Levin Floor Statement on H.R. 636, Select Unpaid-for Tax Provisions

Feb 13, 2015 Issues: Economy

WASHINGTON – Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) today delivered the following remarks on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 636, select unpaid-for tax provisions:

(Remarks as prepared)

Last year, as we remember so well, Republicans reacted to the tax reform proposal from then-Chairman Dave Camp with a “blah, blah, blah, blah.”

That reception, echoed in the overall chilly Republican reaction, stemmed in part from that plan’s honesty.

Chairman Camp had pledged not to increase the deficit with his proposal. To achieve that goal, he played it straight – at least within the first 10 years.

He proposed a tax on banks that drew cringes from his fellow Republicans. He put forward a surtax on the highest earners. And he eliminated one of the most widely used provisions in the tax code: the state and local sales tax deduction.

In the process, he paid for making permanent tax provisions like the bill before us today, this single piece of legislation costing about $80 billion alone.

Like it or not, it was at least somewhat honest accounting.

And so started a Republican ploy to get around the hard realities of tax reform.

The gist of that ploy: Take a number of provisions separately, make them permanent, and don't pay a dime for them. The reason: The expectation of needing to raise less revenue in tax reform would allow Republicans to more easily cut tax rates.

Republicans feared that trying to pay for their tax cuts by shifting to the highly uncertain dynamic scoring may not be enough. So they are further trying to rig the system with baseline games and make permanent tax provisions outside of tax reform.

Not having to pay for $800 billion of tax extenders made permanent would make it easier for Republicans to lower taxes, especially on higher income taxpayers, carrying out further Republican trickle down tax policies.

It would allow them to avoid having to end the abuse of tax havens and incentives to ship jobs overseas.

By massively increasing the deficit through permanent unpaid for tax provisions, Republicans could later cite the debt they created as a reason to take a hatchet to programs like Head Start or fail to adequately fund the vital research at the National Institutes of Health.

The President blew the whistle on that scheme, the rigging of the system and sound policy, with support from Democrats in the House and Senate.

The ploy stopped in the Senate.

But here House Republicans go again, before even hinting what tax reform might look like – there’s no H.R. 1 for tax reform this time – throwing to the wind the statement of Chairman Ryan about trying to find common ground on common aspects of tax reform and at the same time betraying the GOP’s preaching on fiscal responsibility.

As chairman of the Budget Committee, Mr. Ryan never assumed tax extenders would be a permanent part of the tax code – otherwise he would never have been able to say he balanced the budget in 10 years. What the chairman of Ways and Means is proposing now is the opposite of the approach he pursued as the chairman of the Budget Committee.

The bill before us on Section 179 addresses an important subject. It will likely be part of any tax reform. And until then, it will be renewed. That is certain. But it deserves not to be left out of a tax reform process that should give careful and comprehensive consideration to all of the tax provisions in our code.