Ernst Wants To Close Tax ‘Loophole’ That Lets Senators Write-Off Washington Dinners

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst want’s to end a tax loophole that allows members of Congress to get tax breaks on personal expenses like food and lodging.

Ernst introduced on Tuesday the Stop Questionable, Unnecessary, and Excessive Allowances for Legislators Act, abbreviated as the SQUEAL Act (an apparent reference to her 2010 campaign promise to make Washington politicians squeal like pigs).

“Iowans sent me to Congress to make Washington, D.C. squeal and that includes eliminating handouts to politicians,” Ernst said in a statement. “To achieve the ultimate goal of lowering tax rates for hardworking families and businesses, Congress is going to have to eliminate various loopholes and deductions in our outdated tax code. Congress should lead by example and offer up its own unnecessary tax break.”

The bill would end a provision in the tax code that allows U.S. senators and representatives to claim up to $3,000 in deductions for living expenses in the Washington, D.C. area. Living expenses include lodging, meals and incidental expenses. It’s similar to provisions that allow all taxpayers to deduct expenses for unreimbursed travel away from home, but Ernst argues that D.C. is like a home to members of Congress since they spend a lot of time working here in addition to their home states.

The amount of money claimed in deductions by members of Congress would likely not make a difference to the federal budget, but it sends a signal that Congress is serious about waste. Not every Republican believes Congress needs to limit their own perks. Before leaving his seat in Congress last June, former Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he believes each member should get a $2,500 per month housing stipend in addition to the $174,000 salary.

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