The House Ways and Means Committee on February 28th voted 24-16 to approve its “Views and Estimates” letter that outlines the goals the panel hopes to accomplish in the current Congress.
The vote was divided along party lines. Committee Republicans, who are the majority party, supported the letter. Democrats did not.
Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) noted that Committee Democrats received the letter on February 22nd and did not provide edits to it. He said that their lack of input made it impossible to create a document that would garner bipartisan support.
"We can't just guess on what should be bipartisan," he said.
Passage of Views and Estimates letters occur at the beginning of every Congress and is normally non-controversial. Passage has historically been on a bipartisan basis and approved by a voice vote. Today’s debate and vote on the letter was anything but non-controversial.
Committee Democrats opposed the letter, in part, because it seemed to support extending the individual tax provisions in the 2017 tax reform bill without paying for the extension.
“It certainly doesn’t strike us as being fiscally responsible,” said Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass), the committee’s ranking member.
Neal also noted the committee Democrats were opposed to the panel investigating the IRS and the $80 billion that last year Congress voted to bestow it.
Views and Estimates letters are not binding and do not become law. They include language that is not specific. For example, below is the letter’s section on the tax policy that the committee wishes to pursue in the current Congress:
The Committee will prioritize tax policies that benefit American workers, families, farmers, and small businesses. The Committee recognizes that hardworking families are facing higher costs for food, fuel, housing, health care, and education, and that the tax code impacts their ability to build a more prosperous future and combat the current cost of living crisis. The Committee will examine policies that expand economic opportunity for all and grow America’s middle class. These worker-focused policies will include re-shoring investment and jobs, strengthening our supply chains, growing retirement savings, developing workforce skills and experience, and encouraging small business growth. The Committee will closely review full and fair administration of the tax laws by the Internal Revenue Service as well as revenue provisions included in the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request.
The letter’s forward includes the following:
Building on the success of tax reform and other Republican economic policies, the Committee will continue to focus on helping workers, families, farmers, and small businesses succeed.
The Committee’s Oversight Plan was also approved along partisan lines. It also does not become law, but provides more specifics on what the committee could address in the coming months.
The tax-writing committee is expected to approve legislation that seeks to curb fraudulent unemployment claims. The bill is not considered tax legislation. Passage of the bill will likely be along partisan lines and it will likely pass the House. However, it is unlikely to pass the Senate, and therefore, not become law.