(Senate - March 28, 2019)

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[Pages S2090-S2092]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      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 
  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 
  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.