March 28, 2019 - Issue: Vol. 165, No. 54 — Daily Edition116th Congress (2019 - 2020) - 1st Session
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 54
(Senate - March 28, 2019)
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[Pages S2090-S2092] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS By Mr. GRASSLEY (for himself and Mr. Wyden): S. 928. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modernize and improve the Internal Revenue Service, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance. Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am pleased that my colleague, Finance Committee Ranking Member Wyden, will be joining me in introducing the Taxpayer First Act of 2019 later today. This legislation seeks to modernize the Internal Revenue Service, improve taxpayers' services, and strengthen taxpayer protections. The package of IRS reforms we will introduce today is the culmination of years of work by both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. It is truly a bipartisan package that adopts provisions authored by committee members on both sides of the aisle of the House and the Senate. Former Chairman Hatch of Utah deserves a lot of credit for working to reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement at the end of the last Congress, which is reflected in the legislation we will be introducing this afternoon. I know Senator Hatch put a lot of work into trying to get this legislation across the finish line last year. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be, due to both political realities and, maybe, time constraints--even more so. However, his work helped us get to where we are today. In other words, we are advancing a great deal of what Senator Hatch worked on, and our hope is that it will allow us to move quickly this year and finally get these commonsense reforms of the Internal Revenue Service enacted into law. Some of the IRS reforms in this legislation include establishing a truly independent Office of Appeals within the Internal Revenue Service. This will help ensure the playing field is not tilted against taxpayers when those taxpayers are in dispute with the Internal Revenue Service. To help bring the Internal Revenue Service into the 21st century, the legislation also would require the IRS to submit to Congress a plan to redesign the structure of the Agency to improve efficiency, enhance cyber security, and better meet taxpayer needs. It also includes a number of provisions to protect the taxpayers better from tax ID theft and improve taxpayer interaction with the IRS, should they become a victim of that crime. This includes creating a single point of contact in the IRS to help the taxpayers navigate the bureaucracy and resolve their issues as quickly as possible. To provide taxpayers with better protection against becoming such a victim in the first place, the legislation will expand to all taxpayers an IRS program that currently allows victims--and only victims--of tax ID theft to obtain a personalized PIN that better secures the identity of any taxpayer who asks for it. The legislation also puts in place new safeguards to protect taxpayers against recent IRS enforcement abuses of so-called structuring laws. On several occasions, the IRS used these laws to seize bank accounts of small business owners when no underlying criminal activity was present. This includes seizing $33,000 from a small business owner who operated a small restaurant in Arnolds Park, IA, for nearly 40 years. The IRS--on a whim, taking $33,000 from that small business--caused the business to close, and the owner did nothing wrong in the end. Provisions in our bill will help ensure these types of abuses never occur again. I would also like to note the improvements to the IRS whistleblower program that are contained in the bill. [[Page S2091]] In 2006, I authored legislation establishing a mandatory Internal Revenue Service whistleblower program. Since it was established, the IRS whistleblower program has turned into one of the most effective programs addressing tax evasion, leading to the recovery of more than $5 billion in taxes that otherwise would have been lost to fraud. Unfortunately, too many IRS whistleblowers continue to be treated like a skunk at a picnic. They often wait for years, and while they are waiting for years, it is in the dark, with no indication of whether the information they provided to the IRS would ever lead to a successful recovery or whether their reward is even being processed. Moreover, they are often putting their careers on the line, exposing corporate tax shelters with no protection should their employer decide to retaliate. Provisions in our bill will help to address these issues by authorizing the IRS to communicate with whistleblowers, in certain instances, while protecting taxpayer privacy. What we are really saying is this: You ought to let these whistleblowers, who are patriotic people, trying to help the Federal Government collect money that wouldn't otherwise be collected--treat them like the patriotic citizens they are. The bill would also extend anti-retaliation provisions to IRS whistleblowers that are presently afforded to whistleblowers under other whistleblower laws--the False Claims Act, which I authored in 1986, as well as the more recent Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which came out of another committee that I didn't serve on. Finally, the bill includes modifications to the private debt collection program. I have long been a proponent of this program as a way to tackle the tax gap and to promote tax fairness. It works by assigning certain tax debts, which the IRS otherwise would not attempt to collect, to an outside contractor to pursue. In other words, if the IRS isn't going to go after all the money that is owed to the taxpayers--and we don't want $1 more than what people owe, but we want every dollar that people do owe--if they aren't going to go after it, we ought to find some way to go after it. That is why we have outside contractors pursuing some of these issues that the IRS isn't going to pursue. Recent quarterly revenue reports demonstrate the program has the potential to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on an annual basis. I understand some of my colleagues, particularly on the House Ways and Means Committee, have been concerned that the program has been too heavily focused on lower income taxpayers. We listened to these concerns, and we worked to develop a sensible compromise while yet strengthening the long-term viability of this program. These are just a few of the provisions in this bill. There are many others that will go a long way toward making the IRS work better for taxpayers. I also know that some of my colleagues have additional ideas that we were unable to include in this package. I want them to know that I see this legislation as a first step toward reforming the IRS and strengthening taxpayers' protections. I agree there is more that we can do. I am committed to evaluating additional proposals with input from all of our colleagues on reforms that could be included in a package of additional IRS reforms later this Congress. But first things first. Companion legislation is being introduced in the House, which I hope the Senate will receive in the near future. I ask all of my colleagues to join me and Ranking Member Wyden in supporting this bipartisan bill. ______ By Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Ms. Murkowski, Mrs. Gillibrand, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Bennet, Ms. Smith, Ms. Hirono, Ms. Cortez Masto, Ms. Harris, and Ms. Rosen): S. 923. A bill to fight homelessness in the United States by authorizing a grant program within the Health Resources and Services Administration for housing programs that offer comprehensive services and intensive case management for homeless individuals and families; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the ``Fighting Homelessness with Services and Housing Act.'' This bill would help address our Nation's current homelessness crisis by establishing a new Federal grant program to increase support for comprehensive services paired with housing. As we have seen with the growing diversity of our homeless populations--families with children, veterans, individuals with mental health conditions, people who simply could not keep up with increases in rent--our Nation's homelessness crisis is not going to resolve itself on its own. According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are more than 552,000 homeless individuals and families in the United States. Nearly 25 percent of this population is in California, with approximately 129,972 homeless people sleeping on the streets on any given night. In a Nation as prosperous as ours, we can and we must do better. Our city, county, state, and Federal governments must work hand-in-hand with the non-profit and private sectors to establish collaborative efforts to significantly address the issue of homelessness. The good news is that we have seen a model that works: supportive housing can truly stabilize an individual or family and change their life. Supportive services such as mental and physical health care, substance abuse treatment, education and job training, and life skills such as financial literacy are critical components. Paired with intensive case management, supportive housing models make a difference. One success story is the Downtown Women's Center in Los Angeles. This shelter allows homeless and formerly homeless women to transform their lives through a combination of permanent, supportive housing and workforce development. This would not be possible without the Center's partnerships with the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Department of Health, and other critical stakeholders. I've visited the Center, and I encourage my colleagues to do the same to see why this model works. It will take a significant investment to solve the current homelessness crisis. The ``Fighting Homelessness with Services and Housing Act'' authorizes a new Federal funding grant program of $750 million per year, subject to annual appropriations. Grantees must serve individuals or families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by providing housing paired with a comprehensive set of services, and they must provide a 25 percent match for any Federal funds received. Because each individual and every community is unique, the grant program created by this bill would be flexible in order to work in any region or for any homeless population. This bill supports the great work already being done across the country, allowing local governmental entities and non-profit organizations to expand their capacity and ensure a greater reach by putting Federal dollars where they will make the most effective impact. This bipartisan legislation is supported by a wide coalition of local government, housing, health, and child welfare organizations, including the Child Welfare League of America, Children's Defense Fund, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Mayors and CEOS for U.S. Housing Investment, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association of Counties, National Education Association, National League of Cities, National Low Income Housing Coalition, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, and Treatment Communities of America. I particularly want to thank Senator Murkowski for working with me on this important issue. I hope our colleagues will join us in cosponsoring the bill and moving it through the Senate. Thank you Mr. President. I yield the floor. ______ By Ms. COLLINS (for herself and Mrs. Feinstein): S. 959. A bill to establish in the Smithsonian Institution a comprehensive women's history museum, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Rules and Administration. [[Page S2092]] Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I am pleased to introduce, along with the senior Senator from California, Mrs. Feinstein, the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum Act. This bill would establish an American women's history museum in our Nation's Capital. American women have made invaluable contributions to our country in every field, such as government, business, medicine, law, literature, sports, entertainment, the arts, and the military. Telling the history of American women matters, and a museum recognizing these achievements and experiences is long overdue. In 1999, a Presidential commission on commemorating women in American history concluded that an ``appropriate celebration of women's history in the next millennium should include the designation of a focal point for women's history in our Nation's capital.'' In 2014, Congress took an important step toward realizing this goal when it passed legislation creating an independent, bipartisan commission to study the potential for establishing such a museum in Washington, DC. Following 18 months of study, the bipartisan commission unanimously concluded, ``America needs and deserves a physical national museum dedicated to showcasing the historical experiences and impact of women in the country.'' I could not agree more. The bill we are introducing takes the next step toward creating this national museum. Incorporating the recommendations of the bipartisan Commission, the bill would establish a national museum to collect, study, and create programs incorporating and exhibiting a wide spectrum of American women's experiences, contributions, and history. The Smithsonian Institution would be the governing body, ensuring that this museum is free and open to all who visit Washington, DC. Following the Commission's recommendation, the Smithsonian has begun an American Women's History Initiative to increase its research and programming related to American women, past and present. Mr. President, this year we commemorate the 100th anniversary of American women's suffrage and the decades-long fight for women's equality at the ballot box. The story, leaders, and lessons of women's suffrage are among the most powerful in our nation's history. Amid celebrations of that historic moment, I can think of few better ways to honor those women and that momentous achievement than by passing this legislation. A museum dedicated to women's history would help ensure that future generations understand what we owe to those American women who have helped build, sustain, and advance our society. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation. ____________________