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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how Democrats intend to pay for their so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” by increasing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits and placing new burdens on taxpayers. Thune noted that the Democrats’ bill would provide for the hiring of as many as 87,000 new IRS employees, which would more than double the current size of the agency and make it larger than the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard combined.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, August inflation numbers came out this week, and they weren’t good.
“Inflation was even higher than expected.
“And it was very clear that soaring prices are likely to continue for quite a while.
“But as usual, that doesn’t seem to concern Democrats one bit.
“The president was asked Tuesday if he was concerned about August’s even-worse-than-expected inflation report.
“‘No, I’m not.’
“It was just one more tone-deaf moment for the president and Democrats.
“On Tuesday the president and Democrats gathered at the White House to congratulate themselves for having passed their so-called Inflation Reduction Act – a bill that will do nothing to reduce inflation.
“That’s not just my opinion, Mr. President.
“That was the conclusion of the nonpartisan Penn Wharton Budget Model.
“And of the Democrat chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, who referred to the bill as the “so-called Inflation Reduction Act” on the Senate floor while admitting it would do nothing to solve our inflation crisis.
“But that didn’t stop Democrats from celebrating yesterday.
“For most of us, of course, it’s difficult to understand what there was to celebrate.
“Leaving aside the issue of 40-year high inflation, we already know that the bill will also fall short in another respect – on deficit reduction.
“Democrats’ claims that the bill would provide meaningful deficit reduction were always somewhat dubious, but even granting Democrats’ rosiest assumptions, President Biden wiped out any deficit reduction when he announced his massive student loan giveaway eight days after the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law.
“So no inflation reduction, no deficit reduction … oh, and the Inflation Reduction Act will drive up energy bills for Americans.
“So what was there to celebrate?
“Well, for Democrats, the Inflation Reduction Act marked a chance to finally push through some of their far-left, Green New Deal fantasies.
“Things like electric vehicle tax credits to help wealthy Americans buy electric cars.
“More than $60 billion for “environmental justice priorities” – including $1.9 billion for things like identifying gaps in tree canopy coverage.
“And the list goes on.
“So I think Democrats are pretty satisfied with themselves over finally jamming through elements of their Green New Deal agenda.
“Then of course they succeeded in extending increased Obamacare subsidies that will push Americans off of private health care plans and into government-run care.
“And then there are the tax hikes.
“Mr. President, the current Democrat leader once said, ‘You don’t want to take money out of the economy when the economy is shrinking’ – like it has the previous two quarters.
“But those days are long gone.
“For Democrats, raising taxes has become an article of faith.
“And it goes far beyond raising money to help pay for their big-government spending.
“Democrats believe raising taxes on corporations and well-off Americans is a good in and of itself – even if those tax hikes have a negative effect on less well-off Americans, and the economy.
“And the tax hikes Democrats have included in their so-called Inflation Reduction Act will indeed have a negative effect on our economy and on the hardworking Americans who help support it.
“Democrats’ tax hikes on businesses will result in slower growth, lower wages, and thousands fewer jobs.
“And Democrats’ tax hikes on conventional energy will result in higher energy bills for working families.
“Mr. President, in addition to raising taxes, the other main way the Inflation Reduction Act raises revenue is by increasing IRS audits and placing new burdens on taxpayers.
“Democrats’ bill contains a whopping $80 billion for the IRS.
“More than half of those funds, or $46 billion, are earmarked for increased IRS enforcement.
“Just 4 percent is for improving customer service – which should tell you all you need to know about where Democrats’ real priorities lie.
“The bill would provide for the hiring of as many as 87,000 new IRS employees – which would more than double the current size of the agency and make the IRS larger than Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard put together.
“Mr. President, in the lead-up to passage of Democrats’ bill, the Biden administration put out a statement declaring that the money for IRS enforcement would not go to increased audits of households making less than $400,000.
“Because we had reason to doubt that would be the case, Republicans put forward an amendment to the bill to prevent the IRS from using its new money to audit those Americans.
“Every Democrat – every Democrat – voted against the amendment.
“I guess Democrats are happy to oppose more IRS audits of middle-class Americans in theory, but they don’t want to cut off the possibility of those audits in practice if they end up needing them to help fund their Green New Deal spending.
“Mr. President, I don’t need to tell anyone that the IRS is notorious for mishandling sensitive taxpayer data.
“As recently as this month, we learned that the IRS had inadvertently posted confidential taxpayer data for around 120,000 individuals on its website – private taxpayer information that was available to the general public.
“Then of course there was last year’s leak or hack of confidential taxpayer information that was shared with the left-leaning ProPublica and used to advance a partisan agenda – for which, I might add, neither the IRS nor the Biden administration has provided any accountability.
“Then there was the infamous targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny under the Obama IRS.
“And the list goes on.
“And I haven’t even discussed the IRS’ record of grossly underperforming – some would say nonexistent – customer service.
“During the 2022 tax season, just 10 percent of taxpayer calls – 10 percent – were answered by an IRS employee.
“What we need to be doing is holding the IRS accountable, not setting tens of thousands of new IRS agents loose on taxpayer accounts.
“Earlier this week I joined my Republican colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to introduce legislation to prevent the IRS from using its new funding to audit American workers or small business owners earning less than $400,000 per year.
“I also introduced a bill this week – along with Senator Collins – to improve taxpayer service at the IRS.
“Our legislation – the Increase Reliable Services Now Act – would prevent the IRS from hiring new employees for enforcement until customer service at the IRS has reached a more acceptable level.
“It is unacceptable that taxpayers have a 1 in 10 chance of receiving assistance when calling the IRS.
“And the agency should not be allowed to increase enforcement hires until it has achieved a basic level of customer service.
“I will continue to work to increase IRS accountability and prevent hardworking Americans from being squeezed to fund Democrats’ Green New Deal spending.
“Mr. President, like the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan spending spree before it – which helped plunge our country into our current inflation crisis – the Inflation Reduction Act is a bad deal for the American people.
“And all the self-congratulatory White House parties in the world won’t change that fact.
“Americans are experiencing serious economic hardship … and Democrats are doing nothing to help.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”