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First Jaime Herrera Beutler Amendment Passes U.S. House of Representatives
Budget-saving legislation prohibits U.S. assistance funds from paying unjust taxes to Afghanistan government
Last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed Jaime Herrera Beutler’s first-ever legislative amendment as a member of Congress.Last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed Jaime Herrera Beutler’s first-ever legislative amendment as a member of Congress. The amendment prohibits the U.S. government or its contractors from paying any taxes that the Afghani government attempts to charge on assistance and rebuilding projects being carried out by U.S.-based contractors.
U.S. contractors and subcontractors who are installing and rebuilding infrastructure in Afghanistan paid for by $10 billion a year in U.S. funding have received threats of arrests, revoked visas and denied business licenses from the Afghan government over “unpaid tax bills.” Taxation of U.S. assistance is not in accordance with U.S. law, but the wording in various agreements has been vague – a gray area the Afghanistan government has been increasingly seizing upon to increase its own revenue. This amendment clarifies the language protecting American taxpayers from sending dollars into Afghanistan government tax coffers.
Herrera Beutler had been working with Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) on the language of a similar amendment. Both Democrats and Republicans rose to support the legislation, including Washington’s senior Member of Congress Norm Dicks.
“I’m tremendously honored that my first amendment passed through Congress,” said Herrera Beutler. “Hard-working Americans will spend billions of dollars building and improving water systems, power grids and other infrastructure in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people. We don’t need to also pay taxes to the Afghan government for the privilege of rebuilding their country. Filling the tax coffers of opportunistic foreign government officials doesn’t need to be part of our legacy.”
Below is the official transcript of the amendment’s passage on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives:
Ms. HERRERA BEUTLER. Madam Chair, I have an amendment at the desk.
CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment.
The Clerk read as follows:
“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract that allows the contractor to use amounts paid to the contractor under such contract to pay a tax to the Afghan Ministry of Finance.”
CHAIR. The gentlewoman from Washington is recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. HERRERA BEUTLER. Madam Chair, we are in Afghanistan right now, helping to rebuild, or in many cases build from scratch, infrastructure. And when we leave that country, and I do hope we will be leaving soon, we will leave that infrastructure behind, power grids, water systems, trained law enforcement, the building blocks of a functioning society. We will spend billions of dollars on improvements meant to better the lives of the Afghan people. We don't need to also pay taxes to the Afghan Government for the privilege of building or rebuilding their country. And that's why I am happy to bring this amendment to the floor tonight for consideration.
The Department of Defense should be focused on providing soldiers in training, in the field, and on the front lines with the tools they need to protect themselves and defend our country. This amendment would uphold existing law and clarify existing agreements between the U.S. and Afghanistan prohibiting Afghanistan from taxing U.S. contractors doing this rebuilding work in Afghanistan.
Now, this ban on levying taxes would also apply to all subcontractors that may not have direct contracts with Afghanistan. In other words, if a company is working on a project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, whether that company is a prime contractor or a subcontractor, that company should not be subject to taxes from the Afghani Government.
These are the contractors doing rebuilding work in Afghanistan, helping rebuild the Afghanis' infrastructure, and hopefully allowing them to one day thrive independently. Common sense and financial prudence says that the U.S. should not be subject to taxation for the rebuilding efforts it is paying for.
Hardworking Americans send their tax dollars to Washington so that soldiers on the front lines have the tools they need to protect themselves and our country, not fill the coffers of a foreign government. So I urge its adoption.
With that, I yield back the balance of my time.
Rep. Bill Young of Florida. Madam Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
CHAIR. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
Rep. Bill Young of Florida. I would like to say, Madam Chairman, that the gentlewoman has worked long and hard to write this amendment in such a way to be acceptable to the Parliamentarian, and I am very happy to accept her amendment and ask for its support.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington I move to strike the requisite number of words.
CHAIR. The gentleman from Washington is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. DICKS. I am going to read this amendment: ``None of the funds made available by this act may be used to enter into a contract that allows the contractor to use amounts paid to the contractor under such contract to pay a tax to the Afghan Ministry of Finance.''
I want to congratulate the gentlewoman from Washington State for being able to work so tirelessly to get this amendment perfected. It's very clear what her intent is, and we are prepared on our side to accept this amendment.
I yield back the balance of my time.
CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from Washington (Ms. Herrera Beutler).
The amendment was agreed to.