WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives plowed through 33 votes in roughly 90 minutes Friday around lunchtime Friday, a pace that U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly found “invigorating.”
“It’s amazing the difference between the two worlds,” he said.
In the previous session of Congress, when Democrats controlled the chamber, that many votes would have taken hours, said Kelly (PA-16), who represents Lawrence County in the House of Representatives.
When Republicans won the House majority in November’s elections, it meant committee leaderships also switched parties. Kelly, now chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax, which oversees federal taxation policies.
Because budget policy — including taxation — typically begins in the House, Kelly will be among Congress’ key fiscal voices for the next two years.
“We’re looking at pro-growth tax policy that allows the American people to keep more of their own money,” he said.
The federal government’s 2022 budget had $4.9 trillion in revenues and $6.2 trillion in expenditures. Kelly said he’s looking to close that gap without raising any taxes.
That means decreased spending, although the seven-term congressman vows that Republicans in the House will not support any cuts to Social Security or Medicare.
“Nobody is going to suggest any cuts to Social Security and Medicare,” he said. “That is sacred.”
Kelly’s bailiwick includes the Internal Revenue Service, which is scheduled to receive an estimated $80 billion to hire 87,000 new agents under the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed into law last year with the support of President Joe Biden.
One of the Republican-controlled House’s first initiatives was to repeal the additional spending and the new agents. Kelly — who called the law a “misnomer” because “it had nothing to do with reducing inflation” — supported the proposal.
The additional agents, which would focus on tax collection, would be a deviation of what Kelly views as the IRS’ mission.
“We want the IRS to be a service center, not just a collection center, not just an enforcement center,” he said. “We’re going to take a look at the hiring.”
Speaking as one of the federal government’s top tax policy officials, Kelly said he wanted to remind people that the IRS does not contact taxpayers by phone about issues.
In a common scam, swindlers purporting to be from the IRS call people, often preying on senior citizens, demanding immediate payment. Too often, the victims pay.
“The IRS will never call you,” Kelly said. “If you get a call from the IRS ... hang up the phone. The IRS will always contact you by letter.”
Kelly’s committee focuses on taxes, but he is keeping an eye on the national debt, which sits at approximately $31.45 trillion, about six times the entire 2022 fiscal year budget.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the federal government has already exceeded the national debt ceiling, which would require congressional action to increase the United States’ acceptable debt level.
While Kelly vows not to touch Social Security or Medicare, and about 70% of the federal budget — including interest on the national debt — is committed. The remaining 30% is what is known as “discretionary spending.”
Kelly said there is space for spending cuts that will reduce the deficit — the one-year gap between revenues and spending — and ultimately the national debt.
He likened the 2022 deficit of $1.3 trillion to a household that spends more than it takes in, and called the current path “unsustainable.”
In Kelly’s view, the only acceptable alternative is slashing spending to close the budget gap, although he didn’t cite any specific budget cuts.
“We need to look at ways we can cut without hurting ourselves,” he said. “We’re going to look at ways we can reduce our debt without raising taxes.”
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