November 27, 2017

Van Hollen Statement on Senate Budget Committee Markup

Today U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, member of the Senate Budget Committee, submitted the following statement for the record at the Budget Committee markup of the Republican's Fiscal Year 2018 Reconciliation Legislation:

"Senate Republicans are discarding even the semblance of regular order in their mad dash to pass a partisan bill that gives huge tax cuts to big corporations, raises taxes on millions of middle-class families, makes it harder for Americans to get health insurance, and opens up the Arctic wildlife refuge for oil drilling. Instead of reforming the tax code to work better for everyone, the Republican tax plan rigs the system even more for millionaires, billionaires, and multinational corporations - with everyone else left to pay the bill.

"At its core, this bill is a permanent corporate tax cut paid for with a permanent middle-class tax increase. In 2027, families making $75,000 or less get a tax increase totaling $27 billion under the Senate tax bill, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Millions of Americans will see their taxes go up immediately after this bill is enacted, but even those who get a short-term tax cut will have it taken away when the individual tax cuts expire in 2026. To help pay for the corporate tax cut, the bill raises middle-class taxes by using a slower measure of inflation known as chained-CPI. This will result in a lower standard deduction and push more income into higher tax brackets.

"Foreign investors own 35 percent of U.S. corporate stock, and they will be major beneficiaries of the corporate tax cut in the Republican plan. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), these foreign shareholders get a $31 billion tax cut from the Senate bill in 2019 alone. This windfall for wealthy foreign shareholders comes straight out of the pockets of American families. In 2019, ITEP calculates that more than 15 million Americans will see tax increases totaling roughly $27 billion.

"One of the largest tax increases in the bill comes from repealing the deduction for state and local taxes. This means double-taxation for the more than 100 million Americans who currently use the deduction. Yet again, corporations get preferential treatment under the Republican tax plan: Businesses can still deduct many of their state and local taxes under the bill, even though middle-class families cannot.

"The cruelest part of the Senate bill is the attack on the Affordable Care Act, which will increase premiums and make health insurance less affordable for millions of Americans. Repealing the individual mandate will result in a less healthy pool of people purchasing health insurance, which is especially concerning for those with pre-existing conditions who need health care the most. The Congressional Budget Office reports that this part of the bill will result in 13 million fewer Americans having health insurance, and premiums increasing by 10% for those who purchase insurance in the individual market.

"I also strongly oppose language in the legislation that will cause significant harm to one of the Crown Jewels of the United States, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, by opening the entire 1.5-million-acre Coastal Plain to oil and gas development and effectively turning it into a petroleum reserve. This undercuts the existing purposes of the Arctic Refuge to protect fish, wildlife, subsistence use, and other critical values. Furthermore, with current oil commodity prices significantly lower than the cost of extracting oil from the Arctic, any revenues from drilling in the Arctic Refuge are highly speculative and will not be worth the undue damage that would be caused to one of America's last true wild places.

"It should be noted that the Senate Budget Committee held many hearings last year on the broken budget process. But with this budget reconciliation bill, no one is more responsible for breaking the budget process than the Senate Budget Committee itself. Republicans on this committee chose to write a partisan budget resolution that Congress has ignored as a budget. The budget resolution passed by Congress called for substantial deficit reduction, but now we are considering a partisan reconciliation bill that increases the debt by nearly $1.5 trillion. And since this legislation is loaded with budget gimmicks, the true cost may be significantly higher than even $1.5 trillion. Support for this bill is incompatible with support for a better budget process.

"Republicans appear to be forgetting their concerns about the national debt with this bill. I used to be the Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, where I heard the current Speaker of the House constantly bemoan the rising national debt when he was the chairman of that committee. In the Senate, I continue to hear my Republican colleagues express alarm about the national debt.

"But after this deficit-financed tax cut is enacted, I suspect that concerns about the national debt will be rediscovered by those who supported the tax cuts, who will now use the higher national debt as an excuse to demand cuts to programs for the middle-class. The Republican budget lays this two-step plan out clearly, by advocating $473 billion in Medicare cuts, roughly $1 trillion in Medicaid cuts, and deep cuts to other sectors such as education, infrastructure, and research.

"There is still time to get this right. I support real tax reform that focuses on the middle-class, makes millionaires and corporations pay their fair share, and delivers permanence and stability by rejecting budget gimmicks and not increasing the deficit. I hope that my colleagues will think twice about this rushed and partisan process, and instead choose regular order with careful deliberation and bipartisan cooperation."