A picture of Representative James P. McGovern
James M.
Democrat MA 2

About Rep. James
  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 644, Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 636, America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2015

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2015-02-12

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    McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. Cole) for yielding me the customary 30 minutes, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    (Mr. McGOVERN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.) Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, today we are considering two pieces of tax legislation under closed rules. These mark our 10th and 11th closed rules in the first 6 weeks of the 114th Congress. Sadly, this has become the standard operating procedure in the Republican House.

    In 2011, when Republicans took the majority, Speaker Boehner promised ``the right to a robust debate in open process.'' He promised many open rules. Instead, we have just ended the most closed Congress in history. And if these past 6 weeks are any indication of where we are headed, this leadership seems intent on breaking its own record for denying open debate on the House floor.

    I also want to point out that the Department of Homeland Security runs out of money February 28, 16 days from now. Press reports indicate that the Republican leadership is scrambling to gather the votes necessary to pass a bill.

    Well, Mr. Speaker, I have some advice for my friends in the majority. Instead of yelling, instead of pouting and swearing, bring to the floor a clean Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill, the bipartisan negotiated compromise that has been ready to go since last November. This is a bill that could and should be sent to the President as quickly as possible, especially considering the international and national homeland security situation facing the U.S. and the world at this very, very moment.

    So I have to say that I am a little perplexed as to why the majority has chosen this week to bring to the floor a package of tax breaks that are not paid for, that are going nowhere, 5 legislative days before the Department of Homeland Security is going to be forced to shut down because of Republican dithering.

    And I say going nowhere because Senate Republicans have said quite clearly that these bills will not likely be considered in committee or by the full Senate. Let me repeat that. These bills are going nowhere because of the Republicans in the Senate. They have made it pretty clear.

    So the clock is ticking on funding our Homeland Security programs, Mr. Speaker. Are the Republican leaders planning to let the clock run out, planning to create another crisis? We should be debating a clean Department of Homeland Security bill right now. We ought to vote in a bipartisan way to pass it, have the Senate do the same thing, send it right to the President, and actually accomplish something.

    I am also concerned, Mr. Speaker, with the partisan approach taken by the Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee in advancing these particular tax measures. We went through this same exercise last year [[Page H995]] with a similar set of bills, only to pass in the final weeks of the 113th Congress a 1-year comprehensive ``tax extenders'' package. The Republican leadership in the House is setting the stage for a similar confrontation this year, instead of working in a productive and bipartisan manner on comprehensive tax reform.

    That is something that the American people, Democrats and Republicans, all want. They want us to be working on it, and they want us to pass a bipartisan comprehensive tax reform bill.

    The seven tax provisions before us today, packaged into two bills, will add more than $93 billion to the deficit. There was a time when my Republican friends actually cared about the deficit. I guess those days are gone.

    While I support the goals of many of the provisions contained in these bills, I cannot vote for legislation that targets only a handful of tax provisions, chooses to elevate them and make them permanent at the expense of other tax priorities, and then refuses to pay for them-- absolutely refuses to pay for them.

    This Republican package does nothing, absolutely nothing to address key priorities, like the work opportunity tax credit and the new markets tax credit. It fails to address the long-term status of the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit that work to reduce poverty.

    If these tax provisions are allowed to expire in 2017, as currently scheduled, many working poor families would lose their child tax credit, and many low-income married couples and larger families would see a cut in their EITC. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that if the EITC and the CTC provisions were to expire, ``more than 16 million people in low-income working families, including 8 million children, would fall into--or deeper into--poverty.'' The piecemeal, deficit-spending approach taken by this majority puts these working family tax provisions at risk.

    Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to see members of the Republican leadership at D.C. Central Kitchen the other day talking about hunger. D.C. Central Kitchen does incredible work to feed the hungry and help people get back on their feet.

    But count me as a little skeptical because time after time after time after time, Republicans have targeted poor people and the programs that help them.

    If my friends on the other side of the aisle are serious about ending hunger, they need to do much more than encourage donations to food banks. First and foremost, they should stop targeting SNAP, the Nation's premier antihunger program. They should stop treating SNAP as an ATM machine for other programs.

    Instead, they should work with us to increase the minimum wage or at least give us a vote on increasing the minimum wage. They should work with us to expand job training programs and make child care more affordable. They should work with us to fix the major flaw in our social safety net; namely, that when someone gets a job that doesn't pay very much, they tend to lose all their benefits and end up struggling, once again, to put food on the table, find day care for their kids, keep their house warm, and pay the rent.

    We need desperately to have a serious and thoughtful discussion about the long-term sustainability of our safety net programs.

    The Fighting Hunger Incentive Act makes permanent the enhanced deduction for contributions of food inventory. I strongly support our food banks and charitable organizations that work each and every day to feed the hungry in this country. I support efforts that provide incentives to donate food to these organizations. But one tax break does not constitute a plan to address hunger. And it certainly does not make up for the cuts to SNAP and other safety net programs that have been proposed and enacted by this Republican majority.

    So in closing, again, I would urge my colleagues to pay attention to today's National Journal Daily, the headline: ``So Far, a Congress About Nothing.'' That is what this Congress is becoming known as, ``a Congress about nothing.'' Well, work with us in a bipartisan way to change this headline, and you could do that by allowing a clean Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill to come before us. We can pass it in a bipartisan way, and we can meet the national security needs of our country and actually do something before we go home on another break.

    With that, I urge my colleagues to reject this rule and the underlying legislation.

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