“YES” on Death Tax Repeal Act (H.R. 1105)

On Thursday, the House is scheduled to vote on the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015 (H.R. 1105). Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Kevin Brady%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard%, the bill would repeal the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes, as well as cut the top gift tax rate. Collectively, these measures repeal the pernicious double tax known as the “death tax,” and result in a tax cut of $269 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).

The death tax hurts economic growth and therefore limits the ability of Americans to prosper. According to conservative estimates by The Heritage Foundation, repealing the death tax would generate an average of 18,000 jobs annually and increase the overall net worth of American households by $300 billion a year. The revenue generated by the death tax is dwarfed by its drain on the economy and the amount of effort and preparation that goes into paying (and using high-priced lawyers and accountants to avoid) the tax.

Often unmentioned is the impact of the death tax on civil society. The federal government should encourage, not punish, Americans who work and pay taxes their whole lives, save enough to support themselves through retirement, and retain the ability to fulfill the American Dream by passing along a better life to their children. The death tax discourages the entrepreneurial spirit by burdening family businesses with untenable choices as they pass from one generation to the next.

Repealing the death tax is also popular. In at least one poll it was labeled the “least fair” tax by the American people, and its repeal has historically had a significant amount of bipartisan support (as evidenced by H.R. 1105’s chief co-sponsor, Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-GA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Sanford Bishop Jr.%House Democrat Average0See Full Scorecard%). It is a welcome development that the House is voting to repeal it for the first time in just over a decade.

Heritage Action supports H.R. 1105 and will include it as a key vote on the legislative scorecard.

Heritage Action Scorecard

“NO” $500 Billion Doc Fix Deal (H.R. 2)

On Thursday, the House is expected to vote on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2). The bill, negotiated by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. John Boehner%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard% and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Nancy Pelosi%House Democrat Average0See Full Scorecard%, would permanently repeal Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) while making some small-scale reforms to the entitlement program and extending other programs such as the Clinton-era Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  The package will likely increase America’s debt by $500 billion over the next two decades.

Medicare’s SGR is far from a budget gimmick.  Past doc fixes have contained small, but important structural reforms to Medicare as well as reductions in other areas of federal spending. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), roughly 98% of the doc fix-related spending has been offset.  As Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Joe Pitts%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard%, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health said in January: “[N]ot paying for SGR reform would ignore past precedent from Congress – whether it was controlled by Democrats or Republicans.”

Is the latest plan paid for?  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) the plan would add $141 billion to the federal debt within the traditional ten-year budget window.

Don’t structural changes to Medicare more than offset SGR in the long run? While certain changes to Medicare have major long-term savings, H.R. 2 does not contain reforms of this magnitude.  Instead, it appears that the gap between the costs of SGR repeal and the savings from the accompanying offsets only grows in the out years. A new  estimate from CRFB found H.R. 2 would add $500 billion to our national debt over the next two decades based on a current law baseline, which doesn’t “assume away” the costs of the SGR repeal itself in the out years.

CBO confirmed “Enacting H.R. 2 would raise federal costs relative to current law during the decade after 2025.”  Even under the misleading assumption that there is no cost associated with repealing SGR in the second decade, CBO cautioned “budgetary effects of the legislation could represent net savings or net costs in the second decade after enactment.”

“YES” on the RSC’s Blueprint for a Balanced Budget

On Wednesday, the House will vote on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget offered by the Republican Study Committee.  The RSC’s Blueprint for a Balanced Budget, introduced by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Marlin Stutzman%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard% and Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Bill Flores%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard%, would balance in six years, reduce non-defense discretionary spending, reestablish national defense spending to support the military, repeal and replace Obamacare, reform Medicare and Medicaid, safeguard Social Security, and enact pro-growth tax reform.

Earlier this month, Heritage Action put forward four criteria any conservative budget must include.  If passed, the RSC’s budget would give lawmakers a serious blueprint for reform.  It would also help drive the narrative that President Obama and his partisan allies as obstructionists seeking to protect special interests.

Repealing Obamacare.  Republicans owe their majorities to their unwavering opposition to Obamacare, a reality that is reflected in the RSC’s budget.  Not only does the budget propose to fully repeal the law, but it promises to use the budget reconciliation process to achieve that objective.  Doing so sends a signal to everyone that Obamacare remains unsettled law, and its fate will be determined by the outcome of the 2016 elections.

Funding Defense.  Although the Budget Control Act of 2011 has put significant pressure on our military, a conservative budget would align military spending with strategic priorities by breaking the firewall.  The RSC’s budget does not rely on the much-discussed OCO gimmick, which “actually jeopardize[s] our military.”  Instead, it increases defense spending to $570 billion in FY16, which is $47 billion above the current defense cap.  Importantly, that cost is more than offset by lowering non-defense discretionary spending to $405 billion in FY16, which is $88 billion below the cap.  This is the appropriate way to prioritize.

“NO” on Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 360)

This evening, the House will vote on the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 360).  Introduced by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Steve Pearce%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard%, the bill would reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996.  In doing so, it would re-authorize the discriminatory housing policies implemented in Hawaii by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

While the bill’s provisions are numerous, the primary concern is section Sec. 801, which simply reauthorizes the Native Hawaiian Homeownership Act.  The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky explains this “seemingly innocuous provision” is actually very problematic:

You have to dig into the existing federal law to find out that, under 25 U.S.C. §4223(d), Hawaii is exempt from the nondiscrimination requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act when it is distributing federal housing funds made available by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to “Native Hawaiians” or “a Native Hawaiian family.”

This exemption means the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands can discriminate in favor of “Native Hawaiians” and a “Native Hawaiian family” and against others such as whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians.  In other words, the federal government is authorizing Hawaii (and providing it with taxpayer funds) to engage in blatant discrimination by providing government benefits for some of its residents and denying federally funded benefits to others based solely on their ancestry and “blood quantum.”

“NO” on Amtrak Reauthorization (H.R. 749)

This week, the House is expected to vote on Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (H.R. 749).  Introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Bill Shuster%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard%, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Peter DeFazio%House Democrat Average0See Full Scorecard%, Rep. Jeffrey Denham (R-CA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Jeffrey Denham%House Republican Average0See Full Scorecard%, and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Michael Capuano%House Democrat Average0See Full Scorecard%, the bill authorizes $7.2 billion in spending for Amtrak and other rail programs through 2019 and claims to make numerous reforms, though those reforms are suspect.

The bill’s sponsors misleadingly claim the bill “reduces Amtrak’s authorized funding levels by 40 percent.”  This is a reduction in previous authorization levels, but does not represent an actual reduction in spending, as authorizations for Amtrak have consistently exceeded appropriations.  For instance, Amtrak received $1.4 billion in FY 2015.  According to the Congressional Budget Office, H.R. provides $1.4 billion for Amtrak in FY 2016.