Neal Opening Statement on Markup of Views and Estimates Letter to the Committee on the Budget, Oversight Plan for the 118th Congress
Washington, D.C., February 28, 2023
(As prepared for delivery)
Today is a departure from the norm. In years past, we’ve been able to go back and forth, recognizing our policy differences, to reach consensus on institutional matters such as this. But the Oversight Plan and Views and Estimates letter put forth today start in such a partisan place that room for consensus didn’t seem possible.
The governing documents of last Congress made way for a transformational session. After deploying the COVID vaccine in record time, President Biden led back-to-back record years of job growth. Democrats’ expanded Child Tax Credit allowed for a significant reduction in child poverty and more Americans have affordable health coverage than ever before.
Setting up a new Congress is a time to looking ahead to what’s possible and to deliver on the promises that would better the lives of the American people. Yet, this blueprint is deeply partisan and seems to be crafted to force our opposition.
At the last hearing, there was a promise of many hearings on the future of unemployment insurance. We also expected the recommendations of the fraud experts to be considered, giving us the opportunity to hear from state administrators and workers, as well as UI recipients before legislation was considered. We now know that was a ruse. The legislation under consideration today does the opposite of what it purports to do. Rather than fighting fraud, this legislation would cut off ongoing federal efforts to prosecute criminals while also hurting workers and their families. It’s shameful, but it’s important to note that this bill would go after workers. It would go after Social Security recipients, and it would even go after farmers.
There are serious discussions to be had today, Mr. Chairman, and I hope you will take our points into consideration. I yield back the balance of my time.
Views & Estimates:
It’s regrettable that we couldn’t reach the same consensus on the Views and Estimates letter that we found last Congress.
As we head into budget season, I have many concerns with the deep displays of partisanship, but most pressing is the Republicans’ rhetoric around the debt ceiling. Even in this letter, past obligations and future spending are conflated. Refusing to pay our bills is the opposite of fiscal responsibility, and endangers the full faith and credit of the United States.
To make matters worse, my colleagues also want to extend the Trump tax cuts without paying for them. This would blow a massive hole in the deficit, and give Americans making more than $4 million a year an average tax cut of $175,000. None of this strikes me as fiscally responsible.
And instead of paying for these handouts to the wealthy and well-connected, they intend to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare. We’ve been crystal clear: Democrats won’t let this happen.
The letter also doubles down on Republican rhetoric and grossly mischaracterizes the Inflation Reduction Act’s provisions to deliver lower drug prices to seniors.
Lastly, at our organizing meeting, we had a lengthy discussion on how inappropriate and pejorative the term welfare is. Yet, the Views and Estimates letter make it clear that discussion was ignored. How can you purport to be helping someone while demeaning their existence?
The demagoguery around the debt ceiling is the largest threat to our strong economic recovery. This isn’t what the American people want, and we will not support this reckless language around the budget. Therefore, we cannot support this Views & Estimates letter.
Again, an oversight plan has the potential to be a place where we can put policy differences aside and conduct our shared duty for the American people. That’s exactly what we did last Congress. But this document doubles down on rhetoric and paves the way for more handouts to the wealthy.
The Republican agenda is grounded in using the tax code to benefit the wealthy, while leaving workers behind, and then cutting everyone else’s earned benefits. That’s exactly what we see here.
After starting off the Congress by adding $114 billion to the deficit and weakening enforcement on wealthy tax cheats, the Oversight Plan offers even more protections for tax evaders. Eliminating IRS enforcement only helps the wealthy get wealthier. So long as the top 1 percent can hide over $160 billion from fair tax administration, this Committee should be working toward full compliance.
Taxpayers deserve improved customer service levels across the board and for all to pay their fair share. The tax burden has been shifted to wage workers as my colleagues have systemically attempted to discredit and dismantle the IRS.
If helping workers through the tax code was really their goal, they could extend the refundable tax credits that made the difference for workers and their families over the last several years. Democrats made sensible changes to these credits that expanded access and put money back into the pockets that needed it most. In stark contrast, this document only mentions these credits in context of “tax scams and improper payments.”
In the face of persistent threats to Social Security and Medicare, the Oversight Plan makes no commitment to protect Americans’ hard-earned benefits.
I’ve outlined just a handful of small examples of the many missed opportunities to use our jurisdiction as a force for good. For that reason, the Majority has left us no choice but to oppose. With that, I yield back the balance of my time.