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Kelly Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on Taxpayer Fairness

October 13, 2020

WASHINGTON — The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) delivered the following opening remarks at a Subcommittee Hearing on Taxpayer Fairness.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“It was an honor to serve on the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee with John Lewis. He was an inspiration to our nation and was a role model to many including me.

“Lewis led this committee with dignity and understood the importance of our subcommittee and the role oversight plans in Congress with the focus on making government more transparent, efficient and accountable to the American people.

“In addition to being legislators, we are America’s watchdog making sure their money—the taxpayer’s dollars—are being spent wisely and to their benefit.

“Therefore, I look forward to continuing this important work with you Chairman Pascrell and hope we can find some common areas where we can work together on behalf of the American people.

“Unfortunately, I understand today may not be the day for bipartisan agreement. Today, Democrats continue their relentless effort to weaponize the tax code for purely political purposes. Democrats have sought to publicize the President’s tax returns since day one of his presidency—despite no evidence that he did anything wrong other than legitimately winning the last presidential election.

“This issue was furiously raised by my friends on the other side and amplified by many of their friends in the media, like the New York Times.

“Now, it’s like Ground Hog Day in this hearing today.

“Once again, except instead of an inquiry about Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow, my friends on the other side, are using taxpayers’ money and our time, to drag us through a campaign debate that was resolved four years earlier.

“In the 2016 Presidential campaign, the people spoke at the ballot box with their votes in my district, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the country for this Administration.

“This issue, like so many others, is one where the Resistance, including my friends on the other side who are the vanguard, and other of their allies, like ANTIFA, simply can’t let go.

“My friends, President Trump is on the ballot and across the country, folks will get to decide whether he gets another term; I’m confident they will, but why use this fine committee as an instrument of the Democratic National Committee?

“Why put everyone through this totally partisan Ground Hog Day exercise? What is the substance of this politically partisan Ground Hog Day event today?

“Unable to succeed in this effort through proper legal channels, Democrats have been aided by an unethical and likely illegal leak of the President’s private taxpayer information to the New York Times.

“This is a stunning breach of public trust. If this can happen to a sitting President, it can happen to any American.

“Ranking Member Brady and I have written to the Department of Justice and the IRS asking them to launch investigations to determine whether any federal laws were broken in the release of this information.

“I ask unanimous consent to enter both letters into the record.

“At the end of the day, I found the New York Times report underwhelming. The Times does not allege any illegal behavior by the President. They recurrently state that more information is needed to evaluate specific transactions or items on the returns the Times allegedly received. 

“Despite not having ‘all the facts’ and the need for more information, the Times settles for insinuations with language like ‘this could be legally problematic.’

“That type of reporting is incredibly unfair—and not objective reporting at all in my book.

“For an example, if I wrote a $50 check to Catholic Charities and took a charitable deduction on my tax return, you could say the exact same thing. More information is needed to verify this transaction, but it COULD be legally problematic. This premise is just absurd.

“Of course, you would need more information. And that is literally what an audit is all about. When the IRS conducts an audit, it gathers more information and makes determinations about tax filings. The President has said he is under audit and the New York Times certainly indicates that he is under audit. That is exactly how the process should work.

“Putting public pressure and suggesting impropriety at the IRS without evidence maligns the work IRS employees do and improperly puts political pressure on them to reach a particular outcome.

“We know the Democrats don’t like the President and are unhappy with the last election results, but in a Democracy, we don’t go after duly elected officials.

“We don’t know whether there is a problem with his taxes. The New York Times claims to have reviewed them and even they don’t know.

“We need to let the IRS employees do their work and finish their audit. They are the only government agency in a position to address any possible legal issues. 

“Since day one Democrats have tried to publicize the President’s tax returns for their political agenda. Back in 2017, Members of this committee claimed that we needed to see his returns to prove the President’s allegedly deep and mysterious ties to Russia. That is all we heard about from the mainstream media. Therefore, it must have been disappointing when the New York Times stated very quietly that the documents it reviewed do not ‘reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.’

“Since this investigation didn’t produce the results they wanted, our Democratic colleagues have simply looked for other ways to weaponize the tax code to attack a sitting President. This is a dangerous precedence and I fear that the integrity of our tax code will suffer as a result.

“As for the idea that President Trump did something wrong by paying a low amount of income taxes in a given year, give me a break. Earlier this year we had a hearing on corporate income tax, and I explained then that businesses pay all sorts of federal, state, and local taxes. Property taxes, employment taxes, sales taxes, excise feeds, and on and on and on. 

“As a businessperson, some year’s I paid more in taxes and others less. Why? Because some years I was simply more profitable.

“Cherry picking income taxes in any given year tells a very misleading story about a business owner’s tax situation. The President has paid millions and millions of dollars in all sorts of different taxes over the years.

“Nevertheless, Democrats continue to suggest that having a lower level of income tax liability in any given year means the President doesn’t care about contributing to our country. Is that true? Of course not. The President has donated every single paycheck as President to the federal government. So far, those donations have totaled nearly $1.4 million. I would be surprised if anyone in this room has donated a dollar more than they owe in taxes to the federal government, but this President has for love of country.

“Going forward, I hope this committee can find constructive ways to improve the lives of the American people so that their government works better for them and not simply for political gamesmanship. I believe our constituents want us to work together to solve problems, not try to score cheap political points through innuendo, insinuation and speculation.

“For the record, I haven’t seen any actual evidence of impropriety at the IRS. I haven’t seen any actual evidence of impropriety on the part of the President. The only thing we have evidence of is an unauthorized and likely illegal leak of private taxpayer information, which is something this Committee should care a great deal about and is the proper role of this committee.

“With that, I yield back.”

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