Working to protect families, small businesses

By John D. Dingell
My Democratic colleagues and I are working hard in Congress to protect and help hard-working American families. The middle class made this country great, and I am committed to helping it recover.

To do that, I am working with my colleagues to fully implement the Affordable Care Act, extending the Bush tax cuts for middle class Americans who make less than $250,000 a year, and keeping the student loan interest rates at the present levels. With millions of Americans out of work, and others struggling in this tough economic climate, it should be Congress’s No. 1 priority to pass laws that encourage job creation, not to waste voters’ precious time on political posturing. The American people elect members of Congress to look out for their interests, but no such service is being rendered to our constituents if we spend our time voting on legislation that doesn’t help our families.

I fully support the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act as constitutional and, as an author of the law, I was confident the Supreme Court would come to this decision. I am doubly pleased with this ruling since it means more and more Americans will have access to affordable healthcare as the remainder of ACA’s provisions are implemented.

Already the ACA is protecting patients from soaring health insurance costs by limiting how much insurance companies can spend on administrative costs and profits, and beginning this year, nearly 13 million Americans will receive over $1 billion in rebates from their insurance company. Families and seniors now receive preventative care and services with no out-of-pocket costs, and starting in September, all new insurance policies will be required to provide consumers with easy-to-understand summaries of their health benefits and coverage to help families better compare health plans.

And beginning in 2014, the health insurance exchanges will be up and running, helping families to select the plan that is most suited to their specific healthcare and financial needs in order to get the care they need at the most competitive price available. There is more work to be done to lower the healthcare costs for our families, but ACA has put our country on the right track.

Democrats also are helping American families by supporting critical tax cuts that have helped them during our economic recovery. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama called on Congress to put their money where their mouth is and extend the Bush-era tax cuts for middle class families. Obama proposes keeping tax rates the same for the 98 percent of Americans – those making less than $250,000 another year, as well as for 97 percent of all American small businesses.

As our economy continues to recover, these tax cuts are critical to helping working Americans. Failure to pass the president’s plan would increase a typical middle class family’s taxes by $2,200 on Jan. 1, 2013. In addition, 11 million families would no longer get help paying for college from the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and small businesses would be able to claim tax deductions for only $25,000, not $250,000, of new investments.

The president’s plan is responsible and will not add unnecessary strain to the nation’s finances in order to line the pockets of the wealthy. I firmly believe that Congress should take up this plan before the end of the year to make sure that working Americans do not face a steep tax bill on Jan. 1.

In addition to ensuring access to affordable healthcare and supporting the middle class by preserving tax rates, we also have to remember college students as they are the key to our country’s future. Students and former students simply cannot help stimulate our economy if a sizable portion of their income is dedicated to paying off their student loans. Rates on student loans should be stable and affordable so college graduates do not face a mountain of debt when entering the workforce.

Recently, with my support, Congress was able to quickly pass an extension of the lower interest rate for student loans, highlighting just how effective a legislative body Congress can be when both parties put their political differences aside and work together towards a common goal.

Congress has the power to help out American families, and with our time waning in the 112th Congress, it is time to put partisan politics aside and pass laws that will help position America in the best possible place for the future. Doing that means passing legislation to give Americans affordable access to quality healthcare, keep tax rates on working families at current levels, and preserve low rates for student loans.

There is much work to be done before 2012 is over, and I want to get it done. I will keep fighting for your interests in Washington and in order to protect them, I will roll up my sleeves and work with Democrats and Republicans alike. Cooperation and compromise are supposed to be the hallmarks of the House of Representatives, and I believe they can be again.