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Senate Finance Committee Through the Ages

Acting on President James Madison’s annual message to Congress, the Senate creates the Select Committee on Finance and an Uniform National Currency.

The committee handles the Tariff Act of 1816 to pay off debt from the War of 1812, and the Bank Act to create a national currency. The renamed Finance Committee becomes a standing committee with responsibility for two of the three major appropriations bills.

After a jurisdictional dispute with the Commerce and Manufactures Committee, the Finance Committee wins jurisdiction over tariff bills. The panel also handles nearly all appropriations bills.

The committee writes the Tariff Act of 1842, creating a steadily increasing protectionist tariff schedule.

The committee takes a lead role in financing the Civil War through the enactment of tax, tariff and government borrowing legislation.

The committee writes the Legal Tender Act of 1862, which moves the nation to a paper currency.

The newly created Appropriations Committee relieves the Finance Committee of its appropriations duties.

States ratify the 16th Amendment, allowing Congress to levy an income tax. Congress passes an income tax bill, including some Finance Committee exemptions for individuals. The newly created Senate Banking and Currency Committee strips the Finance Committee of its banking and currency jurisdiction.

To combat the Great Depression, the Finance Committee produces the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, the highest tariff in the nation’s history.

Responding to declining revenues caused by the Great Depression, the Finance Committee produces the Revenue Act, the largest peacetime income tax increase. It also writes the first unemployment insurance laws.

The committee produces the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, allowing the president to sign trade agreements and reduce tariffs without the Senate’s consent.

The committee produces the Social Security Act.

The committee writes the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights.

The Senate terminates the Pensions Committee and formally gives the Finance Committee jurisdiction over veterans’ and social benefit programs.

The Senate Finance Committee produces the Social Security Amendments of 1965, establishing the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The Legislative Re-organization Act creates the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and relieves the Finance Committee of jurisdiction over veterans’ affairs.

The committee produces the Tax Reduction Act, creating an earned income tax credit.

The committee takes a lead role in writing the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which aims to simplify the tax code and reduce income tax rates.

President Bill Clinton’s ambitious health care plan stalls due in part to opposition from leading members of the Finance Committee, including Chairman Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.).

The committee moves welfare reform legislation, revamping the federal program and giving more responsibility to states in the form of block grants.

The committee takes a lead role in writing the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, which provides a number of tax cuts, including lower marginal income tax rates.

The committee helps pass the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, which accelerates the rate reductions included in the 2001 tax package and reduces the tax rates on income from capital gains and dividends. The panel also moves legislation adding prescription drug coverage to the Medicare program.

Sources: Senate Finance Committee history, GalleryWatch research

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