Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, speaks during a hearing with Robert Lighthizer, an unpictured U.S. trade representative, in Washington, DC, United States on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.
Anna Moneymaker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Democrats, who lead the Senate’s powerful finance committee, are preparing to take over the rich, dark money groups and specialized agencies after their party takes control of Congress.
Committee chairman Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Announced its priorities to CNBC Thursday, one day after he officially took over the chairmanship of the panel.
He said tax reform was one of the priorities of the committee that includes Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., A Wall Street critic and advocate of tax hikes for the rich. Of particular interest, Wyden said, is how billionaires made so much money during the pandemic when much of the economy, including millions of working families, was struggling.
Wyden also said the committee will get a grip on the health care costs that the confrontation with drug companies will involve.
With regards to big tech, Wyden continues to be an advocate for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which he co-authored. The provision protects technology companies from being held responsible for what users post on their platforms. Republican leaders, including former President Donald Trump, and several Democrats are against Section 230.
When asked if he would call executives from major pharmaceutical and technology companies, Wyden said, “We’re going to go where we need to get the facts.”
The panel will take a closer look at the tax-exempt nonprofits that organized the January 6 pro-Trump rally that led to the deadly Capitol Hill riot, Wyden said.
Shortly before he became CFO, Wyden sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig asking him to investigate what role, if any, these groups played in the riot. Indeed, pro-Trump dark money organizations helped plan the rally, during which then-President Trump encouraged supporters to march on the Capitol.
These types of groups are known as dark money organizations because they do not publicly disclose their donors. Warren and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, DR.I., who is also a member of the Finance Committee, recently sent a letter to the new Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, addressing dark money groups across the political spectrum.
Wyden said the IRS told him it was considering his request.
“The reason I’m so interested in whether tax-exempt organizations were involved in planning or inciting the insurrection is that the law couldn’t be simpler and more understandable. Tax-exempt organizations cannot and cannot be involved in illegal activity. ” involved in inciting a riot, “Wyden told CNBC.” We will make sure the IRS does this promptly. “
When asked whether he wanted to ask Rettig to testify before the committee, Wyden did not rule this out. “We’re going to be looking at a number of issues where we want the IRS on file,” he said.
Tax reform aims at over-riches
In 2019, Wyden proposed taxing income from capital gains at the same rates as wages and paying taxes on profits from stock operations. Upon joining the finance committee, Warren said she plans to introduce her proposed wealth tax on assets valued at over $ 50 million.
Warren’s plan provides for “a two-cent tax on every dollar of individual assets over $ 50 million and an additional surcharge on every dollar of assets over $ 1 billion,” according to Wednesday’s press release.
For starters, the committee will focus on the news needed to ease tax reform – including an emphasis on how the rich got richer during the Covid-19 crisis.
“You have to be able to lay that foundation,” said Wyden.
“You have to be able to describe how people who are very, very wealthy billionaires … how come they can make these huge sums of money,” he added during the pandemic.