House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks with House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks with House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) during a press conference on March 8, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Senate Finance Chief: Nothing Unites GOP More Than 'Helping Rich People Cheat on Their Taxes'

"It's a centerpiece of the ransom Speaker McCarthy has cobbled together as he threatens to trigger a catastrophic default," said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden.

The Democratic chair of the Senate Finance Committee said Wednesday that the House GOP's newly released debt ceiling legislation shows that the often fractious right-wing caucus is unified around at least one common objective: "Helping rich people cheat on their taxes."

The Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, unveiled by the House Republican leadership as the U.S. barrels toward a debt default crisis of the GOP's making, would repeal most of the $80 billion in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funding that Democratic lawmakers and President Joe Biden approved last year as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

That funding, which the IRS has credited with improved customer service and speedier tax return processing, has been a frequent target of hysterical and false Republican rhetoric, with GOP lawmakers repeatedly raising the specter of armed IRS agents descending on ordinary Americans' homes and small businesses.

In a Wednesday floor speech outlining the GOP's bill, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the measure would eliminate "Biden's army of 87,000 IRS agents," citing a highly misleading number that Republicans have used to bash new funding for an agency that Republicans starved of funding for years to the benefit of rich tax dodgers.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who heads the Senate's finance panel, said in response to the GOP plan that "Democrats passed funding for tax enforcement specifically to crack down on the wealthy cheats and scofflaw corporations who rip off all the Americans who follow the law and pay their taxes."

"Repealing that funding was the first bill House Republicans passed this year," Wyden continued, referring to legislation the House GOP passed in January, "and it's a centerpiece of the ransom Speaker McCarthy has cobbled together as he threatens to trigger a catastrophic default."

Underfunded and short-staffed, the IRS has for years audited lower-income Americans at the same or higher rates than the rich, who often have more complicated returns that the agency says are more expensive to assess.

According to one estimate, tax dodging could cost the federal government more than $7 trillion in revenue over the next decade. A separate 2021 study found that the richest 1% of U.S. households don't report 21% of their income, often making use of "sophisticated evasion" that the weakened IRS has failed to combat.

Repealing the new IRS funding, which is spread out over a decade, would run counter to the stated concerns of Republican deficit hawks. The Congressional Budget Office estimated earlier this year that cutting off the funding would add $114 billion to the deficit over a ten-year period.

"Working people pay their fair share of taxes. It's time the rich and corporations do the same," the progressive advocacy group Americans for Tax Fairness tweeted Wednesday. "Republicans are threatening default because they want the rest of us to keep footing the bill for the wealthiest Americans."

The Republican bill, which also targets key aid programs and climate investments, faces long odds in Congress, with Democrats in the House and Senate expected to unanimously oppose it.

But Punchbowlreported Thursday that Senate Republicans "are sticking by McCarthy's side" in opposing a clean debt limit increase, something that the White House, senior advocacy groups, and labor unions are demanding.

"Republicans manufactured this crisis, and Speaker McCarthy's proposal to get out of it would destroy jobs, worsen healthcare, increase hunger, hurt the climate, and make millions of American families poorer," Wyden said Wednesday. "This hostage-taking cannot continue."

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