November 29,2017

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Hatch: Time to Advance Pro-Growth Tax Reform

Utah Senator Says, “The American people deserve a tax system that provides greater opportunity, a stronger economy, and better jobs. We need a tax code designed to work for the world of 2017 and beyond.”

WASHINGTON — With the Senate expected to begin debate on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act later today, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) touted the benefits of the Senate tax overhaul plan, which will save a American family of four earning the median family income $2,200 on their annual tax bill. Hatch delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor: 

Mme. President, the Senate will soon vote on the motion to proceed to legislation to reform our nation’s broken tax code and provide significant relief for tens of millions of middle-class families.   

Members from both parties have worked for years on this effort. As we move to consider this legislation, we will take another step toward accomplishing what has, until recently anyway, been a bipartisan goal.  

I want to thank all of those who have helped us advance this process, especially the members and staff of the Finance Committee, who have worked tirelessly to get us to this point.  I also want to thank our distinguished Majority Leader, Senator McConnell, for his work and leadership on this as well. 

Of course, we are not there yet.  We have a number of additional steps to take, including today’s vote.  

I don’t want to put any carts ahead of any horses, but I’m optimistic that we can get a positive outcome today. 

Our tax reform bill was crafted with the primary purposes of providing tax relief to the middle class and growth to our economy.

To accomplish these goals, the bill lowers individual tax rates across the board. 

The bill also expands the zero tax bracket by nearly doubling the standard deduction, doubling the child tax credit, and increasing the child tax credit refundability, all of which, combined, will eliminate income tax liability for many hardworking American families and significantly cut taxes for tens of millions of middle-class taxpayers.  

Some examples, I think, can be illustrative here. 

Under our bill, a family of four making the U.S. median family income of around $73,000 a year will see their taxes go down by more than $2,000 a year. That’s a savings of more than $180 a month. Overall, this represents a nearly 60 percent reduction in that family’s tax liability.  

A single parent with one child making $41,000 a year, under the bill, will pay about one quarter of the federal income taxes he or she pays today, an annual reduction of almost $1,400.  

That is real money for these families. It will help them make car payments, pay their rent or mortgages, bring down credit card balances or increase their ability to save for the future.  

In addition to reducing the tax burden on low-to-middle income families, the changes in our bill will make filing taxes much simpler for most of these taxpayers. According to JCT, more than nine in ten American families will opt for the standard deduction under this legislation, avoiding altogether the difficult and complicated process of itemizing deductions.  

            That means less time and money spent on tax compliance and preparation for millions of middle-class taxpayers. 

The bill also repeals one of the most regressive taxes in American history: the Obamacare individual mandate tax, which overwhelmingly burdens middle- and low-income families. In fact, 80 percent of families that pay the tax make less than $50,000 per year. 

And yet, this repeal has been the source of much consternation from my friends on the other side of the aisle. I’ll have more to say on that in a moment.  

            For small businesses that pay taxes on the owners’ individual returns, or pass-throughs, the bill provides significant relief in the form of a simple tax reduction applied to qualified business income. This will reduce the overall tax burden for pass-through businesses, which are the primary engines of job creation in the United States.  In addition, our bill helps out Main Street businesses by enhancing expensing and expanding the availability of simplified cash-accounting.  

            All told, this means more expansion, more investment and more jobs for U.S. workers employed by small businesses. Make no mistake, this bill is pro-small business, which is why the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the largest small business association in the country, has enthusiastically expressed its support for our legislation.  

It should probably go without saying at this point that the United States currently has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world, and, as a result, we are seeing businesses flee for more favorable tax conditions overseas, while others are getting purchased by foreign companies. 

Both former Presidents Clinton and Obama have spoken in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate to allow our country to be more globally competitive. That sentiment has been shared by countless Democrats in this chamber, including the current ranking member of the Finance Committee and the Senate Minority Leader. 

With this bill, we are taking their advice by lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent. 

We also shift to a more territorial system of international tax, another idea that was explicitly endorsed in a bipartisan working group report coauthored by my good friend Senator Schumer. This shift is paid for largely through the use of a “deemed repatriation.” Another idea supported by Democrats in recent years.  

And, we are creating both incentives and penalties to prevent base erosion, a goal that has become clearly bipartisan during the recent waves of corporate inversions.  

Long story short, Mme. President, there is quite a bit in this bill that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to support. Of course, anyone who gets their information solely from the statements and talking points from our friends on the other side wouldn’t get that.  

Over the next few days, I expect we’ll hear quite a few misleading claims, both about the bill, and about the process that led us here.

For example, I expect we’ll hear that the bill is just a massive giveaway to the so-called rich.  

My colleagues will make that claim, even though they have the same data from the Joint Committee on Taxation that we have, which shows pretty clearly that middle class taxpayers will receive the largest proportional tax cuts under the bill and that none of the existing tax burden will be shifted downward from those at the top.  In fact, those in the highest bracket, according to JCT, will pay a higher percentage of the overall tax burden than they do now.  

I expect we’ll hear that, by repealing the individual mandate tax, the bill will be taking people’s health insurance away and raising taxes on the poor.  

That claim will be made despite confirmation from congressional scorekeepers that nothing in the bill removes or limits anyone’s access to health insurance.  Instead, JCT and CBO project that, with no individual mandate, people will choose to not get health insurance, even if they still have access to premium subsidies, employer-provided plans, or even free health coverage through Medicaid.  This bill provides choice, it doesn’t take anything away from these individuals. 

We can quibble with that conclusion and question whether tens of millions of people who currently have health insurance – including a few million who are currently getting it for free – will suddenly opt to go uninsured once the mandate penalty is zeroed out. Given that most observers have concluded that the mandate has essentially failed to draw enough participants into the health care market to keep premiums from skyrocketing, there is room for questioning whether the scorekeepers are right on that score. 

However, even if they are 100 percent correct, no one will lose their health insurance under this bill when the mandate is repealed. Anyone going uninsured will be doing so voluntarily.  We’re not kicking anyone off their insurance by zeroing out the individual mandate penalty, and it’s a blatant distortion of reality to claim otherwise.  

Similarly, no one’s taxes will go up if the mandate is zeroed out. True enough, our scorekeepers have produced distribution tables showing an uptick in taxes at the low end of the income spectrum due to decreased utilization of premium tax credits offered under Obamacare. My colleagues, I’m sure, will talk about this at length as well.  

However, I’d like to have one of them explain how a person’s voluntary decision to forego a tax subsidy amounts to a tax hike. So far, I haven’t heard a serious attempt at such an explanation. In fact, during our recent markup when the chief of staff at JCT sat at the table and told my colleagues that no one will owe a dime in additional taxes as a result of the individual mandate repeal, none of my colleagues disputed his conclusion.  Instead, they opted to ignore it, even after they were shown a JCT table showing that, if the behavioral effects of the mandate repeal are removed from the equation – as they should be when we’re talking about taxes owed – every income group will see their taxes go down under the bill.  

I hope our colleagues and those watching will remember these facts when they’re evaluating the claims being made by some on the other side. 

Mme. President, we have a good bill here and  I believe members of both parties, if politics were removed from consideration, could support it.  

We’ve gotten significant support throughout the business community, with associations and companies from almost every industry and sector publicly in support of the reforms in this bill.  

I know some of my Republican colleagues have concerns and I’ve been committed to working with them to see if improvements can be made. And, as this process moves forward, we may have to make a few more changes.  

This, of course, is how the legislative process works. Our process is designed to produce legislation that reflects the combined views and interests of a majority of Senators and, more importantly, the constituents they represent. 

As with any legislative endeavor of real significance, the perfect should not be considered the enemy of the good. As I’ve said before, I’ve been around long enough to know that anyone demanding perfection when it comes to major legislation is bound to end up waiting a very long time and likely won’t accomplish much. 

Before I close, Mme. President, I want to underscore how much of a once-in-a-generation opportunity this is.  We need to get this done.  

The costs of failure and continuing with the status quo are just too high.  

The American people deserve a tax system that provides greater opportunity, a stronger economy, and better jobs.  We need a tax code designed to work for the world of 2017 and beyond. 

Our bill will accomplish these goals.  We need to take this next step so that we can continue the work. 

I urge all of my colleagues to vote yes on the motion to proceed.  

I yield the floor.