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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BUNNING. Mr. President, I probably will not take the 15 minutes but somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

I rise in strong opposition to the nomination of Lael Brainard to be Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs.

I do not think it is unreasonable for the American people to expect nominees to important posts in the Treasury Department to have a clean record in the payment of their taxes. After all, Treasury is responsible for collecting taxes. Treasury nominees have a special responsibility to live up to the same high standards the Department demands from ordinary citizens. But the American people deserve much more than just someone with a clean tax record. They deserve a nominee who is honest, trustworthy, and straightforward.

The Finance Committee's bipartisan investigation of Ms. Brainard revealed she does not have a clean tax record. At worst, she refuses to be straightforward and honest about her tax records.

The Finance Committee looks into the tax record of every nominee who comes before the committee. A routine examination of Ms. Brainard's past few tax returns revealed many problems. When asked if she has paid all her taxes on time, she did not reveal several cases in which she had failed to pay her taxes on time.

When she was asked, on her nomination questionnaire, if she was current with all her taxes at the time she was nominated, she replied yes. But, in fact, that was not true. She was well overdue on paying county property taxes and DC employment insurance taxes at the time.

There were also several problems with the forms she was supposed to file to prove that her household employee was legally able to work in this country. On one form, there was a serious problem with a space that the household employee is required to sign. It appears Ms. Brainard filled in that space with her own signature, and she could not provide an explanation of why she did so.

On another form, dates appear to have been written over to change the year. She could provide no explanation of why this was done.

On two different forms, Ms. Brainard missed the deadline for completing the employer portion of the form. On another form, the employer portion was filled in 1 month before the employee portion, but the law requires the employee portion to be filled in first.

On yet another form, the employee certification section lists her husband's name, but the signature is hers.

On another form, the employee section is filled in, but the required employer certification section was left blank.

There was another problem of the home office deduction which she claimed in the past several years. She could not provide a clear and consistent reason for taking a home office deduction of one-sixth of her household expenses. She was unable to provide a credible reason for the size of the deduction. She reduced her home office deduction to one-twelfth of household expenses on her 2008 tax return. However, she did not reduce the deduction on her 2005, 2006 or 2007 tax return, all of which had the inflated deduction.

Some Senators might come to the conclusion that these tax problems alone should not disqualify the nominee. They may say that, at worst, this is simply a pattern of sloppiness. Do we want someone who is so sloppy in her tax responsibilities to be in charge of international affairs at the Treasury Department?

But this is not just a matter of sloppiness. This is a matter of total lack of candor with the Finance Committee and, by extension, with the Senate and, by extension, with the American people.

Ms. Brainard spent 9 months stonewalling the Finance Committee over all these tax issues. She gave evasive and incomplete answers to the staff of the committee. The level of evasiveness of this nominee appears to be unprecedented. The committee had to submit 10 rounds of questions to clarify inconsistencies and incomplete answers Ms. Brainard had given. Several of those questions have been left unanswered.

The many tax problems of this nominee and the extreme difficulty the Finance Committee had in getting straight answers about these problems was outlined in a bipartisan memo Senator Grassley entered into the Congressional Record on December 23 of last year. If we cannot trust Ms. Brainard to be truthful and straightforward when she is a nominee, how can the American people trust her to be straightforward and honest when she is confirmed and serving in the Obama administration?

As Under Secretary for International Affairs, she would be involved in some highly sensitive issues, such as the determination of whether China is manipulating its currency.

Do we want someone with such an abysmal record on truthfulness serving in this high position in the Treasury Department representing our country?

This is not just a matter of taxes. It is a matter of trust. The American people deserve a person we can trust in this very important position. That person is not Lael Brainard. We cannot trust someone who gives evasive, inconsistent, and incomplete answers to routine questions. We cannot trust someone who spends 9 months refusing to come clean about her record. We cannot trust someone who refuses to be straightforward about her tax problems because she is so desperate to be confirmed.

Mr. President, someone with this record is a terrible choice to serve in the Treasury Department. I urge my fellow Senators and my colleagues to consider this record before they vote on this nomination. I urge a ``no'' vote on this nomination.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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