non-conditional status immediately (and use his green card as a platform to bring in family members).”

Conservatives have long-opposed family-based chain migration policies, preferring instead to move to a skills or merit-based immigration system. Senator Tom Cotton — the Senate’s top immigration hawk — told the Washington Examiner’s Byron York that failure to fix America’s legal immigration systems means legalizing DACA recipients “creates a whole new class of people who will then be eligible for a green card and citizenship — namely, the extended family members of those who will receive legal status who can, through chain migration, get legal status themselves.”

Moving forward, it is imperative the executive and legislative branches learn from past mistakes, and work together to build a national consensus for an immigration policy that makes sense for all 320 million Americans, not only a sympathetic group put into an untenable situation because former President Obama illegally bypassed Congress.

Pathway to conservative immigration reform.

One of the most important lessons of the 1986 amnesty was that in order for immigration reform to be successful, it must be accomplished through a step-by-step process.

First, enforce U.S. immigration law: The Trump administration is already beginning to enforce current U.S. immigration laws and should continue to do so. Deporting illegal immigrants, denying amnesty and simply enforcing the law sends a strong signal to potential offenders not to enter or stay in the U.S. illegally.

Second, secure our borders: Congress should approve funding to build more secure fencing along the southern border and implement a comprehensive surveillance system to monitor the border that includes cameras, sensors and drones. Doing so will make it more difficult to enter the U.S. illegally.

Third, crack down on unauthorized labor: Improve internal enforcement through E-Verify, while prosecuting companies who hire illegal immigrants.   

Fourth, defund sanctuary cities: Municipalities who wish to disobey federal immigration laws should be denied federal security grants.

Fifth, reform the legal immigration system: Move away from the blanket chain-migration and replace it with a rational, skills based-migration system. There are lessons from the Canadian and Australian models that might best serve the United States’ immigration system.

Read More

FAQ: Rep. Garret Graves’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996)

What does this bill do?

This bill ensures the food stamp program (SNAP) has meaningful work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) by:

  • eliminating statewide or partial waivers from the ABAWD work requirement;
  • shortening the three-month rule, which permits ABAWDs to receive food stamps without working or participating in other work activity, to one month;
  • lowering the 15 percent exemption rule, which permits states to exempt 15 percent of ABAWDs each month from the work requirement, to 5 percent; and
  • adding supervised job search as an activity that satisfies the work requirement (minimum 8 hours per week).

What are the goals of this reform?

The goals of this reform are threefold: to promote fairness, to promote self-support, and to prevent fraud.

  • Fairness in the welfare system is based on the principle of reciprocity between taxpayers and welfare system: welfare should never be a one-way handout. Aid should always be given to those in need, but constructive behavior should be required in exchange.
  • By requiring work or constructive “work activities” in exchange for food stamp benefits, this policy aims to increase self-support among able-bodied recipients without dependent children.
  • Many ABAWDs have discretionary incomes that are often used for counterproductive or non-essential purposes. For example, recent data shows that over 50 percent of ABAWDs on food stamps smoked cigarettes during the past 30 days, at an average cost of around $111 per month. The available evidence also indicates that many ABAWDs have high levels of unreported income. Having an unreported or off-the-books job enables a recipient to receive the maximum food stamp benefits without regard to actual earnings received. Requirements to engage in work activity interfere with the recipient’s informal employment and will often push the individual to leave the assistance rolls.

As President Ronald Reagan eloquently put it: “Welfare needs a purpose: to provide for the needy, of course, but more than that, to salvage these, our fellow citizens, to make them self-sustaining and, as quickly as possible, independent of welfare. We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.”

What requirements currently exist for ABAWDs on food stamps?

  • Under federal policy, ABAWDs are limited to three months of food stamp benefits in a 36-month period, unless they are working or are involved in a “work activation” program at least part-time.
  •  However, under the 1996 welfare reform law, a state could request waivers from the ABAWD work requirement for the entire state or parts of the state if the state or area has higher unemployment rates or a “lack of sufficient jobs.”
  •  In 2009, the Obama Administration also applied a blanket waiver to the ABAWD work requirement as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), suspending the entire requirement through FY 2010 for all states. The number of ABAWDs on food stamps increased from 1.9 million in FY 2008 to almost 4 million in FY 2010.
  • States are still able to receive statewide or area-specific waivers from the ABAWD work requirement based on high unemployment or “lack of sufficient jobs.” As of late 2016, eight states and the District of Columbia have statewide ABAWD work waivers, 26 states have a partial waiver, and roughly 1,500 counties are “labor surplus areas” as designated by the Department of Labor. Due to the large number of exempted counties, the current ABAWD work requirement is virtually meaningless.
  • The number of ABAWDs on food stamps remains high at around 4.2 million.

Will this policy save taxpayers money?

An ABAWD work requirement similar to the proposed legislation was implemented in the state of Maine in December 2014. The result was an almost immediate 80 percent drop in ABAWD caseload. Based on the experience of ABAWD work requirements in Maine and other states, the nationwide work requirement provided in this bill could save taxpayers nearly $10 billion per year.

Is this policy controversial?

This policy codifies in SNAP the principle of fairness between taxpayers and welfare recipients. There is broad support among the public for this principle. Polls show:

  • Nearly 90 percent of the public agree that “able-bodied adults that receive cash, food, housing, and medical assistance should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving those government benefits.” (Source: Heritage Foundation poll)
  • Support for work requirements in welfare is consistent across party lines, with 87 percent of Democrats and 94 percent of Republicans agreeing with this statement. (Source: Heritage Foundation poll)
  • Similarly, 83 percent of American adults favor work requirements for welfare recipients, while just 7 percent oppose such requirements. (Source: Rasmussen poll)

Won’t this change increase hunger among ABAWD recipients?

Under the legislation, an ABAWD will have his benefits terminated only if he refuses to perform a small amount of community service or other constructive activity. The recipient can have his benefits continued or restored simply by performing the required activity. Individuals who are truly at risk of hunger will choose to perform rather than refuse the required activity.

Isn’t the real issue that welfare is discouraging upward mobility through welfare cliffs?

  • There are no welfare cliffs with respect to ABAWDs.
  • There are no welfare cliffs in the welfare system generally.
  • Multiple randomized controlled experiments show that it is not welfare cliffs or phase-out rates in welfare programs that discourage work, but rather the anti-work incentives that come from giving something for nothing.
  • Seeking reductions in “welfare cliffs” by lessening benefit phase-down rates can only greatly expand the welfare state and substantially increase welfare dependence by needlessly making millions of additional people eligible for welfare. These are long-time staple liberal policies.
  • By contrast, requiring work or other constructive activities was the core of the successful welfare reform in the 1990’s; the historical record shows this policy reduces welfare costs, dramatically reduces welfare dependence, increases employment, and reduces poverty.

Shouldn’t promoting federalism through state flexibility be the main goal for any welfare reform, including food stamp reform?

  • While promoting federalism and maintaining state flexibility is important, the priority of welfare reform should be to free Americans from poverty and government dependence by encouraging work and self-support. This priority was at the core of welfare reform 20 years ago.
  • True federalism would turn fiscal responsibility for operating and funding the SNAP program over to state governments. True federalism does not mean taxing citizens at the federal level and then turning the revenue over to states to spend as they choose. This policy has always resulted in wasteful spending; historical experience shows that state governments spend their own money far more prudently than they spend federal funds.
  • In 2016, means-tested spending on cash, food, and housing assistance was over $350 billion; the federal government provided over 90 percent of these funds. Similarly, the federal government provides over 90 percent of all SNAP funding. As long as the federal government is paying for SNAP or any other welfare program, federal legislators have an obligation to ensure the funds are spent according to conservative principles: specifically, aid should not be a one-way handout, but should be given in a manner that promotes work and marriage and reduces unnecessary dependence.
  • States that wish to provide food stamps to ABAWDs without a work requirement can do so by creating a separate state aid program with state revenue.

Will this bill increase a state government’s administrative costs?

A work activation program can operate at a fairly low cost.

  • For example, a rigorous, closely supervised 16-week job search program would cost about $250 per recipient. In one year, ten million work-capable food stamp recipients could receive this type of program at an annual cost of around $2.5 billion. This would cover all current work-eligible recipients who are non-working or underemployed, as well as many new work-eligible enrollees.
  • In addition, administrative costs would be lower than expected because most ABAWDs will likely drop off the rolls. Maine, for example, expected large numbers of ABAWDs to enroll in its training and community service programs, but most ABAWDs refused to participate despite vigorous outreach efforts by the state government to encourage participation. This indicates that these individuals had other means of supporting themselves, such as unreported income.
  • To cover to the small administrative costs of the program, states would be free to use SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) funds or Social Service Block Grant funds. Under current law, states could also use a portion of their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds; these funds are supposed to be used to promote work and marriage, but most states redirect a substantial portion of the funding to unrelated activities.

Looking at the bigger picture, it is important to understand that welfare spending is growing out of control, not because of administrative costs, but because the current system provides very generous benefits to tens of millions of Americans.

  • On average, administrative costs associated with federal welfare programs are less than 10 percent of means-tested cash, food, housing, and medical spending. More than 90 percent of this spending reaches low-income households as benefits.

Where has this policy been successful before?

Maine, Kansas, and Alabama have implemented ABAWD work requirements for food stamps with great success:

  • 80 percent of ABAWDs on food stamps left the rolls after Maine implemented a work requirement for ABAWDs. A preliminary report published by the Maine government found a 114 percent increase in total wages for ABAWDs who left the food stamp rolls, less dependency for those who remained on the rolls, and between $30 million and $40 million dollars in annual taxpayer savings.
  • Kansas saw a 75 percent reduction in its ABAWD food stamp caseload after reinstituting its work requirement. ABAWDs who left the food stamp rolls “saw their incomes increase by an average of 127 percent, and roughly half of those who left the rolls were employed with reported incomes above the poverty level.”
  • Alabama saw a caseload reduction of 85 percent in the 13 counties that participated.  

Have the states who have instituted these changes seen an uptick in their local work force participation?

Yes. For example, once the state of Kansas established work requirements, thousands of food stamp recipients moved into the workforce, promoting income gains and decreases in poverty. Forty percent of the individuals who left the food stamp ranks found employment within three months, and about 60 percent found employment within a year.

Read More

September Legislative Calendar: An Opportunity for Fiscal Responsibility

Congress will return from August recess September 5th and have a mere 12 legislative days to address a number of “must pass” legislative priorities including the expiration of discretionary appropriations that must be renewed within the constraints of the Budget Control Act (BCA) for fiscal year 2018, the debt limit, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). On top of this, Congress will also need to provide significant funding for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

During the Obama administration, Congress exercised little fiscal restraint (outside of the Budget Control Act of 2011) and routinely passed last-minute, short-term continuing resolutions or trillion-dollar spending packages with little to no reforms. The failures of the past must not continue. In November of 2016, the American people elected the party of “fiscal responsibility” to lead all three branches of the federal government. The Republican Party now has a clear opportunity to live up to its name by enacting fiscally responsible legislation into law this September.

Appropriations/Budget Control Act

On fiscal year 2018 appropriations, Congress should follow President Trump’s lead by sticking to the spending levels established under the BCA. Congress should break the Obama-era firewall between defense and non-defense spending and fully fund the U.S. military via corresponding cuts to domestic programs. Because the BCA has been the most effective mechanism for controlling the growth of discretionary spending, Congress should extend the overall cap through 2021. Longstanding conservative policy provisions should also be included in the appropriations measures.

Debt Limit

Our national debt is quickly approaching $20 trillion and has already exceeded annual U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). This kind of spending-induced government debt slows economic growth, restricts job creation, wage increases, and business expansion. Before Congress agrees to raise the debt limit any further, it should deliver on candidate Trump’s promise to “start to pay down our $19 trillion in debt.” Even a small step toward this promise, such as strengthening the statutory pay-go that removes the exemption for non-trust fund, mandatory spending programs, would send the right signal to the American people that the Republican Party is committed to addressing the structural nature of America’s annual deficit.

Federal Aviation Administration

The FAA’s legal authority expires September 30, 2017 and is long overdue for reform. America’s current aviation system has fallen well behind our foreign counterparts due to excessive government regulation and a broken aviation finance system. But thanks to the persistent work of Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recently introduced the 21st Century Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act (H.R. 2997), that would turn the Air Traffic Control (ATC) system into a standalone government-sanctioned, non-profit corporation and reauthorize the FAA for fiscal years 2018-2023. While not perfect, this bill would free air traffic control services from federal government bureaucrats and allow the new entity to innovate and improve while ensuring flight safety and saving taxpayer dollars.

National Flood Insurance Program & Hurricane Harvey

The NFIP is also set to expire September 30, 2017. Through the NFIP, the federal government maintains a monopoly on virtually all primary flood insurance for homeowners and businesses, and owes nearly $25 billion to U.S. taxpayers. The program has failed to adequately map flood risks and actually promotes development in flood zones through generous subsidies, which worsens the devastation of natural disasters. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, reforming the NFIP is needed now more than ever. Additional borrowing authority may be necessary in order to cover claims to policyholders in the areas impacted by Harvey, but this should be accompanied by reforms that would initiate the phase-out of the national flood insurance monopoly in favor of a private insurance market.

Additional funding authorized for Harvey relief efforts should meet the requirements of emergency designated spending: necessary, sudden, urgent, unforeseen, and not permanent. Funding that does not meet this criteria should be fully offset and remain within the BCA spending caps. It is imperative to avoid the mistakes of congressional efforts to respond to Sandy in 2012.

State Children’s Health Insurance Program

This joint federal-state low-income children insurance program is also set to expire September 30, 2017. Originally designed as a federal-state partnership, the program has largely become another expensive federal program that has failed to provide the quality of care or choice our families and children deserve. Congress should convert SCHIP funding into a defined contribution program, thus giving parents the option of enrolling their children in any health plan of their choice, including, if available, employer-based coverage. Congress should require the states to share more of the cost of the program by limiting federal payment over time to coverage for children at, or below, 250 percent of the federal poverty line.  

Conclusion

While addressing all of these expiring legislative priorities in a fiscally responsible way is a challenging task, Congress has all the necessary tools at their disposal to do the right thing. President Trump and Republicans in Congress were voted into office, in part, to help get our fiscal house in order. The month of September provides Congress with multiple opportunities to do just that and show the American people it can effectively govern.

Related:
Heritage Foundation: A September Action Guide for Congress in 2017 (2017)
Heritage Foundation: Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (2017)
Heritage Foundation: 2017 Debt Limit Should Trigger Spending Limit—with Enforcement (2017)
Heritage Foundation: 2018 FAA Reauthorization: Potential for Positive Air Traffic Control Reforms, But More Policy Improvements Needed (2017)
Heritage Foundation: The National Flood Insurance Program: Drowning in Debt and Due for Phase-out (2017)

Read More

Tax Reform Toolkit

Over the past few decades, the U.S. tax code has become a significant obstacle to economic growth, job creation and higher wages for American workers.

President Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear before the November 2016 election that pro-growth tax reform would be a major legislative priority for Republicans in 2017 if they were given the chance to govern. Now that the American people gave Republicans control of the House, Senate and White House, there is a real opportunity to achieve comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform.

A rewrite of the tax code couldn’t come soon enough. It has been far too long since Congress made major updates to the tax code. In fact, the last major reform of our nation’s tax code was under the Reagan administration in 1986, and every major effort since then has failed. After three decades of no major changes to the tax code and a stagnant economy, the time for tax reform is now.

Key Talking Points:

Our tax code currently:

  • Suppresses American business creation and growth. Our high corporate tax rate is a problem for American businesses. The U.S. corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent is the highest rate in the world and reduces domestic investment.  
  • Is far too complex for the average citizen. The individual tax system is a problem for families. In 1913, the tax code was a reasonable 400 pages long, but by 2013 it grew to over 74,000 pages. Americans spend nearly 9 billion hours complying with the tax code every year.
  • Is full of special interests. Pervasive cronyism in our tax code hurts entrepreneurs and consumers. Over decades, Congress has enacted policies that manipulate the marketplace to benefit certain business or industries.

Accordingly, tax reform should include the following principles:

  • Lower and simplify individual tax rates. Tax reforms should aim to improve the simplicity and transparency of paying taxes. Lowering overall rates will allow families and hard working Americans to keep more of their earnings.
  • Lower the corporate tax rate. Congress should lower the corporate tax rate to encourage growth and investment.
  • Permit tax free entrepreneurship: Businesses should be permitted to deduct the full cost of their capital expenses when they incur them, known as expensing, rather than over many years using cumbersome depreciation schedules currently in effect.
  • Establish a territorial tax system. High U.S. tax rates reduce domestic investment by both U.S. headquartered business and foreign businesses, stifling job creation and wage growth.
  • End cronyism. Tax reform should explicitly seek to abolish policies that Congress intended to benefit particular industries or particular groups.

To learn more read the full Sentinel brief available here.

(Make sure to insert the Twitter handle of your Representative)

  • Click to tweet: @MEMBER it’s time for Congress to pass #ProGrowth policies and #TaxReform that allows America to prosper
  • Click to tweet: @MEMBER Americans need #taxreform that levels the playing field and ends special interest handouts. #ProGrowth
  • Click to tweet: @MEMBER tax laws should not favor the well-connected over hard-working taxpayers #TaxReform
  • Click to tweet: @MEMBER our high U.S. corporate tax rates are making American companies uncompetitive. #TaxReform should lower rates.
  • Click to tweet: @MEMBER #ProGrowth #TaxReform should stand up to special interests and serve American taxpayers

General Tweets:

  • Click to tweet: It’s been too long since Congress passed meaningful #TaxReform. The time is now to push forward #ProGrowth policies
  • Click to tweet: #TaxReform could bring back more than $2.6 trillion in profits currently locked out of the U.S.
  • Click to tweet: #ProGrowth #TaxReform would encourage new business investment, job creation and wage growth
  • Click to tweet: Americans spend nearly 9 billion hours complying with the tax code every year, we need to simplify tax code #TaxReform
  • Click to tweet: True #TaxReform must be fair for all hardworking Americans. No more special interest handouts!

These are notes to use when calling your member of Congress. You can find their phone number on the Heritage Action Dashboard.

Hi, I’m [NAME] from [STATE].

It is my understanding that Congress is expected to consider tax reform legislation in the coming months. This effort is long overdue and presents a real opportunity to rewrite tax laws that are currently holding American business back, allowing IRS bureaucrats to pick ‘winners and losers,’ and enabling cronyism to pervade Washington.

Americans should not be burdened to comply with a tax code that is far too complex for the average citizen. By the same token, it is unacceptable that the tax code has been deliberately made more complex by lobbyists to benefit big business, big labor, and big government interests.

America needs tax reform. Reform should provide common sense solutions to the problems facing individual Americans – studies show that Americans spend nearly 9 billion hours complying with the tax code every year, costing our economy over $400 billion in foregone economic growth.

More importantly, business tax reforms are necessary to grow the economy and spur job creation – at an average of 39.1 percent, the U.S. corporate tax rate is the highest in the industrialized world. This rate, combined with the inability of businesses to fully deduct their cost of new capital investment, makes American companies uncompetitive with their foreign counterparts.  

Please tell the Congressman to be aware of these issues when reforming the tax code. Above all, I expect Congressman [NAME] to stand up to special interests and serve American taxpayers and [his/her] constituents. It is time to reform outdated tax laws with a principled approach – to end cronyism, simplify our tax code, and support American business with pro-growth policies.

Below is a sample letter to the editor. We encourage you to adapt and personalize the letter below. Heritage Action Regional Coordinators are always here to help edit your letter and get it published.

Congressman [X],

Today, we have an anti-growth, complex and out-of-date tax code. President Donald Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear before the November 2016 election that pro-growth tax reform would be a major legislative priority for Republicans in 2017 if they were given the chance to govern.  

Our tax code currently suppresses American business growth, is far too complex for the average citizen, and is full of cronyism. Accordingly, I encourage [you] to stick to the following principles on tax reform: lower and simplify individual tax rates, lower the corporate tax rate, permit “full expensing,” establish a territorial tax system, and end cronyism.

The American people gave Republicans control of the House, Senate and White House, and there is a real opportunity to achieve comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform. Congress can use this as an opportunity to pair tax reform with spending cuts in order to comply with the rules of budget reconciliation and maximize the economic benefits of tax reform. After all, the federal government has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

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