DelBene Opening Statement at Oversight Subcommittee Hearing on IRS and Justice Department Efforts to Return Taxpayers’ Seized Funds
(As prepared for delivery)
Thank you, Chairwoman Jenkins, for calling this hearing, and I would also like to thank our witnesses, Mr. Conant and Mr. Fort, for appearing here today. You have both served the public with long and extremely distinguished careers, and I want to thank you for what you do.
I find it extremely timely to be participating in this particular hearing, during this particular week. Because at the most basic level, today’s hearing is a discussion about ensuring that our nation’s laws are enforced reasonably, mercifully, and in a manner that does not offend our sense of justice. This session today signals at least some common ground between us that when blind enforcement of the law leads to unjust or immoral outcomes that hurt people who don’t deserve it, our federal government can change its course, even if it has to move mountains to do so.
On this subcommittee, it offended members’ sense of fairness and decency to hear from small business owners who were deprived of their property because of the overzealous enforcement of the law. For years now, members have worked in a bipartisan way to push for justice for people who committed technical violations of the law but who were punished with draconian consequences far in excess of what a reasonable person would consider just.
Members showed empathy and concern to farmers and small business owners whose bank accounts were taken into custody, some might say caged. And members demanded answers from officials at the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service—at times through high levels of tension and confrontation. And the committee drafted and marked up and passed legislation multiple times to address this injustice.
And this body was right to do so. Because governments are imperfect, just like the individuals who lead them, and when they’re wrong, they need to reverse course. Unjust policies should be challenged, stopped, and remedied.
I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses.