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Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Markup of H.R. 5863, H.R. 5862, H.R. 1568, H.R. 5861, and H.R. 6068

November 02, 2023

As prepared for delivery.

“As we have heard in our hearings outside Washington, the American people face a number of challenges. We have already advanced a number of solutions out of this Committee to help, but there is more to do. 

“Under the leadership of Speaker Johnson, House Republicans are continuing to work for the American people. We are focused on helping working families create a more prosperous and secure future for themselves and their communities. The bills we will consider today are real solutions to real problems faced by real Americans. Everything from helping protect the privacy of veterans coming home to helping more folks find a job to supporting our fellow citizens who are trying to put their lives back together after a disaster.

“The first bill we will consider is the Federal Disaster Tax Relief Act introduced by Representative Steube. Along with our colleague from Florida, Representatives Thompson and Panetta have also been leaders on this issue and ensuring help gets to those in need. This package builds on three pieces of bipartisan legislation to help families recover in the aftermath of a disaster. First, it offers important relief to victims of disasters across the country, including Hurricane Ian last year—which was the costliest storm in Florida history and which claimed countless lives. This bill will help those individuals and families deduct disaster losses against their tax bill. 

“This bill also exempts from taxes the disaster relief payments received by victims of recent wildfires in California and Hawaii, as well as the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio last February. Washington does not need to add to the burden these communities face by demanding a cut of the money meant to rebuild what a disaster destroyed. Long after the news cameras have already left, this bill will help those families and communities put back the pieces of their lives and rebuild stronger than before.

“The second bill was introduced by Representatives Steel and Panetta. It creates a Global Trade Specialist position at Customs and Border Protection. The creation of this position will improve CBP’s ability to enforce America’s trade laws and rules. As our trading relationships change, CBP needs the ability to respond to change as it happens, not years later. This bill will help give CBP the manpower to hold our trade partners accountable for the benefit of American workers, farmers, and small businesses.

“Next, the Committee will consider the Moving Americans Privacy Protection Act, introduced by Representatives Waltz and Pascrell. The bill requires Customs and Border Protection to remove personal information, like Social Security and passport numbers, from shipping manifests and related documents before making such documents public. All of this information can be taken by thieves to steal identities and benefits. Veterans coming home from a tour of duty deserve our deepest thanks. Failing to protect their most valuable information as they come back is a slap in the face. This bill will help fix this problem for our veterans and all Americans moving back to the United States.

“The BRIDGE for Workers Act is sponsored by Work & Welfare Subcommittee Chairman LaHood and Ranking Member Davis. Unemployment insurance is meant to help people without a job get through a rough patch and find a new job to support themselves and their family. This bill makes a small correction that allows job placement services to be extended to everyone on unemployment insurance, not just those most likely to exhaust all their benefits. It also strengthens program integrity by ensuring claimants are complying with eligibility rules. 

“The last bill we will consider is the Clergy Act introduced by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and our Tax Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Thompson. Every year, around 2,000 members of the clergy opt out of contributing to and receiving Social Security. However, this decision is irreversible under current law. Upon enactment, this bill would create a temporary window where clergy members can opt back into the Social Security system, similar to what Congress did in the late 1990s.

“I urge my colleagues to support these bipartisan solutions to make a real difference in the lives of working Americans.”