Scalise defends IRS cuts in GOP's Israel aid bill, refuses to say 2020 election was legitimate

"We're talking about the future," the House majority leader said.

November 5, 2023, 1:24 PM

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise on Sunday defended Republicans seeking to send aid to Israel in its war with Hamas by cutting funding for the IRS to enforce tax collections, including from the wealthy.

"We passed a bill that addressed two problems that our Defense Department talks about: One, we need to get aid to Israel, and we do; but when our generals come and testify before committees like Armed Services, they say our debt is our biggest national threat. Not other countries like China, Russia -- they say it's our debt. We addressed both in this bill in a bipartisan vote," Scalise told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos.

On Thursday, most House Republicans were joined by 12 Democrats in passing the $14 billion Israel aid package, which was offset by roughly the same cuts to the IRS. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said his chamber isn't even going to take it up.

Stephanopoulos pressed Scalise on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis that the GOP-led funding bill for Israel in the House would add $12.5 billion to the government's deficit, largely because it would reduce the ability of the IRS to enforce tax collections.

The agency saw a major funding increase in last year's Inflation Reduction Act, despite conservative criticism.

"You've tied the aid to Israel to cuts in IRS enforcement, which is designed to go after wealthy tax cheats. Why combine those two? Is the new speaker prepared to put clean funding for Israel on the floor of the House?" Stephanopoulos asked Scalise on Sunday.

Scalise responded that according to the CBO, families making less than $400,000 annually also would be paying more taxes to the IRS because the agency had received more funding, which he said undercut a pledge by President Joe Biden.

The CBO said in 2022, in a letter to lawmakers, that the increased taxes paid by those families making less than $400,000 would "be a small fraction of the total increase," though they could not predict a precise number.

Scalise also pushed back on the Israel aid bill growing the deficit, insisting that "the CBO has been wrong on a number of fronts."

"We passed the bill to give the aid to Israel and it was a bipartisan vote and it's over in the Senate. If the Senate has an issue with the bill, they can take it up. If they sent it to the president, I have no doubt the president would sign that bill," Scalise said, despite the White House already saying President Joe Biden would veto the legislation.

Support for Israel in the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack was key, he said: "It's going to be a long war, and it's a conflict that we are with Israel on every step of the way."

PHOTO: Rep. Steve Scalise speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, on Oct. 28, 2023, in Las Vegas.
Rep. Steve Scalise speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, on Oct. 28, 2023, in Las Vegas.
David Becker/AP

Scalise was separately pressed about whether he viewed the 2020 presidential election as legitimate following Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck's announcement last week that he would be retiring, citing conservatives' focus on election denialism.

In his retirement announcement, Buck said: "Too many Republican leaders are lying to America, claiming that the 2020 election was stolen."

Stephanopoulos asked Scalise on "This Week": "Can you say unequivocally the 2020 election was not stolen?"

That prompted a back-and-forth as the majority leader repeatedly declined to answer directly, with Stephanopoulos saying it was a simple question with a yes or no answer.

Ultimately, Stephanopoulos asked eight times over the course of their exchange.

Instead of answering, Scalise raised concerns with how some states changed their voting rules in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stephanopoulos pushed back, noting that various courts had all rejected claims of fraud in the last presidential race.

"So you just refuse to say unequivocally that the 2020 election was not stolen?" he asked again.

"You want to keep rehashing 2020. We're talking about the future," Scalise responded.

While declining to answer, Scalise reiterated Republican criticism of the Biden administration.

"At the end of the day, getting our country back on track is our focus. And that's what we're focused on right now," he said.

"Joe Biden's the president of the United States," Scalise went on to say, "and right now, he's failing the country on so many fronts that matter to families."

Virginia's Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin appeared on "This Week" after Scalise and was also asked about the 2020 election.

"I've consistently said that Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. He's sleeping in the White House," Youngkin said. "I wish he weren't."