Reid Remarks On IRS And Budget Conference

“The alleged actions of IRS employees in the Cincinnati field office are a terrible breach of the public’s trust. Targeting any group based on its political stance is completely inappropriate.”

“The Senior Senator from Montana, Max Baucus, is also looking into this matter in his role as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. If the Inspector General’s report indicates further investigation is needed, I have full confidence in the abilities of Senator Baucus and the Finance Committee to get to the bottom of this matter and recommend appropriate action.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the recent reports of abuses by the International Revenue Service and  the Republican objections to going to conference on the budget. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

I have been following closely the reports on irregularities in Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of applications for non-profit status. These allegations are very troubling, and I intend to take a close look at the Inspector General’s report when it is released.

Concerns such as these are the reason we have Inspectors General. They are tasked with finding and preventing fraud, waste and abuse; identifying breeches of law and protocol; and promoting efficiency in the federal government.

Our Inspectors General have an excellent record. J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, has an exceptional reputation as watchdog for the IRS. I am glad he is examining this issue. And I look forward to his report.

The alleged actions of IRS employees in the Cincinnati field office are a terrible breach of the public’s trust. Targeting any group based on its political stance is completely inappropriate. We need to get to the bottom of what happened here.

In the meantime, no one should jump to conclusions. But rest assured, as soon as we have the Inspector General’s report, the Senate will quickly take appropriate action.

The Senior Senator from Montana, Max Baucus, is also looking into this matter in his role as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. If the Inspector General’s report indicates further investigation is needed, I have full confidence in the abilities of Senator Baucus and the Finance Committee to get to the bottom of this matter and recommend appropriate action.

BUDGET CONFERENCE

Fifty-one days ago, the United States Senate passed its sensible, pro-growth budget. Common sense – and more than two centuries of history – dictates that the next step would be to go to conference and try to find common ground between our budget and the budget passed by the House of Representatives.

The conference committee is one of the oldest traditions of American government. In fact, during the first session of Congress – on April 7, 1789, the day after a quorum had been secured and the first meeting of Congress was held – the Senate charged a committee with setting out the rules for such conferences. During that first Congress, the two Houses convened conference committees to consider a number of disagreements – including differences of opinion over amendments to the Constitution, legislation regulating the courts and the bills that created the Post Office and the Treasury.

In this esteemed tradition, Democrats wish to resolve our differences over the budget in a conference committee subject to the disinfectant of public scrutiny, instead of behind closed doors.

A number of Republican Senators have joined Democrats in calling for a conference. This is what the Senior Senator from Arizona, a Republican, said last week: “I’m very much in favor of it, and I think we ought to do it right away… After four years of complaining about Harry Reid’s failure to bring up a budget and then we do one and block conference is… incomprehensible.”

After three years of Republican yearning for such regular order, Democrats assumed every Republican Senator would be enthusiastic to go to conference. But although a few Republicans, such as Senator McCain, have called for a conference committee, Republican leaders have refused for weeks to name conferees – flouting more than 200 years of tradition. Republican leaders have also refused to explain why they won’t go to conference.

But the longer Republicans delay, the more transparent their partisan, political tactics become. Republicans hope to put off a fiscal compromise until our backs are up against yet another manufactured crisis – a catastrophic default on this country’s financial obligations.

Republicans hope to again use the threat of default as a bargaining chip to extract concessions, including tax breaks for the wealthy, drastic cuts to Medicare or more draconian cuts to programs that keep the elderly, the sick, the disabled and the most vulnerable Americans from slipping into poverty.

Even though Republicans caused themselves immense political harm by pursuing this wrong-headed strategy last summer, they’re at it again. And this time, Republicans aren’t even hiding their desire to cause a first-of-its-kind default on our nation’s financial obligations.

Last week the House of Representatives passed a bill called the Full Faith and Credit Act – an Orwellian name if ever I’ve heard one. This legislation ranks the nation’s debts in order of priority. In the event of a Republican-forced default, the nation would stop payments to Medicare, veterans, active-duty military service members and national security personnel, among other priorities. Instead, Republicans would pay China first.

In addition to threatening the full faith and credit of the United States, this legislation would cost American jobs, hurt businesses and tank the economy. And it wouldn’t actually prevent default.

If an American family has a mortgage payment, a car payment and a credit card bill, but pays only one of the three bills, that family is in default. The federal government lives by the same rules.

If we pay China, but default on our obligations to our veterans, we are in default. If we pay China, but not our border patrol, FBI or drug enforcement agents, we are in default. If we pay China, but not our troops serving overseas, we are in default. The Republican approach – to default on the bills – is irresponsible.

Republicans know this risky measure is a non-starter in the Senate. And even if it could pass the Senate, President Obama would veto it.

Americans are tired of these protracted fights over the debt ceiling. It is through compromise – not through hostage taking or political blackmail – that we can set our nation on the road to fiscal responsibility. That compromise begins by going to conference on the budget. Americans agree the path to economic prosperity runs through the regular order of the legislative process – a process that honors 200 years of Congressional tradition.

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