Anna's Weekly Update
Highlights of What Congress Did This Week
Voted on the House GOP Tax Plan
This week the House took up the Republican tax bill, H.R. 1, the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. My assessment of the bill that passed the House today is that it is an assault on the middle class and will do lasting damage to our country. The bill is a dishonest ‘bait and switch’ for the 36 million middle class families who will see their taxes increase under this plan to pay for tax cuts for the top 1% of Americans and multinational companies. It is paid for by eliminating the few remaining benefits in the tax code for the middle-class and adds $1.7 trillion to the national debt, leaving it to our children and grandchildren to pay for. The tax code should expand our economy, not our debt.
Most importantly for my constituents, this bill bulldozes the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. Almost 200,000 of my constituents claimed an average state and local tax deduction of $31,193 in 2015. In fact, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that California stands to be the biggest overall loser in this plan and faces a $12.1 billion tax increase in 2027 alone. Scaling back the SALT deduction will raise taxes for the middle class and will cause state and local governments to reduce public services that make life better for everyone.
The bill also takes aim at the most valuable asset of the middle class: their home. It slashes the mortgage interest deduction used by homeowners in half, and eliminates the deduction for personal property losses resulting from natural disasters. Californians just experienced the worst wildfires in our state’s history with over 14,000 homes lost or damaged at a cost of at least $3 billion. Abandoning these families, I think is especially cruel.
It takes direct aim at college students across the country, raising the future cost of higher education by $65 billion over 10 years by eliminating the deductibility of interest on student loans. It also taxes employer tuition assistance benefits for students and tuition waivers for graduate students by treating them as income, making it more expensive for future scientists, medical professionals, educators, and other leaders to get an education.
Finally, this bill has major implications for the future of Medicare and the guarantee it has provided Americans for over 50 years. Without budget changes to offset the $1.5 trillion increase to deficits over 10 years, the bill would trigger automatic spending cuts under Statutory Pay-As-You-Go.
CBO estimates this would cut Medicare by about $25 billion in the first year, and the cuts would continue for 10 years unless Congress acted. Federal student loan origination fees would double, and funding for programs like Social Services Block Grants would be eliminated entirely.
This bill is unfair, unbalanced, and fiscally irresponsible. It dims the future of our country by attacking the middle class, diminishing educational opportunities for students, and hurting older Americans. To view my Floor remarks on the House GOP Tax Plan, CLICK HERE.
Update on the GOP Senate Tax Plan as of November 16th
Now that the House of Representatives has voted on its tax bill, the Senate Finance Committee wrote its own tax bill. It also showers large multinational corporations with tax breaks at the expense of middle class families and repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate which will cause 13 million Americans to lose health insurance and increase premiums by 10% for millions of other Americans.
The Senate bill permanently cuts the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% costing Americans taxpayers $1.33 trillion. It completely eliminates the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which nearly 200,000 of my constituents claimed an average of $31,193 in 2015. Like the House bill, it doubles the estate tax exemption to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for married couples, benefitting only the wealthiest households in America. Finally, it sunsets all cuts to personal income tax rates included in the bill in 2025. This would result in tax increases for millions of middle class households. An analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation found that the Senate bill raises taxes on American families earning between $10,000 and $75,000 over the next decade, while households earning over $100,000 will continue to receive some tax cuts.
The Senate tax bill would also open the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to destructive oil and gas drilling, threatening air and water quality across the 19 million acres of pristine protected lands.
The Senate is expected to finish writing its bill this week and then bring it to the Senate floor for a vote. If the Senate succeeds in passing its tax bill, it will then have to be ‘conferenced’ with the House version (H.R. 1) where the differences must be reconciled before a final version can pass both the House and the Senate and be signed into law.
Legislation Anna Co-Sponsored This Week
H.R. 3464, the Background Check Completion Act
I mentioned in my newsletter last week that following the horrific mass shootings over the past month in our country, we should be doing everything in our power to put an end to these senseless acts. This includes imposing a strong background check system.
This week I became a cosponsor of the Background Check Completion Act, which closes the loophole that allows gun buyers to avoid a background check if their check is not processed by the FBI within 3 days. All gun sales by licensed firearm dealers must undergo a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The vast majority of checks are processed within minutes, but if NICS has not completed its background check after three days, the dealer is allowed to proceed with the sale. This bill would only allow sales to proceed when NICS completes its background check.
The Sustainable Energy Development Reform Act
This week I became an original cosponsor of the Sustainable Energy Development Reform Act, which comprehensively reforms the laws for energy development on public lands. Specifically, the bill reforms oil, gas, and coal leasing to increase royalties to the taxpayer; closes the ‘Halliburton loophole’ for oil and gas drilling in the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act; encourages the development of renewable energy on federal lands and offshore; permanently protects the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas development; and permanently reauthorizes the Land & Water Conservation Fund which uses offshore oil and gas revenues to fund land acquisition for parks and open spaces.
Policy Letters Anna Wrote and Cosigned This Week
Letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Calling on him again to Investigate RT and Sputnik
This week I wrote to Federal Communications (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai again, urging him to investigate two Russian state-sponsored media outlets RT and Sputnik. This is my third letter to the Chairman since the U.S. Intelligence Community concluded that RT and Sputnik meddled in our national elections when they pushed anti-U.S. messaging over U.S. broadcast airwaves to undermine trust in our democracy.
My letter urges the Chairman to take ongoing allegations of Russian interference over U.S. airwaves seriously and launch an investigation to inquire whether these stations were in compliance with FCC foreign sponsorship disclosure rules. To read the letter, CLICK HERE.
Letter to President Trump on his Nominee for the Council on Environmental Quality
This week, I joined several colleagues in opposing Kathleen Hartnett-White, President Trump’s nominee to lead the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). This Council was created by President Nixon to coordinate the development of environmental policies and initiatives among federal agencies. The Chair of CEQ, who is also the chief environmental advisor to the President, should rely on well-supported science and facts when implementing decisions that impact the safety and well-being of American citizens.
Unfortunately, Ms. Hartnett-White lacks many of the essential qualifications to head the CEQ. For years, Ms. Hartnett-White has denied the negative impacts associated with fossil fuels, claiming that chemicals released from fossil fuels “have no impact on human health even at very high levels.” She is also on the record saying the “world has become less vulnerable to extreme weather events.”
In the wake of natural disasters such as the wildfires in California, it’s clear our planet’s climate is changing. We need leadership at the highest level in our country to recognize these changes and take immediate action.
Letter to the Department of Defense on Background Checks
Last week we learned that the Air Force failed to submit the military criminal record of Devin Kelley, the Sutherland Springs shooter, to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. As a result, Mr. Kelley was able to obtain a firearm and murder 26 people in their place of worship.
I joined several colleagues in writing to the Department of Defense (DoD) to demand answers on why Mr. Kelley’s criminal record was not submitted to NICS and what the DoD plans to do to ensure all relevant records are submitted appropriately.
Letter to FCC Chairman Pai on the Lifeline Program
In the wake of this year’s natural disasters, including the deadly wildfires in California, the importance of a strong mobile connection is more important than ever. Unfortunately, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to roll back the Lifeline program, a program that provides critical access to phone and broadband services to low-income Americans.
This week I joined House colleagues in writing to Chairman Pai urging him to keep the Lifeline program in place. Even when there is not an emergency, the FCC’s Lifeline program is essential every day for millions of Americans who need to find work, manage their health, do their homework, interact with government, or simply stay connected with their families.
This week my colleague Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas) invited me to speak to this year’s class of White House Fellows. It was a privilege to speak about the importance of bipartisanship in the House and how Rep. Barton and I have worked together on several key issues on the Energy and Commerce Committee over many years.
A group of graduate students from Stanford University met with me in Washington, D.C. to discuss the devastating impacts of the GOP Tax Plan, particularly where the plan takes direct aim at college students across the country, raising the future cost of higher education by $65 billion over 10 years by eliminating the deductibility of interest on student loans.
It also taxes employer tuition assistance benefits for students and tuition waivers for graduate students by treating this as income, making it more expensive for future scientists, medical professionals, educators, and other leaders to get an education.
Telephone Town Hall Meetings
Over the past two weeks I’ve held four Telephone Town Hall Meetings to speak directly to constituents across our Congressional District about the issues they care most about. Over 1,000 constituents have listened in at each Tele-Town Hall Meeting. My constituents have consistently told me how valuable they think these meetings are and I certainly draw a great deal from each one as well.
In My Constituents’ Words
Every week hundreds of my constituents call and write to me to express their concerns, share their passions and ask questions regarding legislation and policies. I actually read every communication and every constituent receives a personal response to their specific questions and comments.
Here are some of the issues constituents wrote and called me about this week and this month:
- 1,919 constituents wrote to me throughout the month of November to express their opposition to the House GOP Tax Plan.
- 301 constituents wrote to me to express their opposition to the SECURE American Energy Act, which is designed to promote oil and gas drilling at the expense of environmental protections.
- 162 constitutionswrote to me to express their support for the extension of temporary protected status for immigrants.
Anna’s Recommended Reading
Frequently, I read articles or see videos that I think my constituents would benefit from.
Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy- “House Tax Plan Offers an Exceptionally Bad Deal for California, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland”
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy published a new analysis this week, revealing that four states would see their residents pay more in aggregate federal personal income taxes under the House GOP Tax Plan. In fact, Californians would face the largest net tax increase, at $12.1 billion in 2027 alone.
Los Angeles Times- “A tax bill no responsible California lawmaker should support”
In this editorial, the LA Times fires back at the California Republican delegation who supports the GOP Tax Plan. They say that HR 1’s tax cuts would ultimately raise Californians’ personal income taxes, which is a perverse twist that none of the state’s representatives, Democrat or Republican, should support.
All my best,
Anna G. Eshoo