DC Dispatch: Ernst calls for IRS audit; Legislation to assist veterans

As Congress reconvenes, Republicans in Iowa support measures they say will keep the impact of the inflation-reduction law in check.

U.S. Senator Joni Earnest announced this week that the Inspector General of the Tax Administration’s Treasury, or TIGTA, has approved its request for an Internal Revenue Service employee audit. Earnest said hundreds of IRS employees, including tax collectors and criminal investigators, failed to pay their taxes, including 300 employees as “repeated offenders.”

“We have a real problem if IRS employees who enforce the tax code don’t pay their taxes and can’t even understand how to properly fill out their tax forms,” ​​Earnest said on the Senate floor on Thursday.

The scrutiny request comes as the IRS prepares to expand through its Inflation Reduction Act, the sweeping $740 million spending bill that was signed into law in August. The legislation, which also includes green energy incentives and limits on drug costs, increases the IRS budget by about $80 billion over a decade. The bulk of that funding, more than $45 billion, will go toward expanding the application — hiring more IRS agents, providing legal support and improving technology to enforce financial laws.

Ernst called on President Joe Biden to reconsider hiring 87,000 IRS agents, and instead address “double standards” for service. It cited TIGTA reports from 2017 and 2019 that found the IRS rehired previously terminated employees and did “not much” to discipline others who failed to file federal tax returns. And if even IRS agents can’t figure out how to properly file their taxes, she said, simplifying tax law should take priority over enforcement.

“Washington’s wrong priorities are creating problems for the rest of America,” said Earnest. “No one in Iowa I speak to is pleading for more IRS auditors.”

Other Republican congressional leaders in Iowa also opposed the Inflation Reduction Act. US Representative Ashley Henson said the best way to combat inflation, which rose again in August according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics data, is for the government to cut costs.

“Everything has gotten more expensive since President Biden took office and trillions of dollars in wasteful spending,” Henson said in a statement. “Although higher prices hurt family budgets and force people to dip into their savings to stay afloat, President Biden and Speaker Pelosi can’t seem to stop spending.”

Iowa representatives support veterans’ welfare bills

A bipartisan representative of the US state of Iowa praised the legislation passed by the US House of Representatives earlier this week to improve Veterans Affairs benefits. The five bills include measures to modernize the VA home loan evaluation process, increase compensation rates for certain benefits to reflect inflation, and extend the time frame for educational payments for GI bills.

Reps. Randy Finstra and Marianette Miller-Mex each voted in favor of all five legislation.

“As a grateful nation, we must always ensure that veterans and their families receive the highest level of health care, education and benefits that they have rightly received,” Finstra said in a statement about the legislation.

U.S. Representative Cindy Axen, the only Democrat elected in Iowa in Washington, backed one of the legislation passed: the Faster Payments to Veterans Survivors Act. In 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that nearly 15,000 people whose family members died in service owed more than $155 million in unpaid life insurance benefits. The law aims to modernize the VA’s process for finding and paying survivors and deceased veterans while shortening the time frame for administration and payment of beneficiaries.

Axen said getting the money owed to family members of the veterans is “the least we can do” in honor of their military service.

“Our nation’s veterans have devoted their lives to serving our country, and the last thing they should worry about is whether their families will be financially secure when they pass,” Axen said in a statement.

When the legislation was passed, Miller Mix drew attention to a resolution I co-sponsored earlier this year defining the week of September 18 as “Golden Star Families Remembrance Week.” Gold Star families are the immediate family members of a military service member who died in the conflict. She said these actions honor and help military personnel and their families.

“As a veteran, one of my highest priorities in Congress has been to improve support for our men and women in uniform during and after their service,” Miller-Mix said in a statement. “Our soldiers risk their lives to defend our liberties, and we must do everything we can to facilitate their transition to civilian life.”

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