Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding President Obama’s proposal to cut taxes for the 98 percent of American families – including 97 percent of small businesses – that make less than $250,000 a year. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Over the last few years, the wealthiest one percent of Americans has taken home the greatest share of the nation’s income since the roaring ‘20s.
But while the bank accounts of a few fortunate Americans have grown, their tax bills have not.
The wealthiest Americans now pay the lowest tax rates in half a century.
And while this generous tax code has been good for their bottom lines, it hasn’t been good for America’s bottom line.
Hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts – handed out disproportionately to the rich by the previous administration – have fueled skyrocketing deficits and a growing national debt.
Democrats and Republicans alike agree we have to reduce the deficit and rein in the debt.
Unfortunately, the same Republicans who say we have to get our fiscal house in order also claim millionaires and billionaires can’t afford to contribute their fair share to that effort.
They say multi-millionaires like Mitt Romney need lower taxes than ever.
Well, let me tell you what – Mitt Romney doesn’t need another tax break. In fact, he’s got so much money he doesn’t even know where all of it is.
Some of it has run off to Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda. No wonder he doesn’t want America to see his tax returns.
So Mitt Romney is doing just fine. And so are the other millionaires and billionaires in this country.
It’s the middle class I’m worried about.
We all know times have been tough the last few years for ordinary Americans struggling just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.
The last thing middle class families can afford now is a tax increase.
That’s why Democrats want to keep taxes low for 98 percent of Americans – everyone making less than $250,000 a year.
But while Democrats are focused on how we can help 98 percent of Americans, Republicans are focused on how they can help Mitt Romney and the rest of the top 2 percent.
And they’re willing to hold tax cuts for everyone else hostage just to protect tax breaks for that top 2 percent.
Democrats don’t agree the top 2 percent of wage earners can’t afford to pay the same tax rate they paid when Bill Clinton was president – back when the budget was balanced and our economy was creating tens of millions of new jobs.
Still, we’re willing to have that debate with our Republican colleagues. We’re willing to discuss it reasonably.
But we don’t believe middle class families should wait and wonder, watch and worry whether their taxes are about to go up while Congress has that conversation.
We shouldn’t wait until the last second to act.
This is what one major newspaper wrote yesterday about the need to act:
“The majority of Americans, and the broader economy, should not be held hostage again to another debate over the merits of tax cuts for the wealthy…. There will never be consensus for solving our nation’s budget problems without first ending the lavish tax breaks at the top.”
So I call on my Republican colleagues to help Democrats give 98 percent of American families the certainty and the security they need right away.
I call on them to help us pass a tax cut that will benefit the middle class without bankrupting our nation.
Because it’s time we faced facts: if we’re serious about reducing the deficit, we can’t keep handing out more tax breaks to the richest Americans.
We will have to make difficult decisions about where to cut and where to invest to keep our nation strong.
But whether to keep taxes low for middle class families shouldn’t be one of the difficult decisions.
I haven’t heard one person – Democrat, Republican or Independent – say we should raise taxes on middle class families.
This is an area where we can easily find common ground.
So, what’s stopping us from doing the right thing – right now? I hope it won’t be more Republican hostage-taking on behalf of the top 2 percent.