In a changing of the guard, Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) has been selected by the House Republican leadership to take over as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, but what does that mean for retirement policy?
Overall, Rep. Smith appears to be somewhat of a blank slate in this area. While he did vote in favor of the Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2022—the prequel to the SECURE 2.0 Act—last March, his retirement policy résumé is less established than his predecessors in former chairs Reps. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Richard Neal (D-MA), who worked together on a bipartisan basis.
A cursory review of the bills he’s introduced over the last several years show that he has not been an original sponsor of broad-based retirement legislation. Perhaps the closest would be his sponsorship of legislation to repeal estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes.
For his part, Rep. Neal, who is now the Ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, congratulated incoming Chairman Smith. “Leading the Ways and Means Committee is an awesome responsibility, and I congratulate Jason on his selection as the new Chairman. We have worked together for years on some of the most consequential issues, and I look forward to continuing the Committee’s tradition of rising above politics to do what’s best for the American people.”
“I am hopeful that Chairman Smith will continue the long history of bipartisan retirement policymaking at the Ways and Means Committee” said Andy Remo, the ARA’s Director of Federal and State Legislative Affairs, “particularly since technical corrections, and other legislative issues are sure to arise as the massive SECURE 2.0 legislation is implemented.”
Interestingly, Smith was the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee and would have been in line to take over that committee, but leapfrogged Reps. Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) to take on the Ways and Means post. Smith still must be approved by the full House Republican caucus, but that likely won’t be an issue, as such votes are typically considered formalities.
As a reminder, the House Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over such broad-based issues as the Internal Revenue Code, Medicare, and Social Security, among several others. And there’s already talk in Washington that congressional Republicans may try to use an increase in the debt limit as a way to scale-back various spending programs, including Medicare and Social Security in exchange for increasing the limit.
Smith Takes Aim at IRS
So what does Smith have in store? According to a statement released by his office, his first order of business will be seeking to defund the IRS.
“Our first step is defunding the $80 billion pay increase Democrats gave the IRS to hire 87,000 new agents to target working families. But we are not stopping there,” Smith stated. “If confirmed, the new IRS Commissioner should plan to spend a lot of time before our committee answering questions about the leaking of sensitive taxpayer information and an agency with a history of targeting conservative Americans. We will make it clear to every IRS employee that the Ways & Means Committee welcomes whistleblower efforts to uncover corrupt behavior at that agency.”
In fact, as one of its first orders of business, the House approved legislation (H.R. 23) on a straight party-line vote of 221 to 210 to rescind the lion’s share of the $80 billion in new IRS funding Congress approved last year. That effort was largely symbolic, however, as it doesn’t stand a chance in the Senate, where Democrats still maintain control, and even then, would be vetoed by President Biden.
Other Agenda Items
Smith also noted that he plans for the committee to “build on the success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and examine how our policies can reward working families with a tax code that delivers better jobs, higher wages, and more investment in America.” The TCJA was enacted at the end of 2017 under former Chairman Brady and includes several provisions that are set to sunset in 2025.
Taking a populist tone, Smith also called for “examin[ing] whether it is in the best interests of the American people to continue showering tax benefits on corporations that have shed their American identity in favor of a relationship with China.”
The incoming chairman was not finished, criticizing Democrats for what he characterized as their dismantling of the child tax credit in 2021, and “making work less valuable than a government check.” “We must provide an on-ramp for able-bodied adults to transition into the workforce, and we must also take seriously our responsibility to create the economic conditions that allow them to thrive upon reentry,” Smith stated.
As to his overall agenda for the Ways and Means Committee, Smith steered clear of mentioning specific retirement policy goals, but noted that the Committee will champion an agenda for working families by:
- Utilizing the tax code to increase jobs, grow wages, and build financial and health care security for families.
- Reasserting Congress’s oversight responsibility by investigating politically motivated leaks of taxpayer information by the IRS.
- Re-shoring and strengthening supply chains to create food, medical, and energy independence.
- Advancing the interests of American workers and punishing unfair trade practices.
- Unleashing American energy production that rebuilds America’s energy independence while lowering costs for consumers.
- Restoring and strengthening policies that will transition able bodied adults off welfare and back to the workforce.