House panel cancels hearing after Mnuchin declines to appear

House panel cancels hearing after Mnuchin declines to appear
© Anna Moneymaker

The House Ways and Means Committee announced it has canceled a hearing slated for Thursday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to appear.

Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) last week called on Mnuchin to appear before the committee for a hearing on the shutdown's impact on the Department of Treasury and taxpayers.

Neal said in a statement on Wednesday that committee members have "urgent concerns" they want to raise with Mnuchin.

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"With tax filing season beginning in five days and the timely issuing of taxpayer refunds at stake, we need to hear directly from the Secretary to gain greater clarity regarding the IRS’ capabilities during the shutdown. Reports indicate the agency is unprepared," Neal said.

"We are also extremely worried about the wellbeing of the more than 70,000 Treasury employees who are about to miss their second paycheck in a row, including 45,000 employees who are expected to work without pay. We expect the Secretary to come answer our questions in the very near future.”

Mnuchin said in a letter to Neal that he had plans to speak Thursday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' conference but that the department's offer still stands to have other Treasury and IRS officials brief Ways and Means Committee members about the shutdown's impacts.

Mnuchin added that he looks forward to finding a time to testify before the committee after Trump's budget proposal is released. The president's budget is supposed to be released in February, but is expected to be delayed this year because of the shutdown.
 
The Treasury Department said last week that it would refuse to have Mnuchin testify, instead offering to send senior Treasury and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials "who are most knowledgeable concerning the lapse plans now in place for the Department and its bureaus."

In a response to a letter to Treasury, Neal expressed concern over how the IRS would function with tax filing season set to begin Jan. 28.

More than 70,000 IRS and Treasury workers have been furloughed because of the ongoing partial government shutdown, and the IRS earlier this month released a contingency plan to keep 46,000 IRS employees working without pay for tax filing season.

The federal government has been in a partial shutdown since Dec. 22, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE at odds with Democratic lawmakers over his demand for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall.

The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on two proposals to reopen the government.

— Naomi Jagoda contributed to this report, which was updated at 4:03 p.m.