By Marina Jaimes
Earlier this month, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced the Stop Questionable, Unnecessary, and Excessive Allowances for Legislators Act. It could double as an acronym, with the intent of making Washington “squeal.” The act eliminates handouts to members of Congress while they live in Washington.
On her website, Ernst described the mission of that act: “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for hardworking families and businesses, Congress is going to have to eliminate various loopholes and deductions in our outdated tax code.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.”
Overall, the act will eliminate deductions members of Congress claim for their living expenses while living in D.C., up to $3,000. This may not seem like a lot of money, but the precedent it sets will create lasting benefits for members of Congress and those who elect them.
Ernst is shifting the norm for U.S. politicians. The “shady politician” brand associated with members of Congress is being targeted and eventually eliminated with the implementation of the act. No longer will politicians receive benefits that their constituents are denied. Ernst’s goal to “lead by example” pushes members of Congress to keep the promises they have made to their states and districts. Of course, Ernst is helping out families and businesses, but standing up to her peers and expecting the same out of them that they expect out of their constituents is something only the first female senator of Iowa is prepared to handle.
Ernst introduces this act in a time in which constituents are beyond curious about what their representatives are spending their money on. In the past week, members of Congress have put forward requests to unmask lawmakers who have resolved sexual-harassment settlements with money they received from taxpayers. The incident involving Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has taxpayers demanding accountability from members of Congress. There is no reasonable explanation for Congress to insist on more money from constituents when they are already irresponsible with the funds they have been given.
It is clear that Ernst’s goal is to make a lasting impression on Congress. Her efforts have inspired others to stand up, face their peers, and hold them accountable to the American people. Her message to taxpayers is clear: She is here to help them, not take advantage of them. Her expectation of congressional members to take responsibility for themselves should not be where the road ends in changing the view and actions of politicians.