By Emily Cyr
Balancing a budget is not a hard concept, maybe difficult to execute but not tough in theory. Don’t spend more than you make, right? This was a common question among lawmakers during Thursday’s House Ways and Means Committee Hearing on President Obama’s FY 2017 budget. The hearing came on the heels of House GOP preemptively rejecting the budget, and denying the president’s budget chief the opportunity to testify before the budget committee, a major snub. However, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew got to field the questions of Congress, and many of them actually had to do with issues outside the continental United States.
One topic brought up by multiple members of the House was inversions. A corporate inversion, most simply put, is when a corporation relocates its legal domicile (in other words, headquarters) abroad to reduce corporate income taxes. And although in name a company may be headquartered in Europe, the majority of their material operations are still in the United States. This is why companies like Pfizer have joined with Allergan- because Allergan calls Ireland, not America, home (though they used to). This is considered the largest inversion ever and both Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew agree that another year of these inversions cannot go on. Preventing that would require overhauling the tax code- which is what Speaker Paul Ryan wanted to do when he was Chairman of Ways and Means.
Another major issue that arose had to do with Puerto Rico and their economic crisis. Just last month, Secretary Lew took a trip to Puerto Rico and now is urging Congress to pass legislation to let Puerto Rico restructure their debt- an action they do not have the capacity to do right now. Lew stated the people of Puerto Rico are “doing unthinkable things,” and with 3,000 people leaving the island a month, he fears they may never recover.
There were also concerns raised about the lifting of sanctions in Iran, taxes on small business and the credibility- or lack therefore- of the IRS. Yet despite all these concerns, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), the last committee member to speak in the nearly three hour session, ended by saying “We do not need to make America great again, we are already great”. Optimistic? Pointed? Interpret as you will.