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Rep. Morgan Griffith's Column

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John F. Kennedy said that “to govern is to choose.”

The Democrats running Washington have had a hard time choosing lately. It should come as no surprise, then, that they have not done too well at governing, either.

Instead of addressing the pressing issues our country faces like historic inflation, record-breaking numbers of illegal immigrants crossing the border, soaring energy costs, and others, President Biden and congressional Democrats have debated among themselves which policies to choose for their big government reconciliation bill.

The President, Speaker Pelosi, and others routinely lavish this bill with adjectives such as “significant,” “historic,” and “transformative,” but the process of figuring out what would actually be in the bill has taken months. So far, the most historic thing about this process has been the incompetence with which it has been conducted.

Democrat majorities in the House and Senate adopted a $3.5 trillion budget resolution enabling the reconciliation bill in August. Committees considered their portions of the bill in September. The committee I serve on, Energy and Commerce, worked on the reconciliation bill within its jurisdiction from September 13-15.

In the following month and a half, however, no reconciliation bill materialized. As factions among the Democrats squabbled, various provisions were reported to be in one day and out the next.

Finally, on October 28, a bill approaching 1,700 pages emerged. This product was thrown together not because Democrats had finally chosen what they would include or omit, but because, as he likes to do, President Biden set an arbitrary date to get it done. He wanted something to tout during his trip to Europe, among other reasons.

Nevertheless, this product is illuminating, as it suggests the governing priorities of the Biden Administration and congressional Democrats.

Even as energy prices skyrocket, the natural gas tax remains in the reconciliation “framework” bill. It would drive up heating bills and costs for products made with natural gas such as plastics, hitting consumers in their wallets and endangering jobs. The natural gas tax aligns with other parts of this bill that seek to discourage domestic energy production.

Average American homeowners looking to heat their homes would be hurt by this bill, but aspiring owners of new electric vehicles get a handout. This tax break would let a family making as much as $800,000 a year receive a $12,500 check from the Federal Government to buy an electric vehicle costing as much as $74,000. A friendly heads-up, though: a new low-end electric vehicle costs a few thousand dollars less than the median household income of Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District.

The Biden Administration proposal to give the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) more authority to pry into your individual bank account is not specifically included, but the agency does receive $80 billion to hire more agents for audits.

Did the Democrats just forget about $80 billion, or do they have other plans for the IRS?

It’s hard to imagine this much money being provided without ultimately giving the IRS more power. In any event, wealthy taxpayers are able to afford tax lawyers, but small businesses and middle-class taxpayers would be squeezed.

The bill omits the Hyde Amendment, a policy that since the 1970s has prevented federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortions. Democrats, including Joe Biden, had long accepted the Hyde Amendment, but apparently, they can no longer abide by this protection for the consciences of pro-life individuals or those who may support abortion but do not want to pay for it.

The 1,700-page reconciliation bill was assembled in a rushed and slapdash manner, and even Democrats talk about it as far from the final version. A widely anticipated last-minute manager’s amendment could total hundreds of pages and include many items not currently in the bill.

For example, a manager’s amendment could lift the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions. The SALT deduction primarily benefits wealthy individuals in expensive high-tax areas. Although it is not currently addressed in the reconciliation bill, Democrat supporters of this tax break for the rich seem confident it will be in the final version.

Nevertheless, if “to govern is to choose,” as President Kennedy said, Democrats have provided a rough draft of how they intend to govern. They’ve finally gotten around to choosing, and it’s in favor of empowering the Federal Government at the expense of individuals and imposing further burdens on American families.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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