The bill contains a wish list of most overseas Americans, including a requirement to give a close look at U.S. tax rules that have an effect of overseas banking and tax reporting.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York is one of the sponsors. She also is a member of the congressional Americans Abroad Caucus. The other two sponsors of the bill are Rep. Michael Makoto Honda of California and U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, who represents a district centered on Harlem.
Ms. Maloney has been a strong proponent of women’s rights and is the co-founder of the congressional Human Trafficking Caucus. Honda is a Japanese-American who spent his early years in an internment camp in Colorado. He served with the U.S. Peace Corps in El Salvador and speaks Spanish. He also is a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Rangel is one of the longest serving congressmen and had his overseas experience during the Korean war where he was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries and a Bronze Star for valor.
Americans Abroad said the organization salutes this unprecedented effort to examine the impact of U.S. legislation on the overseas community and seek ways to ensure awareness, coordination, and integration of the activities of the federal government relating to Americans abroad.
“Americans living and working overseas constitute a kind of unsung constituency,” Ms. Maloney said in a release. “They pay taxes and vote, but U.S. policies and laws can have unintended and sometimes irrational consequences on their lives — because no entity in Washington is paying attention. These hardworking citizens are our country’s informal ambassadors around the globe and help strengthen the U.S. economy and promote American influence. Their concerns about how their government interacts with them deserve to be heard– and paid attention to– here in Washington.”
The bill, H.R. 6263, was introduced Aug. 1. Although all three sponsors are Democrats, the bill calls for a 15-member bipartisan commission made up of not more than 10 federal employees and of others who either have lived outside the United States for at least a year or have other interests in overseas living.
There probably will not be any quick solutions to some of the problems facing overseas Americans.
The bill calls for a report to the president within one year and an updated report a year after that. The commission would be authorized to appoint a staff and to spend money. The bill appropriates $3 million each for 2013 and 2014 to do its work.
Significantly, the bill requires heads of federal agencies to submit responses to any recommendations in the reports.
Specifically the bill says the commission should study the impact of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and requirements affecting financial institutions as a result of the U.S. Patriot Act. Some overseas banks are dropping their American customers because of the burden of reporting placed on them by the U.S. Government.
The commission also is supposed to study federal requirements for a spouse, child or other family member of a U.S. citizen living in a foreign country who is not an American but who seeks to become one. The commission also would be asked to study how U.S. citizens overseas can vote in U.S. federal or local elections.
A big issue has been that U.S. citizens oversea are not eligible for Medicaid coverage even if they pay for it. The commission is being asked to study that and other federal programs that affect citizens overseas.
The commission also is being asked to study qualifications for federal education loans for the children of citizens living in foreign countries. The bill also asks the commission to study which federal agencies have jurisdiction over programs that serve U.S. citizens overseas and to suggest improvements.
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and other committees. The short title has been designated as Commission on Americans Living Abroad Act.
Overseas U.S. citizens are particularly unhappy with the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, known as FBAR, which requires submission of a form for each foreign bank account over which a citizen has control if the amount reaches $10,000 each year.
That and other new financial reporting requirements have made a lot of overseas citizens anxious.