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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3996, Temporary Tax relief Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 3996, TEMPORARY TAX RELIEF ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - November 09, 2007)


Mr. HULSHOF. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

It's Friday. We're about to go home. What have we done this week? Well, we've seen earmarks for golf courses air-dropped into the Defense appropriations conference report. The Woodstock Hippie Museum is now back in play for Federal dollars. Is there any dispute that Congress has earned its 11 percent approval rating.

Today's bridge to nowhere take us to Albany, New York where lawmakers of that State's legislature will enjoy a per diem write-off for days that they are not working in their State capital.

I say to my friend from Washington, imagine if you were an IRS tax compliance officer, probably with an approval rating higher than Congress, and this was the scenario presented to you. A hypothetical State, we'll call it State Y, begins its legislative session in early January and adjourns its legislative calendar at the end of June. Nothing unusual about that. But this particular State legislature extends its session, declares itself to be in session for the remainder of the year, even though no legislative business is conducted. The question before the IRS is, should those lawmakers be entitled to a $150 a day per diem for days that they are not in their State capital?

The IRS ruled, correctly in my view, that they should not be entitled to this special tax break.

Well, notwithstanding that, in this bill, tucked away, is a provision that basically says that this per diem is allowed for all 365 days. And for those of you that are quickly doing the math on the back of your envelope, $150 plus a day equals $55,000 a year. Now, who foots that bill? Taxpayers from Missouri, taxpayers from the State of Washington, taxpayers from Massachusetts.

Now, I will give credit, I see my friend from Oregon is here, who, in committee, voted with us, as well as the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Doggett) that this was an inappropriate provision. I applaud the gentlemen for that.

The IRS in its tax policy and priority guidance, in other words, the red flags that the IRS really wanted to take a look at was, in fact, this specific provision. The IRS had raised a red flag. But because of the powerful chairman, I see him on the floor, my good friend from New York, the powerful chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and the powerful chairman of the Rules Committee, who coincidentally happen to hail from the State in question, instead of a red flag by the IRS, they now have to wave a white flag. And again, taxpayers across the country are on the hook.

I would just say this, and I say this somewhat tongue in cheek.

When we get to the larger debate about the alternative minimum tax, I think one thing that all of us agree upon, of course, is that with the intent of that tax we have gone far afield. Unfortunately, I suspect we are going to have a lot of finger-pointing and partisanship and Republicans didn't do this and didn't pay attention or whatever. I would simply point out that facts are stubborn things in the fact that in 1969 I think the party in control during that session of Congress creating the tax was then the Democratic majority, and I seem to recall that the Republican Congress sent to a Democratic President a bill that would have completely, finally, permanently repealed the alternative minimum tax; and, unfortunately, the Democratic President vetoed that bill. So I think there is enough blame to go around if that's why you're coming to the floor to assign blame.

But the AMT, as has been pointed out, was originally created by the then-majority to hit about 150-plus wealthy families. This particular provision inserted not an extended, expiring provision, but a brand-new provision, but this brand new provision helps 150 legislators. Of this rifle shot, former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Rostenkowski would most certainly be proud.

I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule.


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