Wyden Thanks Staff for their Hard Work to Pass the Inflation Reduction Act
As Prepared for Delivery
We are now several weeks on from the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
The IRA is transformational legislation that will improve the lives of millions and millions of Americans. More affordable prescription drugs. Cheaper energy bills. The largest investment in the climate in history. A serious commitment to cracking down on tax cheats who rip off the American people for billions of dollars every year and ensuring that corporations pay a fair share.
I’m proud to say that the vast majority of the Inflation Reduction Act came from the Finance Committee majority.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the team on the committee and in my personal office collectively spent thousands and thousands of hours developing these proposals, building support for them under zero margin for error, and guaranteeing that they would pass under challenging Senate rules.
Senate Democrats spent more than a year debating what would go into this bill before it finally came together, but the staff of the Finance Committee began its work long before that. Some of the components of the IRA go back more than a decade.
So before the Senate goes out in the coming days, I wanted to come down to the floor to thank my committee and personal office staff, as well as the brilliant teams at the Joint Committee on Tax, Congressional Budget Office and Legislative Counsel who made this achievement possible.
I’ll shout out a few specifics as I thank the staff, but understand that legislation this significant is always a collaborative effort. And furthermore, there are major priorities that did not make it into the final version of the IRA, and the staff who worked on those issues deserve credit too.
I’ll start out with Tiffany Smith, who leads the best and hardest working tax policy team there is.
Bobby Andres has honcho’d the Clean Energy for America Act for seven-plus years. He tweaked and edited and improved that bill so many times, he can probably recite the text in his sleep.
Chris Arneson, Jon Goldman and Sarah Schaefer have been instrumental in going after the tax loopholes that allow massive, profitable corporations to get away with paying little to nothing. Their work on those issues is going to continue to find its way into law.
Adam Carasso and Eric LoPresti helped to make sure the IRS has the resources it needs to go after wealthy tax cheats who skip out on paying what they owe.
And proof positive that Finance Teams support one-another: Drew Crouch contributed tax policy help to the prescription drug reforms.
Rachael Kauss has put a ton of work into developing the Billionaire’s Income Tax, and although that proposal didn’t make it in the final bill, there is more support than ever for making sure that those at the very top pay a fair share like everybody else.
Grace Enda assisted on the clean energy tax policies and more. Ursula Clausing supported the tax team and also made sure that our team and Senate Democrats were ready and organized for a tough floor debate. Arthur Shemitz and Melanie Jonas also supported the tax team’s hard work.
One other point about the Finance Committee majority’s tax team -- and this applies across the board, not just to the Inflation Reduction Act. If anybody out there mistakenly believes it’s easy to offset the legislation passed here in the Senate, it’s only because our tax team time and time again makes it look effortless. The truth is, it takes a ton of hard work, but they get it done.
Patricio Gonzalez, a member of the committee’s investigations team, has been digging into the tax practices of some of the biggest drug companies out there. His work went a long way to convincing key Senators that our corporate tax laws needed reform. Ryder Tobin, another member of the investigations team, contributed to that work and also helped us survive the grueling floor debate, as did Madison Moskowitz, Claire Kaliban and Bonnie Million.
Next up: healthcare. When it comes to drug prices, Big Pharma has had a stranglehold on the U.S. Senate for a long, long time. A lot of people have gone up against Big Pharma and lost. Shawn Bishop and the Finance Committee health team took on Big Pharma and won.
Anna Kaltenboeck played a key role in our efforts on finally allowing Medicare to negotiate on behalf of seniors for a better deal on prescription drugs. She also worked with Raghav Aggarwal on crafting the Senate version of drug price negotiation, as well as key protections for seniors in Medicare Part D. That includes a $2,000 annual out of pocket cap on their medications and a price gouging penalty for drug companies that hike prices faster than inflation.
At a time when families in Oregon and across the country are getting hit by rising prices, Eva DuGoff worked on extending subsidies for ACA health insurance coverage. It will save people hundreds of dollars a year, and a family of four up to $2,400 a year.
Peter Fise worked on capping the out of pocket cost of insulin for seniors at $35 per month -- another huge savings for many Americans. Liz Dervan expanded Medicaid’s coverage of vaccines for adults.
There’s a long list of people who pitched in on the vital process of making sure the bill was compliant with the rules of the Senate known as the Byrd Rules. It includes Liz Dervan, whose legal acumen was invaluable to supporting the Committee’s efforts to navigate the Byrd rule, as well as major efforts by Peter Fise, Kristen Lunde, Kimberly Lattimore, Mary Ellis and Daniel Whittam from the health team. It also includes Sally Laing and Virginia Lenahan from our trade team, who contributed to the clean energy provisions.
When it comes to Byrd Rules, the point man on the Finance Committee is our chief counsel, Mike Evans.
For all the months of work that goes into writing legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act, the whole thing can come crashing down if it doesn't comply with the Byrd rules. Nobody is more skilled or experienced than Mike at making sure legislation is Byrd-compliant from the start, and protecting it in Byrd Rule arguments before the Senate Parliamentarian.
Opposing counsels weep when they see Mike Evans and his stacks of papers enter the room. Reconciliation under the Byrd Rule is arduous work, yet Mike approaches it with humor and grace along with great skill.
Mike is a valued member of my senior leadership team, who have directed years of effort that made the IRA possible. I want to thank him, Jeff Michels, Joshua Sheinkman, Sarah Bittleman, John Dickas, and Isaiah Akin for guiding the team through setbacks and struggles to get this bill done.
The Finance Committee’s communications leads on the IRA -- Ashley Schapitl on tax and investigations, Taylor Harvey on health care, Ryan Carey, speechwriter, Emily Zahnle-Hostetler, digital director. The IRA dealt with some incredibly complicated policy issues and it challenged a lot of powerful special interests. But our team got the word out and stood up to withering attacks in the press and here in the Senate.
The Finance Committee works with many, many skilled and dedicated staff at the Joint Committee on Taxation on a daily basis. Suffice it to say, we would be out in the cold without Tom Barthold and the team of all-stars at JCT.
The same goes for the highly skilled and dedicated team at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office under Director Phil Swagel. They do a difficult job to keep Congress informed of what proposed changes to our federal programs will cost, and always come through under extremely tight deadlines.
And other CBO staff who analyzed drug pricing in the U.S. over the last decade.
And finally I want to thank the talented legal team at the Senate Legislative Counsel’s office who help committee staff write the law.
On tax policies, Mark McGunagle, Jim Fransen, Allison Otto, and Vince Gaiani.
On health policies, John Goetcheus, Kelly Thornburg, Ruth Ernst and Phil Lynch.
Whether you’re talking about JCT, CBO or Legislative Counsel, the Congress grinds to a halt without their work.
Finally I’d like to commend the work of the Senate Parliamentarian and her assistants. A reconciliation bill turns up a lot of highly complex procedural questions, and the Parliamentarian has to make the calls. I was not happy with all of the decisions, but the Parliamentarians worked tirelessly, skillfully, and with an even hand. Also, I would like to thank the clerks and floor staff for their work and endurance during the “vote-a-rama.”
So Mr. President, the debate the American people read about and watched on TV is just a small portion of all the work that went into the Inflation Reduction Act.
It can be awfully frustrating to spend years developing legislation when Congress is this polarized. We dealt with a lot of setbacks. At certain points we thought it was over. And there’s still a lot more to get done.
But the IRA truly is an accomplishment that will improve life for the American people. More affordable medications. More affordable health insurance. Cheaper energy. The biggest-ever investment in the fight against climate change. Major progress cracking down on tax cheats and improving tax fairness.
That’s progress to be proud of. I thank the Finance Committee majority staff, my personal office staff and all the other teams who contributed to this effort.
Watch a video of Wyden’s remarks here.
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