An update from Congressman Peter DeFazio
Republican Tax Scam
This week, Republicans pushed their tax legislation, H.R. 1, through the House and Senate without a single Democratic vote. It is a dark week for the American people.
Republicans promised their overhaul of the tax code would help working Americans and grow our economy. However, that is not the reality of their tax bill, which was written behind closed doors by special interest lobbyists on a totally partisan basis. The tax breaks in this plan will skyrocket our national debt and only give a pittance to the middle class. Eighty-three percent of the benefits go to Americans making over $400,000, while over half of America’s middle class will see a tax increase.
The plan contains unprecedented tax cuts for the wealthy, including reducing the rate on income over half a million dollars and doubling the estate tax exemption. It also cuts taxes for large corporations and wealthy passive real estate and other investors, which will decidedly not create jobs or increase wages. Under the last major corporate tax cut by the George W. Bush administration, 92 percent of tax breaks for repatriated funds went to stock buybacks, dividends, and executive bonuses, while employment in these corporations actually dropped.
Republicans claim this bill will create jobs. As the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have been fighting for President Trump to make good on his promise to deliver a trillion dollar infrastructure plan to Congress. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, every $1 billion in Federal highway and transit investment would create 13,000 jobs in a year. In comparison, the $3 trillion in lost revenue from the tax bill would create a mere 339,000 jobs over a decade. If we break it down, that’s $8.8 million spent per job created in the Republican legislative handout to the wealthy masquerading as tax reform. Yet a transportation investment package would only cost $80,000 per job, not to mention generate the added benefits of improved bridges, roads, transit, and other proven boons to the economy. The Trump administration says it doesn’t know where to find the money for their infrastructure package – I have a few trillion ideas.
Click below to view my House floor speech on how misguided the Republicans' priorities truly are:
And how are these handouts to the wealthy paid for? Outrageous hits to the middle class. This plan targets states that voted blue by capping state and local income tax deductibility, hiking taxes on Oregonians by forcing them to pay taxes twice on their income. While the few provisions that benefit some in the middle class will expire, the corporate cuts and estate tax elimination are permanent.
The Republican plan increases the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. Our national debt has ballooned to nearly twenty trillion dollars, and raising our national debt even more will create an increase in interest rates and further hurt working Americans that have to borrow for mortgages, cars, and education. Even worse, Speaker Paul Ryan has already begun discussing going after Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to pay for the additional debt. PAYGO budget rules require legislative changes that increase the deficit to be offset by spending cuts. These would include hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare, doubling the fees charged for student loans, and cuts to social services, transportation programs, and assistance for workers displaced by NAFTA and other failed trade agreements. Cutting taxes for the wealthy at the expense of these programs is incomprehensible.
I am appalled Republican leadership would push such a cruel piece of legislation, continuing to focus on keeping wealthy political donors happy at the expense of the middle class. While the GOP pops champagne to celebrate the passage of their flawed tax plan, I will be doing everything in my power to protect Americans from tax hikes and cuts to critical programs.
Repeal of Net Neutrality
I was very disappointed to see the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the direction of the Trump-appointed Chairman Ajit Pai, vote along party lines on December 14 to undo key net neutrality rules. The FCC’s decision will roll back rules banning the blocking and slowing of websites as well as the rule forbidding Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from charging websites extra fees for favorable access. It will also repeal the “general conduct” rule that allows the FCC to investigate business practices of ISPs that it suspects may be anti-competitive.
The concept of "net neutrality" is simply defined as keeping ISPs from being able to arbitrarily stop, speed up, or slow down your Internet. Without net neutrality protections ISPs will be able to decide what sites you are allowed to visit and how fast they load. There's no question that most Americans face a monopoly in broadband choice, but without net neutrality rules ISPs will have the power to control consumers’ access to content and applications in order to pad their profits even further.
In light of the FCC’s vote, I joined my colleagues in cosponsoring a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) calling for the restoration of net neutrality.
However, the fight for net neutrality rights does not stop here. I am deeply encouraged by the public outcry from my Oregon constituents and millions of Americans across the country. As we look ahead I urge you to remain active on this issue. Public engagement remains the best tool we have to protect a free and open Internet for everyone.
Children’s Health Insurance Program
The bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which became law in 1997, provides health insurance to children of households who have incomes too low to provide private insurance, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. In the 20 years since its passage, CHIP has proved to be a success, providing lifesaving health insurance for almost 9 million children nationwide every year, including over 140,000 children in Oregon.
As you may know, funding for CHIP expired on September 30, 2017, leaving states desperately scrambling to find other funds to support children’s health care. While you would think that funding to ensure health coverage for our nation’s children would not be subject to political games, Republicans pushed a partisan, controversial CHIP reauthorization to the floor, forcing Democrats to vote against it.
The House Republican reauthorization bill cut $6.35 billion over 10 years from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), virtually zeroing it out, which translates into $24 million in cuts for Oregon. PPHF is 12 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget, and it funds critical public health and prevention activities. The Republican bill also shortened the grace period for health plans, kicking an estimated 700,000 Americans off of health insurance. I cannot support cutting access to health care to pay for CHIP while Republicans push forward a flawed tax plan to benefit the wealthy costing over $1.5 trillion.
Unfortunately, Republicans are extremely hostile toward safety-net programs that help the most vulnerable populations, and I was disappointed to see that even funding children’s health insurance was no different. Congress had the potential to use the reauthorization as a real opportunity for policy changes to Medicaid and the marketplace to make sure children benefitting from CHIP do not fall through the cracks. But instead, they prioritized attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and pass tax cuts for the wealthy.
No parent should live with the fear that their child will become ill and they won't be able to afford the medical treatment they need. Reauthorizing CHIP is a top priority of mine, and I am fighting to include continued funding for CHIP in the government spending bill that must be passed by December 22.
You can be sure I will continue to do everything in my power to protect CHIP and similar critical health care programs from partisan attacks.
Fighting Wildfires from the Air
As you know, this year Oregon endured one of the worst wildfire seasons in decades. In total, forest fires burned well over 600,000 acres in Oregon.
During my September trip to survey the Chetco Bar and Eagle Creek fires in Oregon, I had a conversation with U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Tony Tooke regarding the USFS aerial firefighting program, including whether the agency currently has the tools to battle fires from the air during the wildfire season. I specifically inquired about very large air tankers (VLAT) like Global Supertanker’s 747. I then sent a follow-up letter to Chief Tooke to request a comprehensive update on the USFS aerial firefighting program. In their reply, contrary to what I heard from the USFS in September, the agency did not consider a contract for a VLAT for the 2017 wildfire season.
Instead, the USFS solicited requests for proposals (RFPs) for air tankers with maximum retardant capacity of five thousand gallons. Because of the limitation, Global Supertanker’s 747 - which has a retardant capacity of over 19,000 gallons - was unable to compete for the contract.
Global SuperTanker protested the RFP to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), stating the retardant capacity restriction was unduly restrictive. The GAO upheld Global SuperTanker’s protest, agreeing that there was no reasonable basis for the USFS to limit retardant capacity.
In light of the GAO’s determination, I sent a letter on December 1 to Chief Tooke to determine why the USFS did not solicit a high-capacity aerial firefighting plane to combat this summer’s blazes. I also pushed the agency to describe their plans to ensure they will have adequate fire suppression tools in the future. To be anything less than prepared for next year’s fire season is unacceptable.
Additionally, I am eager to fight for additional resources for the USFS and work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from my position as Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to facilitate the certification and procurement of more air tankers, of all sizes. I have also supported the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or drones, for wildfire suppression.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have been fighting for common sense wildfire and forest management policy reforms that can reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. You can be sure I will continue to do so.
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