House approves new savings accounts for people with disabilities

The House on Wednesday passed legislation to create tax-free savings accounts for people with disabilities.

Passed by a vote of 404-17, the bill known as the ABLE Act is intended to help Americans with disabilities pay for the associated expenses, including medical costs and finding employment. Twelve Democrats and five Republicans voted against the measure.

{mosads}The Senate companion bill has 74 co-sponsors, indicating that it would pass easily in the upper chamber.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), the measure’s sponsor, said establishing savings accounts for people with disabilities would help them grow their money in a similar way as retirement accounts, like an IRA or 401(k).

“It will bring peace of mind to millions of American families who live with disabilities every day,” Crenshaw said.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the savings accounts would also help families with disabled children.

“This ABLE Act can help ease that financial burden and help assist families in some small way, in ensuring that their children receive the love and care they deserve,” Van Hollen said.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’s (R-Wash.) seven-year-old son who has Down syndrome, Cole, was on the floor for the vote.

“It will empower millions – like my son, Cole – with the opportunity to have a better life.  And that is why we are here,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Eligible individuals for the accounts must be disabled before the age of 26 and receive benefits from the Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income programs. 

Creating the savings accounts would increase the deficit by $2.1 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Consequently, the bill contains several offsets, including changes to civil tax penalties and the Inland Waterways Trust Fund financing rate.

But some Democrats opposed the bill due to offsets that make changes to Medicare.

“The ABLE Act isn’t the issue here. The issue is how we’re going to pay for it,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). “Mark my words, when it comes time to offer another tax break, my colleagues on the other side will come after Medicare again. And the next time the cut will be deeper and easier because we did it today.”

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