President Biden is vowing to sign the Inflation Reduction Act this week after a divided House of Representatives on Friday approved the legislation that backers hope will help the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rebuild its antiquated technology systems.
By a vote of 220-to-207, the House passed the sprawling bill, which has received widespread publicity over its climate and energy provisions, and sent it to the president for signature. A slimmed-down version of Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, the legislation would inject nearly $370 billion into such programs with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by about 40 percent by 2030, along with allowing Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug prices. But the bill, which passed the Senate on August 7, also contains an infusion of funding for the IRS: $80 billion over 10 years.
Nearly $5 billion of that is slated for “business systems modernization,” aimed at boosting the agency’s three-year-old IT modernization plan, which had already received $275 million from the fiscal year 2022 budget and a one-time shot of $1 billion under the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. The IRS’s systems date to as far back as the 1960s, which has drawn criticism from lawmakers concerned about the use of obsolete programming languages, along with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which says taxpayers could be vulnerable to data breaches because of lax cybersecurity practices.
House Republicans voted unanimously against the Inflation Reduction Act, focusing much of their criticism on the IRS provisions, which they say would give the agency too much power. “Remember this day,” tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “Democrats jammed through a 700-page bill that raises your taxes and doubles the size of the IRS.”
Democrats and other proponents say the IRS urgently needs the enhanced funding, and Biden hailed the act’s passage in a series of tweets and a videotaped message. “Today, the American people won. Special interests lost,” the president said. “With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in the House, families will see lower prescription drug prices, lower health care costs, and lower energy costs.”
Biden said he plans to sign the bill into law this week before holding a White House celebration on September 6 “in honor of this historic legislation.”