Senate Democrats

REID: THE MIDDLE CLASS MUST COME FIRST

Washington, DCWith the Senate preparing to vote on sham legislation that holds the economic security of working families hostage to handouts for multi-millionaires, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following remarks on the Floor of the US Senate. Two years into a Republican Congress that will go down in history for its inattention to the challenges facing the American people, Republican Leaders have rediscovered working families in time to use them in an attempt to extort trillion dollar giveaways for multi-millionaires. Democrats believe Congress should serve ALL Americans, and are fighting to take this country in a new direction.

The text of Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, is below.

Mr. President, Saturdays’ Washington Post has a quote from Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp where he talks about why Democrats do not support the bill on which we are about to vote.

Congressman Wamp said to Democrats, “I know why you’re mad. You’ve seen us really outfox you.” It’s not us–the Democrats–they tried outfox. It’s the American people.

There’s just one problem with this Republican trick. The American people aren’t going to fall for it. They’re too smart to be “outfoxed.”

Americans are too smart to be tricked into cutting the wages of 136,000 Nevadans, so 8,100 multi-millionaires can enjoy $800 billion in tax breaks.

Americans are too smart to be tricked into forgoing middle-class tax relief, so America can borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to give tax breaks to a wealthy few.

And Americans are too smart to accept anymore debt and deception from this Do Nothing Republican Congress.

Here we are – with one day left in this work session. The Defense bill isn’t complete. The pensions bill isn’t complete. Middle class tax relief isn’t complete. The minimum wage hasn’t been raised. And the Majority Leader is threatening that none of this will get done if the Senate doesn’t repeal the Estate tax.

Congressman Wamp calls that “out foxing.” The American people call it outrageous.

It’s an unbelievable threat, and a perfect metaphor for this “Do Nothing Congress.”

For the last 19 months, Congressional Republicans have done nothing for the people. The little they have done on behalf of special interests and the well-connected has made America less safe and middle-class life more difficult.

Look at their record. This Congress will be remembered more for interfering in the Terri Schiavo affair than it will for trying to solve America’s health care crisis.

On every major issue, the Republican Senate has been missing in action.

Mr. President, we have 136,000 troops in the middle of a Civil War in Iraq. Over 2,500 of our soldiers have died in this intractable war, over 18,000 have been wounded, many of them grievously, over $300 billion of America taxpayer money has been spent.

Has the Republican Congress done anything to turn this situation around? No. In fact, they’ve made the situation worse by rubberstamping President Bush’s failed policies and allowing him to “stay the course” – even as the evidence suggests we desperately need to change it.

It’s the same on the economy. We live in very stressful economic times. Over the last six years, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle-class has been squeezed.

Even the administration admits their policies have failed working Americans. Here’s the Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson speaking on Tuesday:

“Amid this country’s strong economic expansion, many Americans simply aren’t feeling the benefits. . . Many aren’t seeing significant increases in their take-home pay. Their increases in wages are being eaten up by high energy prices and rising health care costs, among others.”

Has the Republican Congress done anything to turn this situation around? No. In fact, they’re seeking to make matters worse with their so-called “Family Prosperity Act.”

The “Family Prosperity Act?” Even for Republicans–who gave us the “Clean Skies Act”, the “Healthy Forests Act”, and “No Child Left Behind”–this Orwellian name takes the cake.

Prosperity? Try Poverty.

This bill will cut the wages of 136,000 Nevada workers, and those of workers in six other states.

This bill will bankrupt our country by adding $800 billion to the national debt.

The other side calls this bill the “Trifecta.” It’s really the “Defecta.” 8,100 of the wealthy and well-off hit the jackpot, while millions of working families are left without middle-class tax relief and with 800 billion more in debt. It’s just another example of this Do Nothing Congress putting their political interest ahead of America’s interest.

Mr. President, we keep hearing from the other side how the Senate needs to repeal the Estate Tax to protect and preserve small businesses and family farms.

That’s a myth, and it’s wrong.

Very few small businesses and family farms pay any estate tax.

The American Farm Bureau was asked to identify a single farm that was forced to sell as a result of the tax. To date, not a single one has been brought forward.

It’s the same with small businesses. In fact, the Small Business Council of America has said that the “repeal of the estate tax will actually harm most small business owners” because of how it would change the tax benefits they currently receive.

I’m all for fixing the Estate Tax, but there is no reason for this fiscally irresponsible, virtual repeal.

I talked here this morning about how the two richest men in the world–Warren Buffett and Bill Gates–don’t want this Estate Tax giveaway. I’ve heard similar reports from the business community.

In fact, there was one conversation I had with the head of a major business association in Washington. This gentleman represents 160 of U.S. businesses. He said forget the Estate Tax, the R & D tax credit is much more important to businesses he represents.

Guess where the R & D tax credit is? It’s being held hostage in this “Defecta” bill.

The American people deserve more from this Do-Nothing Congress.

It’s unimaginable Republicans would deny millions of small business a research and development tax credit, it’s unimaginable Republicans would deny 15 million workers a $2.10 raise, it’s unimaginable Republicans would deny millions of middle class families tax relief, IF 8,000 of their wealthy friends don’t get billion-dollar tax breaks first.

Soon, the Senate will say its last words regarding the Estate Tax for this session of Congress.

When this vote is done, I hope then we can get on with the people’s business, and the Majority Leader will reconsider his threat to never bring middle-class tax relief and the minimum wage back to the floor this session of Congress.

If he is serious about that threat, I hope he knows he has a fight on his hands.

When the Senate returns in September, Democrats will not go home until the middle-class gets tax relief. The Majority Leader can make all the threats he wants, but the Senate won’t adjourn until hardworking Americans get the help for which they’ve waited 19 months.

America needs a new direction.

I began with a quote from Congressman Zach Wamp. Here’s another thing Republicans have been saying about their “Defecta” bill. They’ve been calling it a “win-win.”

Senator McConnell said “There’s no risk. It’s all reward.”

“No risk?”

Tell that to the millions of workers who’ve been making $5.15 for the last 10 years and are on the verge of waiting another year.

“Win-win?”

Tell that to the millions of middle-class families and small businesses who will be denied tax relief because Republicans have put their political interests first.

“All Reward?”

What kind of reward is $800 billion dollars in debt?

Mr. President, Republicans haven’t “out-foxed” anyone.

The American people can see through these political games.

I’m hopeful this bill will be defeated, and I’m confident the Republicans cynical approach to dealing with the needs of our country will be rejected.

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