Below are just some of the issues that I am working for on behalf of Central Texans. To view video of additional floor speeches, committee hearing statements and questions, and district events that I have attended, please visit my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/doggett.
Making Permanent and Enhancing Tax Credits for Higher Education
The 2009 Recovery Act included my proposal for a “More Education” tax cut, also known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), of up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition, fees, and course materials for higher education. Forty percent of the tax credit (up to $1000) is refundable, which means that families that need help the most benefit from this tax credit. Congress has extended this important tax credit through 2017, but I agree with President Obama that this provision should be a permanent part of our tax code. That’s why I have introduced legislation to make the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent, to improve it so it works better for students who receive Pell Grants, and to make it simpler to claim. My proposal also increases the annual refundable amount from $1,000 to $1,500 and allows taxpayers to claim a maximum lifetime amount of $15,000, instead of being limited to the four years claimable under current law. More than 145 of my colleagues are cosponsoring this bill, H.R. 1260.
Keeping College an Attainable Dream through PELL Grants
The Pell Grant program is the nation’s central federal financial aid program, providing scholarship aid to more than 9 million low and moderate-income students annually. I have supported increasing the maximum Pell award and have supported efforts to prevent the interest rate on many student loans from doubling. I also support legislation to prevent students whose loans are discharged through programs like public service forgiveness from facing a five-digit tax bill.
San Antonio and Austin were recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the top five cities in the nation in increases in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates. More than half of San Antonio students graduating from high school now apply for federal financial aid to help assist with the high costs of college. I am leading efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives to simplify the FAFSA application process in order to help students apply earlier and more efficiently.
About 30% of students at San Antonio College, 45% of students at UTSA, 37% of students at Texas State, and 28% of students at Austin Community College receive Pell grants.I have worked to expand and protect Pell Grants, which serve as an equalizer for college students and make the dream of a college degree a reality for millions of students each year. I also supported the legislation that provided $17 billion to protect the maximum Pell Grant award and the 2010 Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which invested $36 billion in the Pell Grant program to increase the maximum Pell Grant scholarship
Doggett’s Legislation Creates Commission to Reduce Child Fatalities, Develop Coordinated, National Response to Maltreatment
Each weekend that my wife and I are back in Texas, we try to devote a little time to our three preschool granddaughters. The joy of being with them, their growth, their learning, their creativity, and also their innocence and vulnerability are in such contrast to the abuse that too many young children face. To better address this kind of tragedy, we must improve our understanding of the causes of abuse and neglect and determine what steps we can take to prevent this kind of maltreatment. To that end, I authored the “Protect Our Kids Act,” which was signed into law by President Obama in early 2013 and established the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. This bipartisan commission, which you can read more about by clicking here, is the first step in developing a coordinated, national response.
The Protect Our Kids Act wasendorsed by the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, National Children's Alliance, National Association of Social Workers, National, District Attorneys Association, Every Child Matters Education Fund, National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, American Professional Society for the Abuse of Children, Child Welfare League of America, Children's Advocacy Institute, The Center for Public Policy Priorities, Prevent Child Abuse America, First Star, National Child Protection Training Center.
You can read my Huffington Post piece, "The Death of Even One Child Due to Abuse and Neglect is Too Many," by clicking here. You can also view my remarks on the House Floor upon passage of this bill by clicking here.
Speaking Out for Foster Youth
I serve as Ranking Member on the Ways & Means Human Resources Subcommittee that handles child welfare, child support, foster care, and adoption issues. In the Ways & Means Committee, I spoke out against Republican efforts to eliminate an important legislative provision that would have helped provide older foster children with the documents they need to get a job or an education. You can read a news article about this issue by clicking here.
Unfortunately, Republicans on the Ways & Means Committee refused to include that provision to help foster youth because it costs about one million dollars a year – that is "million" with an "m"— on the same day that they approved six unpaid for bills to extend tax breaks for corporations that cost more than $310 billion—that's "billion" with an "b." Putting corporate tax breaks ahead of a modest amount of funding to address the needs of at risk kids reflects the wrong set of priorities. I will continue to work to provide the most vulnerable members of our society the assistance they need to lead successful, independent lives.
Preserving SSI Benefits for Children with Disabilities
In the Ways & Means Human Resources Subcommittee, of which I am the ranking member, we often discuss how children with disabilities would be affected by cuts to Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, benefits. SSI benefits are available to help low-income families with children who suffer from severe physical or mental disabilities or blindness to meet their basic needs. Only about one-tenth of children with disabilities receive SSI, and the benefits—about $600 a month on average for families with little or no income—are modest. These benefits help offset the cost of caring for severely disabled children, as well as the impact of lost wages felt by parents addressing their child’s difficult impairments. SSI is particularly important in Texas, which has had more poor disabled children—about 130,000 --- receiving these benefits than any other State in the nation. As I said during this important hearing, “We can all agree on the need to improve and strengthen SSI outcomes, and I look forward to working on common-sense reforms. But we should reject any direct cuts in assistance to disabled children in the name of helping them. However great our nation’s fiscal challenges, we must not balance our budget on the backs of poor disabled children.”
If you are interested in reading more about Rep. Doggett's work for children through education, please see the 'Protecting Education' section of this page, or simply click here: Protecting Public Education.
Protecting Clean Air
Big Polluters and their friends continue to stand in the way of safe limits on pollutants such as mercury, arsenic, and particulate matter. Seniors, children, and those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma are particularly at risk from the polluters’ irresponsible efforts. I will continue my efforts to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to do its job to protect public health by updating and improving Clean Air Act standards. By clicking here you can view a speech I delivered on the House floor in opposition to a bill that would have undermined cornerstone environmental protections.
Accelerating the Clean Energy Economy
Encouraging the expansion of renewable energy is vital for protecting our planet and our national security. With my support, Congress has expanded tax incentives for renewable power and provided resources to help finance renewable energy facilities.
Our economic recovery depends on creating a robust green collar economy. Texas is well positioned to reap the benefits of a clean energy economy. Solar resource potential in Texas is among the highest in the nation, and Texas already ranks first for installed wind capacity. I am a sponsor of the American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act, which would extend this important incentive.
While addressing our national debt and long-term fiscal challenges is important, we must also protect provisions for our national parks and wildlife services, and incentives for alternative energy. I support a responsible combination of cuts to agriculture subsidies and more revenue by cutting tax subsidies for Big Oil and asking those at the top to share a greater responsibility in reducing the deficit. Watch a video of my remarks about boondoggle subsidies for dirty fuels at a Ways and Means hearing here.
I believe Congress must overhaul our broken immigration system. Common-sense immigration reform that keeps families together, strengthens our workforce and creates a path to citizenship could reduce the deficit, bolster job creation, and strengthen the viability of Social Security and Medicare. You can read an editorial I wrote for the San Antonio Express News here.
It is time to help those immigrant families who are paying their taxes and playing by the rules to move out of the shadows and contribute more to growing our economy. This is why I became an original sponsor of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act and I was among the first Membersto sign the discharge petition to bring this bipartisan immigration reform bill to the floor.
I have also repeatedly joined with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to call on the Obama Administration to stop deportations of immigrants who would benefit from the path to citizenship under our reform legislation.
Combating Tax Loopholes that Ship U.S. Jobs and Tax Dollars Offshore
I have been a strong advocate for closing tax loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid paying their fair share. In particular, the use of international tax games by multinational corporations is widespread and drains untold billions out of the Treasury. I have a strong record of introducing legislation to combat various international tax abuses. Most recently, I have introduced the Stop Tax Havens Abuse Act (HR 297), which would address a number of bad practices. This includes preventing corporations that are run from the U.S. from avoiding U.S. taxes simply by filing a piece of paper in a tax haven and claiming to be foreign or from trying to renounce U.S. citizenship for a lower tax rate. An egregious example of a corporation that has dodged its U.S. tax liability by moving offshore is Trans-ocean, the owner of the rig that exploded in the BP oil spill.
Targeting Hidden Spending Through the Tax Code
Like a traditional, direct expenditure, a tax expenditure removes money from the U.S. Treasury, but it does so indirectly by creating an exception to regular tax laws such as through a preference, credit, or deduction. Some groups that cannot justify Congress spending money directly are using the Tax Code to get these special benefits so they don’t have to pay taxes on the same basis as the rest of us. I have been trying to put a stop to the unchecked growth of these tax breaks and to slow our growing National debt. I am concerned about spending—whether through the Appropriations Act or the Tax Code. We need to examine closely both types of expenditures to ensure that each is effective, efficient and truly necessary. As a small step in this regard, I authored a provision in priorlegislation extending expiring tax provisions that requires an evaluation of these provisions and have requested and released reports from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office on this spending through the tax code. You can view on these reports here. I have also spoken out against adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit to make corporate tax subsidies permanent. You can read more about my efforts in this Huffington Post article.
Ending Taxpayer Subsidy for Multimillion Dollar Corporate Bonuses
Most Americans would probably be surprised to learn that multimillion dollar executive bonuses are currently tax write-offs. I am committed to this issue and have advocated for closing a major loophole in current corporate tax law by putting an end to unlimited tax write-offs on executive pay. Our current tax law has a perverse incentive for companies: the more you pay your executives, the less you’ll pay in taxes. This bill says to the JP Morgan Chases of the world: You can choose to pay Jamie Dimon $20 million, in a year that his bank paid billions in penalties for wrongdoing; just don’t expect the American taxpayer to pick up your tab. You can read more about this issue in this article on Ezra Klein’s Vox.com.
Congressman Doggett works for Fair Elections
The disastrous Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision kicked open the door to even worse corporate influence in our democratic processand the 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC further undermines campaign finance laws and our democracy. I am working to strengthen campaign finance limits – including as a sponsor of H.J.Res.21 and H.J.Res.34, both of which propose amendments to the Constitution to undo damage inflicted by the Court. These amendments would reverse the Supreme Court's misguided decisions in the campaign finance cases that have allowed a flood of corporate money tocorrodes the democratic process. Additionally, I am a sponsor of the “Government By the People Act.”which will establish a voluntary, competitive alternative to our special-interest dominated politics.
Congressman Doggett Works to Protect Texas Voters
Whether you are a disabled elderly member of our community, serving in our armed forces overseas, or a young university student whose personal documents are not with them at college, I firmly believe that all citizens should have equal access to the ballot box.Democracy thrives when all citizens can voice their concerns. The Supreme Court, by a slim majority, struck down section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which prevents certain jurisdictions, like Texas, from implementing policies that impact voting rights unless they are precleared. My friend and colleague, Congressman John Lewis, who put his life on the line in support of equal rights, has called this preclearance provision the "heart and soul" of this important law. President Lyndon B. Johnson had the will and the courage to secure passage of the Voter's Rights Act, and I believe Congress should immediately approve the Voting Rights Amendment Act to correct this misguided Supreme Court decision.We have come too far to allow misguided State laws to add bureaucratic red tape to the ballot box, and I will continue working in Congress to ensure that the voices of all voters are heard.
Ensuring Seniors and Veterans Can Continue to See their Doctors
While we have now passeda long-term correction to the previously broken payment formula for Medicare and Tricare doctors, I will continue to work on the implementation of the new system to ensure fairer payments for physicians and helping to make certain that their patients enjoy access to the doctor of their choice.
Eliminating Smuggled Tobacco
I have reintroduced the Smuggled Tobacco Prevention (STOP) Act, bipartisan legislation that addresses the serious and growing problem of illegal tobacco trafficking. By giving our law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on the illicit tobacco trade, the STOP Act will combat tobacco-related death and disease, reduce funding for organized crime and terrorist organizations that threaten our national security, and raise government revenue without raising taxes. This is why it has the support of national public health groups including Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.
Protecting Health Insurance Reform
I remain committed to preserving the hard-fought reforms to our health insurance system achieved through the Affordable Care Act, and will resist all efforts by those in Congress who seek to repeal or defund it. Repeal would shift rights away from American families back to insurance companies, leave millions of Americans with no hope of securing insurance, force young adults off their parents' insurance plans, and return insurance company discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions. For seniors, the repeal would also mean the end of free Medicare preventive care, forcing seniors to pay new fees for everything from cancer screenings, to diabetes testing and routine check-ups, and an end to 50% discounts on brand name prescription drugs for those who have reached the “donut hole” gap in coverage. You can hear a speech I delivered on the House floor against these misguided repeal efforts.
Defending Reproductive Rights
I trust women to make their own healthcare decisions, which is why I oppose efforts to block access to comprehensive reproductive care and fully support measures that help protect women’s health.
There is a steady drumbeat to overturn Roe v. Wade and take away a woman’s right to choose—even in the tragic cases of rape, incest, or dangerous health risks. Women in Texas face some of the most extreme barriers in accessing reproductive healthcare in the country. These excessive restrictions are not supported by medical experts—but they do shutter safe, comprehensive clinics and jeopardize women’s health. That is why I am a sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would make unlawful many of the kinds of state and local restrictions that block women’s ability to obtain high-quality reproductive healthcare.
Attacks on reproductive healthcare are far-reaching, and a woman’s ability to access birth control is threatened as well. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of employers being able to deny their employees birth control, I joined the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act—a bill that would have fixed that decision.
Though more attacks will surely come, I will continue working hard to ensure women can make their own healthcare decisions.
Congressman Doggett is a Member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, Stands Firm for the Belief Cruelty has No Place in Our Society
Congressman Doggett Urges Financial Protections for Consumers
With my strong support, Congress enacted legislation to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a powerful consumer advocate to ensure American families can finally have the information they need to make informed financial decisions. When your family is counting on something -- a home, a job, or a retirement plan -- we should not let big government get in your way, but neither should we let other powerful forces interfere, such as Wall Street banks, health insurance monopolies, or pharmaceutical giants. After so many suffered from the totally unnecessary Wall Street meltdown, Congress finally responded with a law that arms families with ways to protect themselves.
Strong Opposition to Bank Bailouts
I strongly opposed the bank bailouts, regardless of which President supported them. Not only did I twice vote against the so-called “bank bailout,” which provided the Treasury Secretary with $700 billion to buy bad mortgages and other troubled assets owned by financial institutions, I also voted twice against releasing another $350 billion to bail out the big banks. While the Wall Street Reform bill should have done more -- much more -- about those Wall Street interests that are paid too much and taxed too little, it represents a modest but important step toward preventing bank bailouts.
The "Save Our Schools" Amendment
In 2009, Republican state leadership denied Texas schools more than $3 billion in federal aid—in other words, federal dollars made not a dime of difference to our schoolchildren and our teachers. To prevent such budgeting games from reoccurring, I worked with the Democratic delegation to secure special protections to ensure federal aid to education actually helped Texas school children. Despite repeated attacks and threats from Governor Perry and others and ultimate repeal by a new majority of the House of Representatives, the “Doggett Amendment,” as the Governor derided it, had some positive impact. The amendment prevented the federal money from being hijacked into the Texas appropriation process where it almost certainly would have been used to hide cuts to public education made by the Texas Legislature in its budget for the upcoming biennium. In addition, the amendment drew attention to the meager amount the State was promising for public education. In the end, over $830 million in federal funds moved directly from TEA to local schools. To see my remarks at a Save Our Schools Coalitionmeeting, click here.
Ensuring No Child Starts Behind
I am a sponsor of the Strong Start for America's Children Act that would increase access to high-quality early education for Texas children by providing funding for economically disadvantaged four-year olds with full-day prekindergarten classes. I am a long-time supporter of the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start and Early Head Start. Whether America’s most vulnerable young children will reach their potential depends in large part on our investment in these programs. I opposed the Republican budgets that would result in deep cuts to fund formula-driven education programs such as Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that help ensure that the children who need the most assistance have the resources to succeed.
Doggett: Removed Seniors' Social Security Numbers from Medicare Cards to Prevent Identity Theft
April 2015 marked the long-overdue passage of my “Medicare Identity Theft Prevention” Act. At the time the President signed this legislation into law, about forty-four million Americans were carrying in their wallets and purses something that made them more vulnerable to identity theft: their Medicare card. Apart from the Social Security card itself, the Medicare card has been the most frequently issued government document containing a person's Social Security number. Since 2008, as part of a bipartisan effort, I have called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to take steps that private companies and the government agencies have already taken to protect the identities of seniors by removing the display of Social Security numbers on Medicare cards. I will continue to stay engaged as CMS implements this new protection for seniors and people with disabilities to ensure that the numbers are removed as quickly as possible.
Congressman Doggett’s AARP-Endorsed NOTICE Act to Help Medicare Patients
In March 2015, my bill known as the NOTICE Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously and is now has bipartisan support in the Senate. The NOTICE Act requires hospitals to provide meaningful written and oral notification to patients who are in the hospital “under observation” for more than 24 hours. Providing this notice can make a difference in out-of-pocket costs to a Medicare patient of thousands of dollars.
Currently, a hospital may either admit a patient as an “inpatient” or keep the patient “under observation.” While the distinction is often impossible to determine, particularly by the beneficiary, the economic implications can be extreme if the patient later requires care in a skilled nursing facility. Medicare would pay for skilled nursing care for a beneficiary who is in the hospital for more than three days as an “inpatient,” but does not pay if the beneficiary was in the hospital for the same length of time “under observation.” Hospitals may act in the best interest of a patient’s health but not always in the best interest of a patient’s wallet. The NOTICE Act would alert the beneficiary or person acting on her behalf of her admission status and the financial implications of that classification on eligibility and cost-sharing so she can advocate on her own behalf while in the hospital
Please click here for my remarks on the floor during passage of NOTICE.
Congressman Doggett Works to Protect Social Security
I have consistently fought against misguided and risky privatization schemes that would divert substantial payroll taxes to Wall Street management fees and replace the safety net of Social Security with the insecurity of the market. Recent events demonstrate that we cannot subject retirees’ security to such a roller coaster ride. Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme or a handout. It is one of our most successful initiatives, providing security for tens of millions of seniors. In seven decades, Social Security has never been a day late or a dollar short. It has never contributed a dime to the deficit and has generated a $2.6 trillion surplus. With modest improvements to ensure its long-term solvency, Social Security will be there for our grandchildren.
Protecting the Promise of Medicare
In 1965, when our own President Lyndon Johnson succeeded in passing Medicare, most of those over 65 had no health insurance. Today, our seniors are getting the care and peace of mind they earned by paying into Medicare for their entire working lives. Now, we are flooded every day by those who want to solve our nations’ debt problems by taking from those who need the most – by cutting Medicare funding, increasing costs for seniors, or even turning management of Medicare over to private insurance companies. Especially in these tough economic times, we should not be endangering vital safety-net programs that millions of Americans paid into and depend on. For my work on Medicare, I have been awarded the AARP’s National Legislative Achievement Award.
Congressman Doggett Leads Effort to Extend Federal Unemployment Benefits, Preserve a Vital Lifeline for over a Million Americans
As 2013 came to an end, I joined with several of my colleagues, including U.S. Senator Jack Reed and U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez to urge Congress to extend emergency Unemployment Insurance to help the long-term unemployed. After a year of doing so little, the Republican Majority took a three-week holiday beginning in mid-December, letting this vital program expire. As a consequence, over a million Americans have seen their small federal benefit disappear. If Speaker Boehner permitted a vote, the House would promptly vote to assure that those Americans, actively seeking work, receive the protection of extended benefits. As happened so often this Congress, what is stopping progress is another House Republican roadblock, which prevents a majority of the House from renewing this law.
In Texas, the total weeks of unemployment benefits available since the height of the recession have been reduced by 40%. But we still have more than 64,000 individuals who have been unable to get a job after six months of actively seeking work.
Technology and Innovation
Keeping the Internet Open
I was one of the first Members of Congress tooppose the so-called “Stop Online Piracy Act” and urged the House Judiciary Committee to reject the bill’s overly broad language that could harm free speech and cybersecurity. For Texas, the Internet continues to be an engine for economic growth. We must ensure that we balance the goal of fighting copyright infringement with protecting the freedom of expression and creativity that has contributed to the success of the Internet. SOPA would stifle technology innovation and investment at a time when it represents one of the few brighter parts of our economy. You can read a piece from the Austin Post on my efforts by clicking here.
Public Interest Stakeholders Need a Greater Voice in Trade Policy
I remain concerned that the Obama Administration has not taken steps necessary to ensure that labor, environment, and public health groups are well represented on our Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs). Trade Advisory Committees are designed to provide public and private sector input in developing U.S. trade policy and in trade negotiations. By clicking here, you can see the letter I and some of my House colleagues recently sent to the Administration, urging it to expand ITAC membership to include more of these important stakeholders.
Helping Veterans Get the Care They Need
After hearing from some of our neighbors about the need for a VA facility in Central Texas, I began working to make sure that the dollars we vote to spend in Washington make a real difference in the lives of area veterans. I was privileged to be a part of the new Austin Outpatient Clinic’s (AOC) ribbon-cutting ceremony. It is the largest veterans clinic of its kind anywhere in America, with triple the size of the old clinic and double the clinic staff. The AOC has a women’s clinic, with a designated entrance and waiting area for women to protect the needs of those who have experienced sexual trauma. In addition, with the funds that Congress approved for the clinic, we were able to purchase thousands of additional square feet of space in a separate location where all mental health services will be housed. If any veteran represented by me feels they are not getting the VA care they earned, please let me know so I can help.
Congressman Doggett Works to Ensure No Veteran Has to Make the Decision Between Getting Well and Getting Paid
I have reintroduced the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act to ensure that no wounded veteran ever has to make the decision between getting well and getting paid. Over 45,000 Americans have been wounded as a result of their brave service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Complications from amputations sometimes force veterans to return repeatedly to the VA for care. Or, what begins as a migraine may later be diagnosed as a Traumatic Brain Injury, requiring a battery of tests. We have a duty to support our veterans when they return home, and this bill will amend existing law to establish a right for veterans who receive treatment for illness, injuries, and disabilities incurred as a result of their service to the United States to be retained by their employers. The legislation is supported by many organizations, including the American Legion, the Disabled Veterans of America, Veterans for Common Sense, and the Reserve Officers Association. Click here for video of my remarks on the House Floor about the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act.
Protecting Veterans Healthcare, Retirement, and Education Benefits
The needs of those in uniform do not end on the battlefield, and neither should our obligation to them. I have previously voted to stop Department of Defense efforts to impose more costs on our service members and veterans who rely on Tricare. In 2009, with my support, Congress delivered -- for the first time ever-- “advance appropriations” for veterans’ health care by approving two budgets at once so that the VA can rely on a stable and uninterrupted source of health care funding—dollars less subject to political or legislative delays. More recently, I have worked to protect these benefits. After years of cuts, keeping rigid caps on federal spending can only harm our national security. This is why I offered an alternative plan, which would have avoided changes in retirement and further reductions in funding for our national defense by closing corporate tax loopholes. We should not cut compensation for our troops while corporations can pay their lobbyists more than they pay in taxes. They should contribute their fair share to providing for the servicemembers who defend our country.