Well, if nothing else, it’s a start. On Monday, the House of Representatives passed a bill to trim approximately $71 billion from the $80 billion that had been allocated to the Internal Revenue Service. The Hill reported that the vote was split along party lines and passed 221-210. One could argue that the victory is a symbolic one since it will likely be DOA in the Senate. It is, however, a win for Kevin McCarthy and sends a message to voters that the GOP-controlled house is, for the moment, trying to fulfill the promises it made during the 2022 election. Whether the intent was to actually try to rein in congressional spending or just give that impression remains to be seen, given the quixotic nature of the effort.
It is noteworthy that unlike the other pieces of legislation, such as the omnibus spending bill passed last year, this bill is slightly over one page in length. Called the “Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act,” it directs any “unobligated balances of amounts appropriated or otherwise made available” to the agency to be rescinded.
Republicans have maintained that the $80 billion that was previously allocated would be used to hire new enforcement agents, while the agency claims that the money would be used for computer customer service representatives, and to replace employees who will be departing the agency via retirement or resignation. Republicans also fear that the bill would fund increased enforcement for people in the middle and lower class, but IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said that there would be increased scrutiny of large corporations and households making over $400,000 annually.
The reactions were predictable and textbook. The White House accused the GOP of trying to make life easier for the rich while creating tougher circumstances for ordinary taxpayers. The Hill also quoted Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal, who is the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee. Neal said that such a move would boost the deficit in the coming years and would relieve the wealthy of their tax obligations. As to the deficit, Neal was referencing a CBO estimate that the $71-billion spending cut would result in a loss of $186 billion over ten years. The report said that the move would ultimately result in adding $114.4 billion to the deficit, according to the Washington Examiner.
The Democrats’ reaction to the House vote might have had some gravitas had the nation not experienced the weaponization of the IRS against groups targeted by the Obama administration under Lois Lerner. And it might be even more believable had the last incarnation of Congress not passed a $1.7 trillion spending bill that was flown to St. Croix for the president’s signature. Among the various pork projects that are slated to receive a cash infusion is the “Michelle Obama Trail – PATH Trail Project” in Georgia. That will run taxpayers $3.6 million. Unfortunately, $3.6 million is barely a drop in the spending bucket. Projects like that will enhance the lives of, well, somebody, somewhere, I guess. But with a party that is not afraid to bounce checks like superballs and max out the national credit card, the Democrats see no reason why they can’t have their trail and a giant IRS, too.