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Yarmuth Rules Committee Opening Statement on Reckless GOP Budget: “A Failure on All Fronts”

Oct 24, 2017

Washington, D.C. Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, today testified at a meeting of the House Committee on Rules against the Republicans’ latest budget proposal to fast-track tax cuts for the wealthy and powerful corporations. Remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Mr. Chairman, I have to say it’s pretty disheartening to see what this budget has become.  This is not a real effort at responsible budgeting. It’s a means to an end.  A single-minded plan to make it far easier to enact tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations, regardless of the consequences for everyone else.    

If the budget before us today is advanced by this Committee and then approved by the House, an irresponsible $1.5 trillion tax bill will come to the floor in a matter of weeks. It will be voted on under fast track procedures that will allow it to move through Congress on a strictly partisan basis.

It is important to point out that my Republican colleagues have tried to hide many of the details about this tax plan.  It’s clear to me that the Republican leadership is trying to rush this plan through before the American people can find out what’s in it…and then realize that it overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy and corporations, while increasing taxes on millions of middle class families. 

It should go without saying, but rushing through legislation that impacts nearly every American family and business is reckless.  And voting on legislation that re-writes our nation’s tax code a week or two after it is introduced, without any real input from the people who will be impacted, is negligent. But that is what you do when you can’t defend your policies.  

And there’s a lot of unjustifiable provisions in this budget. Like the House version, it showers tax cuts on the wealthy, while making it harder for middle-class Americans to get by, let alone get ahead.  It cuts vital national investments, threatening our economic progress and our national security, while willfully ignoring the needs and priorities of the American people.

This budget cuts more than $4 trillion in mandatory spending, nearly $2 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid alone. It does nothing to alleviate the austerity-level spending limits for non-defense appropriations in 2018, and makes things far worse in the following years.

The enormity of these cuts and the severity of the consequences for American families cannot be overstated. But more cuts will be coming once the Republican tax cuts blow an enormous hole in the federal budget. We will see attacks on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, nutrition assistance, on important benefits that help American families get ahead… and more extreme cuts to key investments that keep our economy and our nation strong. 

I know my Republican colleagues desperately want to believe that the tax cuts in their budget will pay for themselves and usher in a new era of economic growth. Or at least they want the American people to believe that.  But the record is clear, this approach has failed time and time again. We tried it in the early 1980s, the early 2000s under President George W. Bush, and we recently saw it play out to disastrous effect in Kansas. Now Congressional Republicans want to try it again, even though experts from a wide array of backgrounds have concluded that these tax cuts will not create an economic boom, but will instead lead to a higher concentration of wealth among the rich, while dramatically increasing deficits and debt.

The Senate resolution gives fast track protection for these tax cuts -  but I am offering an amendment to eliminate that protection.

My colleagues and I are also proposing several other amendments to address some of the most egregious provisions in this budget. My second amendment would make it the policy of this Congress to not create a giant new tax loophole for the wealthy owners of pass-through businesses. Creating this special lower rate will not make the tax code fairer. But it will give a $770 billion tax cut to millionaires and billionaires, and create even more incentive for abuse, as tax lawyers for the wealthy structure their clients’ affairs to exploit this more lucrative loophole.

I am cosponsoring amendments that would make it the policy of this Congress to not give tax cuts to the top one percent, to retain the estate tax, and to maintain the deduction of state and local taxes.

And we are also offering additional amendments to reject some of the most disturbing cuts in this budget, those to health care and programs that help American families maintain a basic standard of living.

Everything we do in the Budget Committee, in this Committee, and in Congress as a whole should be about making the lives of American families better and more secure. We owe them a budget that invests in their future, a tax code that is fair, and a full and honest debate on both. This resolution is a failure on all fronts. 

I therefore urge my Republican colleagues to abandon this dangerous budget, or at least allow these important amendments, amendments that reflect the priorities of the American people, to be debated on the House floor.