Setting the Stage for a Productive 2016
This week, the House passed – with my support – important legislation to make many of the tax credits and deductions hardworking families rely on permanent. This bill brings certainty to the tax code by permanently extending several important expiring tax breaks that encourage charitable giving, small business capital investment and research and development. The bill also paves the way for comprehensive tax reform by moving away from year-to-year tax policy extensions, allowing Congress to focus on simplifying the tax code. As you may know, comprehensive tax reform is a huge priority for me in Congress, and I commend Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady for his leadership to tee this up for next year.
The tax extenders package is particularly important to Tennessee, as it also makes permanent the ability to use the itemized deduction for state and local government sales tax in lieu of the itemized deduction for state and local income tax in states - like Tennessee - that do not have an income tax. I was proud to support this measure when it passed the House back in April, and I’m glad it was included in the end-of-year tax agreement.
I’m also glad the agreement includes a two-year moratorium on the medical device tax, ensuring this harmful tax cannot be implemented during President Obama’s final year in office. Most importantly, this bill protects millions of Americans from an immediate tax increase, providing economic certainty and allowing hardworking families to keep more of the money they earn.
This week the House also considered legislation to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2016. The agreement included some things I strongly agree with while leaving other issues I know East Tennesseans are concerned about to be dealt with in the new year. I voted against this legislation because I believe some of the issues left unaddressed, particularly the Syrian refugee program, are issues that we cannot afford to wait on.
I was very disappointed Congressional Democrats and the Obama Administration refused to budge on strengthening the screening process for refugees. The agreement did make a modest improvement to our Visa Waiver Program, which was exploited by the San Bernardino terrorists to gain entry into the United States, but the threat from ISIS is not going away and we must do everything possible to protect our homeland from future terrorist plots.
Americans have been struggling for far too long because of a sluggish economy, uncertainty in everything from their health care to their tax returns and a president who refused to work with Congress and tried to legislate through executive actions. When Speaker Ryan was elected Speaker of the House, he made a commitment to get back to the basics of how things are supposed work in Congress. Since then, the House and Senate have worked together to send bipartisan legislation to the president’s desk previously thought impossible, such as long-term funding for highways and infrastructure projects, an education bill to replace No Child Left Behind and end Common Core and a customs reauthorization bill that includes reforms to streamline legitimate trade while cracking down on bad actors. I look forward to working with my colleagues in 2016 to continue delivering these kinds of real results the American people deserve.I pray that 2016 brings health and happiness to you and your family. Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance.