April 15,2024

Wyden Calls on Senate to Pass Bipartisan Tax Bill, Says Kids & Small Businesses Cannot Wait on Senate Republicans

As Prepared for Delivery

It’s Tax Day in America. Millions of parents and thousands of innovative small business owners are wondering why Senate Republicans are sitting on bipartisan legislation that would help them get ahead. Here’s what Americans at home and small business owners trying to make payroll need to know. 

The bill on offer here in the Senate is the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act. I introduced it with Chairman Jason Smith of the House Ways and Means committee in January. 

It’s a combination of ideas from both sides. It expands the child tax credit, focusing on kids from low-income families. It ends the long-running discrimination against low-income families with more than one kid, few of whom can claim the credit for each of their children. 

It beefs up the incentive for R&D and investments in things like new equipment and software.

Just today, the Finance Committee released new data we got from the Treasury Department on the situation facing small businesses if the Senate doesn’t pass this bill. 

According to the Treasury, 3.8 million small businesses claimed bonus depreciation or the R&D deduction in 2021. They’ll be hurt if the Senate doesn’t pass this bill. 

The situation is even more dire for the small businesses that are hyper-focused on innovation through research and development. A lot of them are start-ups that have the potential to grow into major economic powerhouses. Many of them operate in fields where our economy competes directly with China and other countries around the world. 

This isn’t just a handful of businesses scattered here and there. 

The Treasury Department identified 10,000 of those small businesses. From all over the country. 

Their operating costs are dominated by R&D. But the biggest tax incentive for R&D is now one-fifth as valuable to them as it used to be. That’s because of changes that Republicans made during the Trump administration. 

Right now, a lot of those R&D small businesses are telling every Senator who will listen that they may not survive if the Senate fails to act. 

In addition to small businesses, the bill will boost low-income housing, adding more than 200,000 new units across the country. 

It’s paid for by shutting down a pandemic-era tax program that’s riddled with fraud. 

The Congress has some difficult tax debates -- there’s a big one coming up in 2025. This bill is the easy stuff. 

The list of groups supporting this bill is so broad it’s almost unbelievable. Progressive economic groups. Conservative economic groups. Parents’ coalitions. Pro-life organizations. Anti-poverty groups. Small business advocates. Manufacturers. You name it. They all want to see this bill become law. 

In January it sailed through the Ways and Means committee, and sailed through the House with 357 votes in favor. These days you can’t get 357 members of the House of Representatives to vote in favor of apple pie and sunshine.   

The bill came over here to the Senate, and it’s been sitting for 10 weeks. I know there are a lot of Senate Republicans who like it. 

Some Senate Republicans objected to a provision in the bill that deals with what’s called a “lookback.” That provision deals with flexibility for families to claim the child tax credit using their income from the previous year. 

Senate Republicans claimed it would disincentivize work. The JCT disagreed. Even conservative experts from the Tax Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform and the American Enterprise Institute disagreed -- they said the bill wouldn’t have an impact on work. 

Regardless, I told my Republican counterpart on the Finance Committee, Senator Crapo, I’d be willing to drop the lookback policy. 

I’d replace it with other approaches that achieve the same cut in child poverty without any effect on work. I also offered to add additional policies that Senate Republicans asked for. 

Senator Crapo did not accept that offer. The changes he asked for instead would have destroyed any chance of passing the bill and left way too many kids living in poverty. 

But I want the rest of the Senate to know, my offer still stands. 

I’ve read that some Senate Republicans prefer to wait. The idea is, they can write their own bill in 2025 if they win the Senate in November.

I’m here to say, this cannot wait. 

This bill would help 16 million kids from low-income families. They should not have to wait. 

The discrimination against families with two, three, four kids is unacceptable. Those families need help buying food, diapers, and new shoes, you name it. Today those kids are stuck splitting a single tax credit. Four kids can’t split a single pair of shoes. They should not have to wait. 

This bill would lift half a million kids out of poverty. It would be unconscionable to leave those kids in poverty for political reasons. They should not have to wait. 

The bill would boost the incentive for R&D and throw a lifeline to small business owners who are worried about keeping their doors open right now. They should not have to wait. 

And colleagues, it is unthinkable that the Senate would forego this opportunity to tackle fraud in the Employee Retention Credit, which is the pandemic-era program the bill would shut down. 

The Finance Committee was told last fall that as much as 95 percent of the ERC claims coming in were fraudulent or illegitimate. The IRS commissioner agreed when I asked him about it during a meeting earlier this year. 

This is the only bill on offer to shut down this firehose of fraud. It’s unthinkable that the Senate would allow it to go on. 

I just did a bunch of town meetings back in Oregon during the last recess. The reaction was always the same. People are awestruck at the idea that Congress is actually on the verge of passing a bipartisan bill that would help a whole lot of families and businesses that are walking an economic tightrope. At the same time, they’re scratching their heads when I tell them the Senate is holding it up. 

So colleagues, the Senate must get this done. I know it’s difficult, but I believe the votes are there. 

And let’s understand, if the Senate doesn’t pass this bill, the soonest it will revisit these issues, in all likelihood, is late 2025. 

Eighteen months from now. 

At that point, the Senate will have to deal with trillions of dollars in tax policies up in the air. 

It’s not as simple as setting these issues aside for just a few months and then making some changes on the margins. 

This is our opportunity. Sixteen million kids and thousands of small businesses should not have to wait. Let’s get this done.