It was a great week in the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, hardly anyone—even those who follow current events—could tell you why. I scoured the internet looking for some mention of the events that took place in Congress over the past five days only to come up empty.
So what is this big thing that happened over the last several days? Well actually it was three things. The House pressed ahead with three bipartisan bills designed to jumpstart the economy, create jobs and make it easier for families to save their hard-earned dollars.
On Wednesday, the House overwhelmingly voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, a bill that passed the Senate last month. The Obama Administration admits that the infrastructure project will support 42,000 jobs, but honestly that’s secondary to the legislation’s chief aims: to enhance energy security by guaranteeing access to a stable Canadian source and to help energy prices stay affordable by expanding supply.
“This project has been awaiting approval for more than 2,300 days. The Nebraska Supreme Court struck down the challenge against it, 58% of Americans said they support it, and a bipartisan majority in both chambers of Congress approved it,” Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said on the House floor.
Unfortunately, the bill now heads to the president who has promised to veto this commonsense jobs bill.
Undeterred, on Thursday, the Ways & Means Committee voted to approve Rep. Lynn Jenkins’ (R-Kan.) bill to strengthen 529 college savings accounts. The commonsense bill allows families to use the plans to pay for equipment like computers, updates the plans’ tax treatment to remove a burden on plan administrators, and allows students to re-deposit refunds without penalty.
The point of the changes was simple: To update 529 plans to match the needs of today’s students. That stands in sharp contrast to President Obama, who just weeks ago proposed to tax 529 savings plans out of existence altogether.
“He wanted to make saving for college more expensive,” Paul Ryan said during the committee proceedings. “We want to strengthen and expand these important tools so that a college education is closer in reach for American families.”
Finally, on Friday, the House passed legislation to permanently renew a slew of tax credits known as “extenders” because they are renewed so often. The credits include crucial job creation measures like the “179 expensing provision,” which allows businesses to deduct to $500,000 in investments.
“Reducing the cost of business investment leads to more business investment,” National Federation of Independent Business president Dan Danner said upon passage. “If there’s a good argument to be made against that result I’d like to hear it.
The biggest problem has been that the credits regularly expire and are often extended retroactively, wreaking havoc for small businesses trying to decide whether or not to make a big investment.
“We are saying, ‘Let’s stop this monkey business.’ Let’s stop this crazy notion of injecting all this uncertainty into small businesses and make this provision that is bipartisan, this provision that we know creates jobs, let’s make it permanent,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
None of these bills should be controversial. One is a infrastructure project that is being held up for purely political reasons, another modernizes a plan to save for college, and another gives business owners some much needed certainty. And yet each, by one means or another, will face political roadblocks that threaten their ability to positively impact the economy. But that should engender about the same amount as surprise as the fact that the media totally ignored a banner week for pro-jobs legislation in the Republican-led Congress.