- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Sen. Joni Ernst introduced legislation Tuesday that would eliminate a special tax break that allows members of Congress to deduct up to $3,000 for living expenses while in Washington.

The Iowa Republican titled her bill the SQUEAL Act — Stop Questionable, Unnecessary and Excessive Allowances for Legislators — and said its intent is to make members of Congress face the same basic tax rules as everyone else.

“Regular people out there can’t apply for this, only legislators,” Ms. Ernst said on Fox News. “So we’re fulfilling the commitment that I made to my citizens. Let’s get rid of it. That’s what the SQUEAL Act does. It brings us into parity with the citizens that we represent.”

Her bill would stop members of Congress from claiming the tax break, which allows lawmakers to deduct up to $3,000 a year from their taxable income for living expenses incurred while in session in Washington.

It’s part of a broader tax break that allows individuals to deduct business-related expenses when they are away from their main place of business. For members of Congress, their main place of business is their state or district, so time in Washington counts for the deduction.

Ms. Ernst‘s bill would apply only to federal lawmakers, according to a spokesperson from her office. Its goal is for Congress to lead by example and end tax loopholes for themselves.

She named her bill as a play off her famous 2014 campaign ad in which she promised voters she could cut pork in Washington because she’d castrated pigs on her Iowa farm. In the ad, she said she’d “make ‘em squeal,” referring to Washington‘s “big spenders.”

The Club for Growth, a conservative group focused on fiscal issues, said it supports Ms. Ernst‘s proposal.

A spokesperson for the IRS refused to comment on how much of an impact the bill would have on revenue, saying the agency generally doesn’t comment on pending legislation.

Now Ms. Ernst must try to gather supporters and look for an avenue to push her bill through. She could pursue it as a standalone measure or try to attach it to the broader tax overhaul GOP leaders are writing.

The Senate Finance Committee, which will write the upper chamber’s version of the tax reform, declined to comment on whether it would be part of the package. But one major goal of the overhaul is to reduce the number of loopholes in the tax code.

House Republicans plan to introduce the text of their tax plan on Wednesday, although some key details are still unclear, such as whether to repeal state and local tax deductions or whether they’ll make changes to 401(k) contributions.

But President Trump and Republican lawmakers have said they hope to have the plan passed by Thanksgiving or by the end of the year at the latest.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide