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Chairman Smith Opening Statement: 118th Congress Organizational Meeting

January 31, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC – At the Organizing Meeting for the House Committee on Ways and Means, Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) laid out the agenda for the 118th Congress, including tax relief for middle-class families, fighting the inflation hitting family budgets, ending the labor shortage crushing small businesses, promoting trade policies that open markets to American goods, holding the IRS accountable, and lifting families out of poverty.

As prepared for delivery.

“It is my honor to gavel in the first meeting of the Ways and Means Committee for the 118th Congress under a new Republican majority.

“I want to welcome all the members to the committee, especially our new members who are ready to make meaningful contributions to the committee’s work.

“This is the oldest committee in Congress, vested by the Constitution with unique—and exclusive—authority over the tax code. The Framers of the Constitution understood that the House and the House alone should be the original authors of tax policy because an election every two years meant greater accountability for those who could raise taxes on voters.

“Now, after two years of higher taxes, raging price hikes, and lower wages, the American people have called for greater accountability by electing a new Republican majority. We have an obligation to respect that decision by helping the American people provide for their families now and in the future.

“This committee has been at the center of much of the legislation that changed the course of history. Whether it was paper currency during the Civil War, establishing Social Security, or reforming welfare to help families escape poverty, this committee’s work has reached every family, farmer, business, senior citizen, or foreign nation.

“This is a committee tasked with fulfilling the Constitution’s Article 1 authorities to provide for the general welfare of the citizens of our great country. That’s not a call for government handouts. It’s a mandate for shepherding as many of our fellow citizens out of poverty as possible.

“And when this committee has acted on that mandate, on its authority, it has delivered for the American people.

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the product of eight years and 40 bipartisan hearings. It raised wages, lifted Americans out of poverty, and ignited an economic boom that was only cut short by the pandemic. More than 6 million people were lifted out of poverty in the years following TCJA, dropping the poverty rate to 10.5 percent, the lowest level in U.S. history. The poverty rate for black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans fell to all-time lows. Real wages for the bottom 10 percent grew nearly twice as fast as the top 10 percent.

“These are not just statistics. These are real families experiencing real benefits because of real changes in our laws – changes driven by the work of this committee.

“Unfortunately, the permanent pandemic narrative was just the excuse the White House needed, and this Committee enabled, to advance partisan reconciliation bills that raised taxes, fueled raging inflation, and provided welfare for the well-to-do and wealthy corporations.

“Families struggling with gas prices were told they might be able to get subsidies for e-bikes. Not sure those types of policies really met the moment.

“When Washington subsidized local governments that shtutdown main streets, it killed jobs and pushed families into poverty, and the Biden Administration’s answer was weekly checks that further fueled an inflation crisis and devalued the worth of a job.

“Unfortunately, while the Democrats were focused on ramming through trillions in new spending, the concerns of the American people were ignored. The American people still don’t have answers to the IRS’s repeated leak of taxpayer information or the theft of billions in unemployment insurance. But you know what they do have? Private tax returns of Democrats’ political enemies.

“It’s not that there’s a lack of challenges facing our nation.

“Here’s just a few: inflation, the labor shortage, the supply chain crisis, our vulnerability to the Chinese Communist Party, the threat of 87,000 new agents targeting working families with more audits.

“Under the Republican majority, the Ways and Means committee will focus on people, not politics. This committee will serve blue collars, not blue checkmarks.

“That means working together to build a stronger economy that puts the interests of working-class families front and center. There’s plenty of bipartisan, common ground here: I am hopeful that Democrats will join us.

“It means building on successful tax reforms that reduced the tax burden on families and small businesses, fueled the best economy in 50 years before COVID struck, and more recently sent federal revenues to historic highs. As a matter of fact, revenues since TCJA are $1.6 trillion more than they were before passage and for 2022 they were almost $1 trillion more than the Congressional Budget Office had previously predicted.  

“It means delivering tax relief for families, farmers, and small businesses that the last Congress allowed to lapse; and lowering gas prices and utility bills by incentivizing more domestic energy production in America; promoting greater access to affordable, quality health care that meets people’s unique needs and ensures price transparency to protect patients.

“We will insist on tough enforcement against unfair trade practices, and we will fight to open new markets to American goods made by American workers. We will restore our food and medical security at a time when the Biden Administration has sadly ignored our foreign trade partners, shut off access to new markets for American goods, and allowed China to gain influence around the globe. U.S. exporters only get preferential access to fewer than 10 percent of the world’s customers – it’s time to do more to sell American.

“We must reconnect the Child Tax Credit to work and reorient welfare programs to help families get back on their feet. The purpose of welfare is to help people going through a rough patch, not trap families in a cycle of dependence for generations. Work should pay better than sitting at home.

“We also will not be shy about our duty to seek accountability from the Washington Bureaucracy and the Biden Administration. At the top of the list: the IRS’s plan for the Democrats’ $80 billion windfall and asking the tough questions about how the Biden Administration wishes to use that agency to snoop on Americans’ finances or why that agency has repeatedly betrayed the trust of American taxpayers. Just this week, we took a decisive step forward in pursuit of oversight and accountability by establishing a direct line of communication to the Committee for IRS whistleblowers who might witness the weaponization of the IRS or other misconduct against the American people.

“Over the next two years, this committee will partner with the American people to develop solutions and deliver results that will make a difference in their lives. The Ways and Means Committee will hold field hearings, visiting communities to hear firsthand from Americans about the challenges facing their families and communities and potential ideas to help. Our first hearing will be next week in West Virginia to hear directly from small business owners, workers, and families about how they have been affected by inflation, supply chain problems, and high energy costs.

“The American people have asked us to take America in a new direction. We will answer that call. Let’s get to work on creating economic prosperity for working families, bringing opportunity to every corner of the country, and securing America’s future for generations.”