Senate Democrats


While Republicans hold tax relief hostage to handouts for multi-millionaires, Democratic Leader offers amendment to help middle class

Washington, DCSenate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following statement in the U.S. Senate, announcing he will offer important pro-middle class and pro-business tax provisions as an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill. Republican leaders have threatened to hold these critical tax cuts hostage to a fiscally irresponsible near-trillion dollar giveaway to multi-millionaires, but Democrats have promised to hold the Senate in session past September if necessary to ensure their passage. Democrats believe Congress should serve ALL Americans, and are fighting to take this country in a new direction.

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

Today I come to the floor with a simple amendment. And I must confess, the provisions in my amendment are not new and did not originate with me.

The language of my amendment was taken directly – word for word – from a bill that was passed by the Republican-controlled House last week by a broad, bipartisan margin.

My amendment consists of the tax provisions and Abandoned Mines Land Fund in the House-passed bill. Again, every single provision in my amendment enjoys broad bipartisan support.

I am forced to offer this amendment today for two reasons. First, the Republican-controlled Congress allowed many of these popular provisions to expire. And second, because of threats made yesterday by the Majority Leader.

In a statement that amounted to nothing more than an attempt at political blackmail, he said, if the Senate fails to pass a fiscally irresponsible estate tax proposal, we will not have a chance to vote on these tax provisions and mine legislation this year. In his words, the Senate has one shot – quote – “this is going to be it.”

In one short, arrogant and breathtaking statement, the Majority Leader both threatened to hold middle class tax relief hostage to hundreds of billions in giveaways to the wealthy AND to deny the rights of every Senator in this body to raise issues that matter to working Americans.

The Majority Leader’s priorities could not be more clear. The estate tax provision does not expire until 2011 and benefits less than five tenths of one percent of the estates in America. Many of the middle class tax provisions that he is holding hostage have already expired and benefit millions of Americans.

But according to the Majority Leader’s view, five tenths of one percent of the wealthiest Americans should come before millions of working families.

Let me take a few minutes to discuss the Majority Leader’s priorities. Here’s what my amendment would do and here’s what he is holding hostage in his inexplicable desire to drive up our record deficits in order to help a few wealthy individuals.

My amendment contains a provision that allows taxpayers to deduct up to $4,000 of their child’s college tuition expenses. Senator Frist says five tenths of one percent of Americans are more important.

My amendment contains an R&D tax credit that encourages American businesses to make investments that will benefit American workers. Senator Frist says five tenths of one percent of Americans are more important.

My amendment contains a provision that will extend the state and local sales tax deduction, which allows taxpayers who reside in states with no income tax to deduct sales tax instead. Senator Frist says five tenths of one percent of Americans are more important.

My amendment contains a provision that allows teachers to deduct out-of-pocket expenses they make for their classrooms expenses. Senator Frist says five tenths of one percent of Americans are more important.

Senator Frist is wrong. Wrong on his priorities. And wrong on how this Senate works.

My amendment shows that the Senate will not be blackmailed and provides an opportunity for every member of this body to show the American people that we hear and are prepared to respond their needs.

If my friends on the Majority side of the aisle decide to resort to parliamentary tactics to avoid addressing this issue head on, I want to say to them and all the American people we will be back.

The Senate will not be blackmailed into providing budget busting tax breaks for the wealthiest five tenths of one percent of estates in this country. And we will not leave here without giving our colleagues every opportunity to provide working Americans the tax relief they deserve.