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Ernst Targets Tax Break for Lawmakers’ D.C. Living Expenses

Republican senator proposes eliminating small tax deduction as overhaul effort gets underway

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is targeting a tax benefit for lawmakers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is targeting a tax benefit for lawmakers. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Republican senator says any effort to overhaul the tax code should eliminate an unusual tax preference for members of Congress.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, unveiled standalone legislation Tuesday that would eliminate a tax provision allowing lawmakers to deduct up to $3,000 per year toward their living expenses for maintaining what is legally a secondary residence in or around the nation’s capital.

“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for hardworking families and businesses, Congress is going to have to eliminate various loopholes and deductions in our outdated tax code.”

While many members of Congress either rent or own property in Washington, D.C., or the nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs at fair-market rates in an expensive real estate market, some live in group homes or even in their offices.

Ernst’s proposal might be particularly unwelcome to those members who do not think that compensation is sufficient for maintaining multiple residences.

But the Iowa Republican thinks the tax break is one obvious thing to cut as Congress looks at simplifying the tax code and slashing rates.

“Congress should lead by example and offer up its own unnecessary tax break,” Ernst said.

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