Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today on Senate Republicans rejecting the Paying a Fair Share Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Yesterday Senate Republicans once again rejected the idea that millionaires and billionaires should contribute their fair share to help this country prosper.
Republicans sent a message to millions of honest, hard-working Americans who will file their taxes today: it’s fair for Warren Buffett to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.
Republicans said it’s fair for Mitt Romney to pay a lower tax rate than his cleaning lady or his chauffer.
They believe it’s fair for hedge fund managers and executives to pay a lower tax rate than school teachers and waitresses and bus drivers.
That’s just crazy.
But that’s not my word for it. That’s what President Ronald Reagan called a system of “unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.”
In 1985, Ronald Reagan knocked the web of loopholes that allowed people making hundreds of millions of dollars each year to pay lower tax rates than construction workers or janitors. President Reagan called it “crazy.”
This broken system “made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying ten percent of his salary,” Reagan said.
But the same system is in place today. And, as that radical liberal Ronald Reagan said, “That’s just crazy.”
Yesterday my Republican colleagues used some strong words to oppose Democrats’ plan to right that inequality.
Republicans called our common-sense proposal to ensure no one making more than a $1 million a year pays a lower tax rate than a truck driver, a secretary or a police officer “class warfare.”
Republicans are pushing a budget that would end Medicare as we know it, slash nursing home coverage for the elderly, decimate Pell Grant funding and kick 200,000 kids out of the Head Start Program.
And they’re calling our proposal class warfare?
I wish that were the most ridiculous thing Republicans have said about our proposal to bring a measure of fairness to America’s tax system. Far from it.
One member of Senate Republican Leadership equated this measure to “shooting ourselves in the head.”
The Paying a Fair Share Act – also called the Buffettt Rule – would have ensured millionaires and billionaires paid at least as much as their secretaries, assistants and nannies.
Yet Republicans think asking those lucky millionaires and billionaires to contribute their fair share is just like shooting the country in the head.
Our legislation would have protected 99 percent of small business owners, and maintained deductions for charitable giving.
And it would have been a small but meaningful step to reduce our deficit at a time when every penny – or in this case, every billion – counts.
It doesn’t seem radical to me to ask Warren Buffett – who made almost $63 million in 2010 – to pay a higher tax rate than his secretary.
It didn’t seem radical to Ronald Reagan, either.
And it doesn’t seem radical to the three-quarters of Americans who support our legislation.
The wealthiest Americans take home a greater percentage of the nation’s income than at any time in nearly a century. Yet they enjoy the lowest tax rate in more than 50 years.
So it’s no surprise Americans believe millionaires should shoulder their fair share.
Even two-thirds of millionaires – and a majority of Republicans around the country – agree it’s time to fix a system rigged to favor of the richest of the rich.
Republicans in Congress are the only ones who aren’t on board.
If you need evidence that millionaires and billionaires can afford to contribute a little more, consider this fact: last year there were 7,000 people who made more than $1 million but didn’t pay a single penny in federal income taxes. Not one thin dime.
Thanks to Republicans, those lucky millionaires and billionaires can keep gaming the system, while middle-class workers keep picking up the tab.