Jewish community leaders are hailing legislation passed by Congress before its holiday recess.
Ranging from a bill offering tax breaks for those with disabilities to one that denies federal benefits to Nazi war criminals, the three measures reflect the legislative priorities of both national Jewish organizations and local community relations councils.
The bills are:
ABLE Act (Achieving a Better Life Experience)
This law — which passed the House on Dec. 3 — creates special savings accounts that give income tax breaks to people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid program benefits.
“Helping those with disabilities is a priority issue of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ,” said Ken Rotter, cochair of the government affairs committee of the federation’s Community Relations Committee.
The 2014 United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act
The legislation declares Israel a “major strategic partner” of the United States, thus expanding authority for U.S. weapons stockpiles in Israel and upgrading Israel’s trade status to expedite export licensing.
The measure, which passed the Senate unanimously in September, awaits President Obama’s signature.
“Given the difficult summer for Israel — experiencing 5,000 missiles in 50 days now followed by ongoing global incitement and what feels like increased anti-Semitism — we are truly thankful to our congressmen for their continued support of the final passage of the bill elevating Israel as a strategic partner of the U.S.,” said CRC chair Gordon Haas.
No Social Security for Nazis Act
Passed Dec. 4 by voice vote in the Senate, the act seals a loophole that had allowed Nazi war criminals who became American citizens after World War II to continue receiving Social Security payments.
A prime mover on behalf of the bill was NJ Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7), who teamed up with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) to win bipartisan and unanimous support for the measure. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
“This action is yet another step in demonstrating that our resolve for justice is unyielding and our commitment to pursue what is right continues even 70 years after World War II,” said Lance in a Dec. 3 press release.
The charitable IRA rollover provision
A fourth measure fell short of passage in a Dec. 11 House vote. It would have extended permanently provisions of a 2013 law allowing people 70 1/2 and older to give up to $100,000 from Individual Retirement Accounts to charities without reporting the withdrawal as taxable income. Nonprofits have said the rollover encourages charitable giving and decreases the tax burden on older Americans.
William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office for Jewish Federations of North America, said he would have liked to see the rollover extended permanently. Instead of making the rule permanent, Congress extended it retroactively for 2014, leaving donors until the end of the year to plan and execute gifts.