December 10,2018

Wyden Floor Statement on the Nomination of Muzinich to Serve as Deputy Treasury Secretary and the Trump Tax Scam

As Prepared for Delivery

M. President, the Senate will soon cast the first procedural vote on the nomination of Justin Muzinich to serve as the deputy secretary of the Treasury. I’m going to oppose this nomination, and I’d like to lay out exactly why, beginning with this basic rule I’m going to maintain going forward:

If a nominee says the Trump tax handouts will pay for themselves, I’m going to oppose them. Why? Because sticking by that debunked claim is the economic policy version of being a flat-earther. You’re either peddling an idea you know is untrue, or you can’t do math. Either way, you shouldn’t have a powerful job in the Treasury Department.

When Mr. Muzinich came before the Finance Committee for his nomination hearing, it was a titanic struggle to try to get straight answers from him on virtually anything. But one question he did answer straight up was whether he agreed that the Trump tax handouts would, quote “pay for themselves and reduce our deficit.” He gave a one word response: “Yes.”

Now, some have called this trickle-down. Others have called it voodoo economics. I call it rainbow and unicorn arithmetic. No matter what you call it, it just isn’t based in reality. The Trump tax handout will not pay for itself.

Even after independent, non-partisan economic analysis demonstrated that was the case...

Even after months of data were released showing the Trump tax law has failed to live up to the administration’s fantasy-land promises...

Mr. Muzinich is still sticking to this false claim. I’ll give him credit -- he has what the Jewish people call chutzpah. But that’s not going to win him my support.

In my judgement, it raises a fundamental question of honesty. Before his nomination hearing, newspaper reports ran glowing quotes about him from Treasury officials. They praised his financial expertise and previewed an expansive role he’d play in the world of tax policy, debt management and more. Republican committee members talked about all the work he had put into the development of the Trump tax law.

But Mr. Muzinich, during his meeting with me, said he’d just be a “building manager” if confirmed. It was quite a contrast from the way his own colleagues described him. And it’s extremely concerning to me that he’d misrepresent his role in that way, to the lead Democrat on the committee in charge of his nomination.

I’ve also got serious concerns about the way Mr. Muzinich responded to my questions about the Trump administration’s policy opening the floodgates to more foreign dark money in our politics.

That rule change was announced just hours after the public learned about the illicit activities an accused Russian spy, Maria Butina, had used to infiltrate conservative groups and undermine our democracy. If that was a coincidence, it’s a coincidence for the ages.

WIth this new policy, Trump is blinding law enforcement and telling foreigners and dark money groups to keep the election cash flowing.

What I asked Mr. Muzinich was essentially, is this going to be a problem in terms of preventing foreign influence and enforcing election law? I couldn’t get a straight answer. Mr. Muzinich told me, and I quote, “the intent was to further efficient tax administration.”

I hope that was just his way of dodging the question. If not, then he’s suggesting it’s A-OK for special interests and foreign actors to buy American elections if it makes the tax reporting easier.

Colleagues, I realize that I will not agree with every Treasury nominee from the Trump administration on every issue. I’ve voted for plenty of Republican nominees to the Treasury Department before. But I expect nominees to be honest, even if I don’t like the answers. Mr. Muzinich has not met that test. In fact, he’s failed it. By claiming the Trump tax handouts will pay for themselves, he’s failed it by $1.5 trillion. I will not support a nominee who is that committed to falsehoods and fantasies.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this nomination, and I yield the floor.