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Neal Opening Statement at Committee Executive Session

(As prepared for delivery)

I sat before this Committee late last year, using the same responsibility of the Chairman, to pursue our most serious legislative purpose. That’s not what is being done today.

As I said then, we all come to Ways and Means in search of creating a fairer tax code, and for me, that means our tax laws are applied evenly and that everyone pays their fair share.

Congress serves as a check on the Executive Branch, and our Committee is entrusted with oversight of our revenue system, but we are not a law enforcement entity. And today, it seems my colleagues have checked that responsibility at the door and picked up the cloak of partisanship on the way in.

You’ve already heard comparisons to last year, but it is false equivalency. For our part, we exercised restraint and stuck to the facts. I never previewed our work in the press, nor did I give in to the urges of the fringes of my party. We conducted a thorough investigation and were only granted this authority after our purpose was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

When we won that case, the courts were clear. And I quote, “[t]here is no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of Congress.” Further, and I quote, “[t]here is no congressional power to expose for the sake of exposure.” This is exactly what the Majority is doing today. 

I question whether they even have a legitimate legislative purpose for exposing the confidential tax records of a private citizen. The bar for this type of exposure was exceedingly high for us, and should remain so. If the alleged purpose is to expose misconduct or maladministration, it could have been done without the breadth of tax records before us today. This is a pretextual step too far that abuses the power of this Committee.

The courts were also clear that “Congress cannot exercise its investigative powers for the purpose of law enforcement because the power of law enforcement is vested in the executive and judicial branches.” This Committee is not a law enforcement body. We are a legislative body. The Committee has no independent power to enforce the tax laws against a private citizen, much to the Majority’s chagrin.

Let’s get the facts straight: this tax case is being handled by the Department of Justice and the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware. And, the allegations of retaliation have been referred to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Department of Justice Inspector General. 

We must allow these law enforcement agencies to complete their work. This includes interviewing more than 50 other government employees named in these transcripts and verifying the attached exhibits, including those produced by the Majority from unknown sources.

And unknown sources are just the beginning of the red flags. Testimony was recanted just days ago. The claims of retaliation have been referred to TIGTA and the DOJ Inspector General, and the Majority can’t even wait for investigators to release their findings. Those who have been named in this transcript have not been interviewed, nor have they been given the opportunity to defend their name. We are talking about our nation’s law enforcement agents—what happened to backing the blue? We see today though, they only back the blue when it fits their political goals.

Today is about the allegations of two employees—one who spoke on his own free will and the other at the request of the Chairman. It’s a start, but this doesn’t justify the release of a private citizen’s taxpayer information. There is a very long way to go for this to even be considered an “investigation”—let alone worthy of this Committee’s examination.

I have to wonder out loud, why today? Why not wait to gather more information? Or hear back from TIGTA? Besides the fact that it seems to be impeachment week for the Republicans, waiting risks losing their spotlight and certainly doesn’t fit their cherry-picked, political narrative.

The American people didn’t deliver them the majority so they could heckle law enforcement and bemoan the legitimate work of a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney.  If only they could approach legislating with the same vigor, we could get some serious things done for the people.

Today is about naked partisanship, and stoops below the stature of this Committee. 

With that, I yield back.


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