House Republicans released a “Pledge to America” last week detailing legislative proposals for the next Congress to address the nation’s challenges with deficits, health care policy, entitlements, and taxes.  The Pledge underscored its sponsors’ commitment “to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.”

Putting flesh on these bones will require sustained effort from a new Congress, since the current body has spent much of 2010 passing lengthy bills that many members have not had the time to read, much less fully understand.  The Heritage Foundation’s “Solutions for America” series is designed to provide concise policy proposals that focus on a wide array of concerns, including ideas for “Making Federal Policy Marriage Friendly.”

Specifically, a Congress concerned about the erosion of traditional marriage, especially in lower-income communities, could:

  • Block the Obama Restoration of the Marriage Penalty in the Tax Code. The tax cuts that expire at the end of 2010 include marriage penalty relief that has been in place for a decade. The Joint Tax Committee estimates that 35 million couples will pay an average of $595 more in taxes in 2011 alone if marriage penalty relief is not extended.  “The Pledge” directly addresses this issue.
  • Repeal New Marriage Penalties Included in Obama­care. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides tax credits for the purchase of health insurance, but the configuration of these credits imposes new marriage penalties that could exceed $10,000 a year for certain couples.  “The Pledge” indirectly addresses this issue.
  • End the Welfare Marriage Penalty. Current means-tested welfare programs penalize low-income recipients who choose to marry. These anti-marriage penalties should be reduced or eliminated.  “The Pledge” does not address this issue.
  • Fund an Advertising Campaign to Promote the Benefits of Marriage. Programs like the “healthy marriage initiative” in the Department of Health and Human Services stressed the long-term benefits of marriage for child outcomes and encouraged low-income couples at risk of government dependency to marry and stay married.  Funding for such programs should be increased and not diluted with separate job training and similar initiatives.  Messaging about marriage, including public service advertising, should provide information on the importance of marriage to individuals in communities who have a high risk of having children out of wedlock, with emphasis on the benefits to children of a married mother and father.   “The Pledge” does not address this issue.

“Solutions for America” is replete with these and other ideas to put the nation on a new course of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.