Aaron Fobes, Julia Lawless (202)224-4515
Hatch Highlights Path Forward on Finance Agenda
Utah Senator Says, “We have quite a bit to work on in Congress. There are many priorities we need to address and matters we need to resolve.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) discussed the robust legislative agenda for the Republican-led Congress – comprised of repealing and replacing Obamacare, working to achieve tax reform, and enacting a bold trade agenda – and outlined the role the Finance Committee will play in moving these legislative efforts forward.
“Obamacare is a disaster and, one way or another, it has to go away. The American people are demanding that we take action, and I expect the volume of those demands is only going to go up,” Hatch said.
Regarding tax reform, Hatch went on to note that Republicans vastly agree on the key issues relating to the effort.
“I think there is a remarkable amount of agreement, at least among Republicans, on the major issues we need to deal with to fix our broken tax code. Republicans in the Senate, the House, and the White House agree on about 80 percent of the major tax reform issues, and a number of key and fundamental questions are answered in that 80 percent,” Hatch continued.
Hatch also discussed the importance of confirming the United States Trade Representative (USTR) so Congress’s voice can be heard as the Trump Administration embarks on its trade agenda:
“Trade is another area where President Trump has some ambitious plans, and where, up to now, progress has been hindered. Our trade laws are designed give Congress a voice in both the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements,” Hatch said. “The office of USTR needs to be fully functional and fully staffed. Unfortunately, up to now, some on the other side have been making unreasonable and wholly unrelated demands in relation to the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee to be USTR. I’m hoping we can make progress on this very soon.”
Hatch went on to note the importance of partnership between Congress and the administration called on his Democratic colleagues to put aside partisan politics and work with Republicans and the administration to find real solutions for the American people
“In any of these big-ticket policy efforts cooperation between the legislative and executive branches is key,” Hatch continued. “My Democratic colleagues know this, which is probably the reason they appeared to be bound and determined to prevent any meaningful cooperation from happening. I’m hoping that, as we put more distance between us and the 2016 election, more of our colleagues will be amenable to working together to address these kinds of important issues.”
The complete speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Mr. President, as we approach the end of another week here in the Senate, with a two-week recess on the horizon, I think it is a good time to reflect on where we are on various high-profile efforts and to talk about the pathways forward.
As is generally the case when any new administration comes into office, the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate began 2017 with an ambitious agenda in order to make good on the promises we’ve made to the American people over the last several years.
Many of the key items on that agenda fall squarely in the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee, which I chair. That being the case, my colleagues on the committee and I have been hard at work trying to find the right solutions on things like healthcare, tax reform, and trade policy.
I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone when I say it hasn’t been easy. Honestly, I think that might be the biggest understatement of the year.
Things have been difficult for a number of reasons.
One reason is that we’re coming off of a bitter election year, one that shocked a number of our colleagues. After a hotly contested campaign, it can sometimes take a while for things to return to normal.
However, I don’t think that excuses the tactics and rhetoric we’ve seen from our friends on the other side of the aisle.
In any of these big-ticket policy efforts – whether we’re talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare, fixing the tax code, or updating America’s trade policy – cooperation between the legislative and executive branches is key. My Democratic colleagues know this, which, I suppose, is probably the reason they appeared to be bound and determined to prevent any meaningful cooperation from happening.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect my friends to change their views and back policies they find disagreeable. However, you’d think that, at the very least, they’d allow the new President to get his team in place, a courtesy that has typically been extended to past presidents, regardless of party.
Yet, over the last few months, we’ve seen a systematic effort from our Democratic colleagues to smear, attack, and undermine the vast majority of executive branch nominees. And, in many cases, after the baseless attacks have failed to gain traction, they’ve used every procedural tool at their disposal – including surprise boycotts of committee markups – in order to slow the confirmation process down.
This level of obstruction with regard to nominees is unprecedented. And, I think it’s safe to say that it has slowed our efforts down somewhat, which, I suppose, is the exact reason our colleagues have taken this path.
Still, Mr. President, despite these childish tactics, the teams are coming together and we are moving forward in a number of key areas. Like I said, it still hasn’t been easy, but, to paraphrase a number of important figures, nothing worth doing is ever easy.
For example, on health care, I think it’s safe to say that the ongoing effort to repeal and replace Obamacare took a hit last week. But, I don’t think that has weakened anyone’s resolve – Obamacare is a disaster and, one way or another, it has to go away. The American people are demanding that we take action, and I expect that the volume of those demands is only going to go up.
I commend Speaker Ryan for his efforts thus far. And, I commend all my colleagues in the House and Senate for their commitment to repealing and replacing the so-called Affordable Care Act, and I remain hopeful that, in the near future, we can find a workable path forward.
On tax reform, we have some indications that the Trump Administration intends to be more actively engaged in finding and developing a path forward. I’ve said for years that if we’re going to be successful in tax reform – a goal shared by members in both parties – it’s going to take presidential leadership.
While President Obama was generally unwilling to meaningfully engage on tax reform, President Trump and his team appear to be anxious to drive the process, and I welcome that.
As with healthcare reform, there are some differences of opinion with regard to tax reform. Still, I think there is a remarkable amount of agreement, at least among Republicans, on the major issues we need to deal with to fix our broken tax code.
Overall, I’d say that Republicans in the Senate, the House, and the White House agree on about 80 percent of the major tax reform issues, and a number of key and fundamental questions are answered in that 80 percent.
For example, we all generally agree on the need for comprehensive reform.
We agree on the need to bring down tax rates for businesses and job creators.
We agree that we need a simplified rate structure on the individual side.
We agree on the need to fix the international tax rules to level the playing field for American companies and encourage more investment in the U.S.
And, we generally agree on key process issues, including the appropriate revenue baselines and the use of macroeconomic analysis in budget scoring.
Still, that 20 percent of issues where we don’t necessarily agree is not insignificant. We’ll need to find a consensus path forward on those issues as well.
One area where we’ve yet to reach a consensus – and the one getting the most attention – is on the proposed Border Adjustment Tax.
People have a number of opinions about this proposal, and they’ve been more than willing to express them publicly. As for myself, I’m anxious to see what it looks like once our friends in the House put it all together.
It’s too early for me to express a definitive position now. So, at this point, all I’ll say is that I have some basic questions about the proposal.
For example, who will ultimately bear the tax? To what extent will it be borne by consumers, workers, shareholders, and foreigners?
Another question: Is the proposal consistent with our international trade obligations?
Finally, since border adjustability would likely be a significant shift in business tax policy, would it require us to make adjustments to ensure we don’t unduly increase the tax burden on specific industries? If so, what adjustments would be necessary, and how would they be structured?
I look forward to receiving more details on this proposal. However, here in the Senate, we also have some work to do, and I’ve been actively working with the members of the Finance Committee to find various solutions to our nation’s tax problem.
At the end of the day, I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone to hear me say that I believe we’re going to need to have a robust and substantive tax reform process in the Senate. In my view, it’s not realistic to think that the Senate will simply take up and pass a House bill without our members having significant input on the substance of the bill.
That’s how the Congress is supposed to operate. And, I think that is what will produce the best result.
I look forward to continue working with my colleagues in the House on tax reform. I also appreciate the willingness of the new Treasury Secretary and the President’s National Economic Council to lead on this effort, and I look forward to continuing to work with them as well.
I will also say this: My hope is that both parties can find a way to work together on tax reform.
While we have procedural tools at our disposal to get tax reform legislation through Congress with strictly Republican votes, I, personally, believe that it would be better to find a bipartisan path forward.
A bipartisan bill would allow us to put in place more lasting reforms and give the overall effort additional credibility.
I’m sure there are some who think that it’s impossible for Republicans and Democrats to work together on something of this magnitude. But, I’ve been in the Senate a long time, and I think my record for bipartisanship speaks for itself.
I believe we can, and should, work together. And, I’m willing to talk and work with anyone who is willing to set politics aside and engage in good faith on these matters.
I’ve been banging a drum on tax reform for six years now, and, throughout that time, I’ve invited my Democratic colleagues to join in this effort. I’ll do so again today.
Hopefully some of our colleagues on the other side will take me up on this offer.
Finally, Mr. President, I want to say a few words about U.S. trade policy. Trade is another area where President Trump has some ambitious plans, and where, up to now, progress has been hindered.
Before I delve into that, let me reiterate a key point.
In 2015, Congress outlined its trade priorities with our legislation to renew Trade Promotion Authority, which was signed into law by President Obama.
The TPA statute gives clear guidance as to what a trade agreement should look like if it is going to win Congress’s approval. President Trump was fortunate to come into office with TPA already in effect and I am committed to working with him to enact trade agreements that meet the standards established by the TPA law.
When it comes to new trade agreements or revisions to modernize existing trade agreements, that is my top priority as chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over trade policy.
Our trade laws are designed to give Congress a voice in both the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements. In addition to priorities and objectives outlined under TPA, there is the office of U.S. Trade Representative, which is intended to be the chief intermediary between Congress and the administration on trade policy matters.
In other words, in order for the two branches to effectively work together on trade, the office of USTR needs to be fully functional and fully staffed. Unfortunately, up to now, some on the other side have been making unreasonable and wholly unrelated demands in relation to the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee to be USTR, even though he has support from members in both parties.
This is unfortunate. However, I am working with my colleagues to remove any remaining roadblocks, and I’m hoping we can make progress on this very soon.
As you can see, Mr. President, we have quite a bit to work on in Congress, and I’m only talking about a handful of the major issues before us. There are, of course, many other priorities we need to address and matters we need to resolve.
I’m hoping that, in the coming weeks and months, as we put more distance between us and the 2016 election, more of our colleagues will be amenable to working together to address these kinds of important issues, even if it means allowing President Trump to claim some successes.
With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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