Vice Chairman Leahy Statement on the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Funding Request for the U.S. Department of Treasury

Thank you, Chairwoman Capito and Ranking Member Coons, for the opportunity to make a few brief opening remarks.

Commissioner Koskinen, it’s great to see you again. The last time we spoke, we found we agreed on more than we disagreed, and I have appreciated a close working relationship with you.  It should be of no surprise to you that I want to emphasize the importance of taxpayer services. Reductions to those services disproportionately impact rural communities. Commissioner, you have been tasked to work within impossible funding limitations. At a time when so many are talking about making our budget work for the taxpayers, those limitations in services only result in the taxpayers suffering. Vermonters continue to talk to me about delayed refunds, identity theft, difficulty obtaining forms, and collections issues.  Many of these cases can be resolved if Congress gives you the resources you need to provide taxpayer assistance.  These Vermonters want to do the right thing and pay their tax obligations. Their frustrations with the IRS is something we can – and should – fix. 

Secretary Mnuchin, those of us who served the American people during the 2008 financial crisis will never forget the hardship that families suffered all across the country. Serious flaws in our Nation’s financial regulatory system allowed many large Wall Street investment banks and insurance companies to hide the insecurity of their finances from stockholders and the American people.  As a result, the salaries of corporate executives rose to extreme levels even as their own companies continued to fail. The DoddFrank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – a law – is in place to prevent this from happening again, and will protect the very people who lost everything just nine years ago. Millions of families lost their businesses, their homes, and their savings. I will never forget that period of time. Nor will the Vermonters I represent. And yet it is clear from President Trump’s budget that he does not understand what the American people need. I have now considered the budget proposals of eight presidents, I can tell you that this budget is in fact a disservice to the American people.  It is no foundation for greatness.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), discretionary programs have been recklessly slashed by $2 trillion under post-sequestration budget cuts.  The resulting cuts have taken their toll on everything from the readiness of U.S. armed forces to millions of families not receiving heating assistance, from stark decreases in job training and employment programs to housing assistance.  The consequences of these cuts will be felt for generations. 

Unless a budget deal is reached, the BCA would demand another $5 billion in cuts from fiscal year 2017 funding levels -- $2 billion from defense and $3 billion from non-defense discretionary funding.  If the caps are not met and without a bipartisan budget agreement, the House Republican’s irresponsible proposal will result in a $72 billion (13.2 percent) sequester across all defense accounts in January. On top of that, we are up against is the Federal Government’s statutory borrowing limit in.  The failure to raise the debt limit could cause credit markets to freeze, the dollar to plummet, and interest rates to rise precipitously.  I fear a Government default on its debts could prove so catastrophic that it could potentially result in severe economic recession.  We have been up against this deadline in the past, and this has got to stop. Governing by way of one manufactured crisis after another must stop.

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