Pascrell Opening Statement at Oversight Subcommittee Hearing on Taxpayer Fairness

Oct 13, 2020
Press Release

(As prepared for delivery)

Our hearing today will focus on the issue of Tax Fairness. I welcome my colleagues and our witnesses.

I must note that this is the first subcommittee meeting since the passing of our friend and colleague John Lewis. John was the Chairman or lead Democratic member on this subcommittee for the past 15 years.

I selected the Oversight panel when I first joined the committee in 2007 because I wanted to work with John.

He led the subcommittee with same grace and sense of purpose with which he led his life. I obviously cannot fill his shoes, and while our styles are not identical, I commit to do everything in my power to make John proud.

As the Subcommittee charged with conducting oversight of the programs within the umbrella of the Ways and Means Committee, our jurisdiction is broad.

Today we are focusing on one of the most critical components of American government: our voluntary tax system.

Historically, the United States has had an excellent record of compliance with our tax laws. Americans dutifully pay their taxes assuming the system is fair for all, whether you are rich as Rockefeller or just a regular Joe. 

But that foundational belief has come under attack by Donald Trump.

For five years, Trump has refused to disclose his tax returns. Trump has broken with the history of every president since Nixon and sabotaged public faith in our tax system.

Since 2017, I have led Congress’s efforts to bring sunlight to Donald Trump’s business and personal tax returns. The law is clear: under 26 United States Code, Section 6103(f). The Committee is legally and absolutely entitled to see Mr. Trump’s returns.

It is our responsibility restore the public’s trust in our system by ensuring the President’s returns are audited impartially and without political interference.

Our Chairman Richie Neal formally requested Mr. Trump’s returns in April 2019. The Administration, through Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Rettig, has refused our request. They have been breaking the law for now 555 days.

The House issued a subpoena. The administration refused to comply with the subpoena. Consequently, the House’s request for the tax returns is being stonewalled by a political, partisan judge.

We have plenty of urgency. Just two weeks ago the New York Times reported that self-proclaimed billionaire Mr. Trump paid only $750 in taxes in 2017 and 2018. And in 10 previous years, he reportedly paid NO taxes.

I’m from North Jersey. We have teachers, police officers, firefighters, ambulance techs, and school bus drivers that pay more in taxes! How do they feel when they see their leader pays less than them?

A tax system that lets a supposed billionaire pay less than teachers, secretaries and custodians is broken.

That is why we are holding today’s hearing. And I want everyone watching us to know that I invited IRS Commissioner Rettig to join us today, but he declined.

I wonder why. What is he afraid of? Why is Donald Trump afraid refusing to disclose his taxes voluntarily?

Is it because we may learn that the true source of Trump’s so-called wealth is dirty? Or what dark figures he might be beholden to?

We have an excellent panel of witnesses to help us answer those questions today. I look forward to their testimony.

But first, let me yield to my friend, the Ranking Member, Mr. Kelly of Pennsylvania, for the purposes of an opening statement. We have worked and served together on this committee for eight year now and I look forward to working with you in this new capacity.