Levin Floor Statement on GOP’s $287 Billion, Unpaid-for Tax Cut

Jul 11, 2014

Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) today made the following floor statement in opposition to H.R. 4718, legislation to make permanent bonus depreciation at a cost of $287 billion:

What's really important today about this bill is not what's being done here but what's not being done here. No matter how inconsistent the legislation is, it's going nowhere. And it should go nowhere. Essentially what it does is to make permanent what has always been considered temporary. Bonus depreciation, which has been temporarily enacted during the previous two recessions to help assist the economy during the short term, allows companies to write off investments more quickly than normal, providing them an incentive to make capital investments now rather than later.

That incentive actually disappears when the provision is made permanent. And that's why the Congressional Research Service has said its temporary nature “is critical to its effectiveness.”

Secondly, it's unpaid for. Talk about consistency. Talk about a Republican budget bill that talks about the importance of deficit reduction. And here you have the Republicans proposing a bill that would add $287 billion in debt. And that would bring the total of the bills that the Republicans have brought forth here to over $500 billion. When all is said and done, House Republicans will have voted to add more than $1 trillion to the deficit. More than $1 trillion by permanently extending a select group of corporate tax cuts.

But let me just say I must confess I’m amazed at the inconsistency of this position. It was five months ago in the chairman's and the Republican Ways and Means tax reform draft that they proposed to eliminate this provision entirely. Bonus depreciation was gone, and now they come forth and they say let's make it permanent. That gives inconsistency a bad name. It's appalling. It's really also dangerous.

The more than $500 billion in tax spending that the House Republicans will have approved after today is the equivalent of what we spent last year on all non-defense domestic discretionary spending, which Republicans have cut so deeply in recent years that it's at its lowest level on record as a percentage of GDP. That includes spending on such vital domestic priorities as health research, food safety, and veterans’ health.

And left unaddressed in this approach of the Republicans are key domestic priorities such as the New Markets Tax Credit to revitalize lower-income neighborhoods, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit to promote middle-income job growth, and the renewable energy tax credits.

So here we are. Fortunately this bill is going nowhere. There likely will be an extension of bonus depreciation in an extender package, if we ever get to it, but for a short period of time, costing a fraction of this bill. So what's really important today is not a bill that is going nowhere and should go nowhere, but for what is not being done. I just want to list what is not being done: immigration reform, a Senate bill not being brought up here by the House Republicans; unemployment insurance, a Senate bill providing help for those looking for work, not brought up here; the Employment Nondiscrimination bill, the Senate bill, not brought up here; paycheck fairness, not brought up; a minimum wage bill, not brought up; Export-Import bank, caught in the contest and the conflicts within the Republican conference; a highway bill, we are going to get next week another patch. Another patch; the inability of the House Republicans to face up to the need for a long term highway bill. And voting rights reform? You have a bill sponsored by a senior Republican in this House and that has not seen the light of day.

I just want to finish by saying how appalling it is that the Republicans come forth and say, let's make this permanent unpaid for, costing $287 billion, when in the tax reform proposal that they put forth , this provision would have been eliminated. That's 180 degrees in a split second. It just shows the hypocrisy of bringing this bill up, made especially hypocritical when there's been this utter failure to address all of these other legislative proposals, many of which have passed the Senate. So we are going through the motions here today. It's really a sad moment for this institution.