Speaker Ryan’s Floor Remarks on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

John Boehner

WASHINGTON—Today, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivered remarks ahead of a House vote on the conference report to H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Following are the speaker’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“I want to thank all the members who have contributed to this legislation, especially the members of the Ways and Means Committee. I want to personally thank one of my predecessors as chairman, Dave Camp. We would not be here today without his work. And I want to commend and express my profound admiration for the architect of this measure, Chairman Kevin Brady. His endless patience and persistence has seen this through.

“My colleagues, this is a day I have looked forward to for a very long time. We are about to achieve some big things—things that the cynics have scoffed at for years, decades even. Ideas we have worked on for so long . . . to help hardworking Americans who have been left behind for too long.

“Today, we give the people of this country their money back. The bottom line here is that a typical family making the median family income will get a $2,059 tax cut next year. This is real relief for families out there living paycheck-to-paycheck, struggling to make ends meet.

“They hear about the economy getting better, but now we need to make sure they see their own personal economy getting better. Things are tough right now for many families across the country.  Today is about how much better things can be: More jobs, fairer taxes, and bigger paychecks. Faster growth and real upward mobility. A strong economy that makes all of us stronger. Those are the effects—the benefits—of reform.

“Here is the heart of it. Here is why it is so vital. Here is what it speaks to in what I truly believe is a generational defining moment for this country. Our tax code is so broken that it undermines the very things that make our nation so exceptional. It punishes hard work and discourages our entrepreneurial spirit. It dims freedom and free enterprise, and limits the potential of our people. 

“When Americans see good jobs going away, companies they grew up with in their communities going away, they wonder if we have lost something bigger. The mission that drives us today is to restore the American Idea. It is the belief that the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life. It is that sense of possibility. We want people to be free to strive and make the most of their lives. We want a country with the resilience to endure and tackle its challenges.

“Economic growth and job creation will not solve all of our problems, but they will make our problems easier to solve. This is the direction we are choosing today. We know where the status quo leads.

“For years, the powers-that-be have blocked and stonewalled reform under the umbrella of an arrogant, condescending, and paternalistic ideology. An ideology that seeks to limit mobility, to limit aspirations, to accept less in our lives. It is a view of the world that sees life and the economy as a zero-sum game.

“Look where that got us: the worst recovery since World War II, flat wages, an economy just limping along. Stagnation is a breeding ground for a class-based society where elites seek to predetermine the outcome our lives.

“They will tell you: just hand over more freedom to unelected bureaucrats, and it will be okay. Hand over more of your hard-earned money to the IRS, and it will be okay. There’s your scam right there. 

“We know, given the opportunity, there are no limits to what our people can do. Yet for years now, the tax code has been skewed to the well-connected, full of special carveouts and loopholes.

“Meanwhile, the hardworking family has to jump through all the hoops the IRS can muster. Reform means we bring down rates at every level, and clear out loopholes. People keep more of what they earn in the first place. No special favors, just basic fairness.

“Reform means simplification too—nearly nine out of 10 Americans will be able to do their taxes on a form the size of a postcard. This is just a revelation. And given the opportunity, there are no limits to what our workers and entrepreneurs can do.

“Yet while the world has changed, our tax code has not. Instead of leading, we have fallen behind, to the point we are now the worst in the industrialized world at how we tax our businesses. It is basically open season for competitors to come in and take our jobs overseas.

“Reform means we go from the back of the pack toward the front. Instead of the slow growth we have been slogging through for years, we go back to real, sustained growth. We build an opportunity economy where there is more demand for high-wage jobs. This is without question the single most important thing we can do to once again make America the best place to do business.

“There is more here. With this bill, finally, we are restoring the freedom to make your health care choices. By repealing the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare, we are giving back the freedom and flexibility to buy the health care that’s right for your family.

“And, finally, we are doing something historic to develop our own energy resources. After decades of debate in this chamber, we are opening up a small, non-wilderness area of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for responsible development. It is the most ambitious step we have taken in years to secure our energy future.

“So this is one of those times to just take a minute and step back from the noise. We talk a lot in these jobs about turning points. There is no doubt that we are at one now, one that will determine the kind of country we have through this century.

“But too often, we have seen before how doubt creeps in, short-sighted interests prevail, and history fails to turn. There is, after all, a reason this has not been done in more than 31 years.

“If this is a generational defining moment, let it be defined by optimism, not fear.

“By the rising aspirations of our people, and not the doom and gloom of managed decline.

“This is our chance. This is our moment.

“Let us turn at this turning point.

“To reclaim the principles that have guided us for generations.

“To recapture our destiny for generations to come.

“A nation more united, more confident, and more free.”   

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