Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), left, accompanied by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.),… (Susan Walsh / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- One week after proposing a law that would punish Americans who avoid paying large tax bills by renouncing their citizenship, Sen. Charles E. Schumer scolded anti-tax activist Grover Norquist for comparing the legislation to efforts taken in Germany in the 1930s.
Schumer, a New York Democrat, took to the Senate floor Thursday with a fiery speech to defend legislation he had introduced with Sen. Robert Casey (D-Penn.), which was inspired by news that Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin repatriated to Singapore to avoid paying as much as $67 million in federal taxes.
“When people do well in America, they should do well by America,” Schumer said. “…That is why it is so baffling that the extreme right-wing Republicans … would rush to the defense of a man who is turning his back on America by dodging taxes.”
Schumer named Norquist specifically, who was quoted by The Hill as saying: “I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the '70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”
The Wall Street Journal compared the bill to “Soviet-style exit taxes.”
Schumer, who is Jewish, chastised Norquist for the comparison.
“I know a thing or two about what the Nazis did,” Schumer said. Punishing Saverin is “not even on the same planet as what the Nazis did to the Jews.”
Norquist says Schumer misrepresented his quote. The German law Norquist was referring to was passed in 1931 by the Centre Party of Germany, not the Nazis, he said.
"He’s off by several years on who writes these laws," Norquist said. "For him to act as if we’re calling people Nazis – no, I didn’t say that. He said that."
Schumer rebuked critics for making Saverin into a “cause celebre” by defending his efforts to avoid “paying a debt to a nation that nurtured, facilitated and cheered his success.”
“Mr. Saverin is in essence an economic tax-dodger,” Schumer said. “And once upon a time, the right wing castigated draft dodgers for failing to heed their nation’s call.”
Norquist said Schumer's speech was a distraction.
"For somebody to decide he’d rather live somewhere else, that’s not good," Norquist said of Saverin. "That’s a wakeup call that you’re doing something wrong, not that your walls aren’t big enough to keep him in."
Saverin, for his part, said in a statement last week that his decision to repatriate to Singapore “was based solely on my interest in working and living in Singapore, where I have been since 2009.”
“I am obligated to and will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government,” Saverin said.