TAX RELIEF EXTENSION RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2005
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Montana for the excellent work he has been doing.
I send a motion to the desk and ask for its immediate consideration.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the motion.
The bill clerk read as follows:
Mr. OBAMA moves that the managers on the part of the Senate at the conference on the disagreeing votes of the 2 Houses on the Senate amendment to the bill H.R. 4297 (to provide for reconciliation pursuant to the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2006 (H. Con. Res. 95)) be instructed to insist that any final conference report shall provide tax relief for the most vulnerable members of our society, including the low-income victims of Hurricane Katrina and children in families that are too poor to benefit fully from the refundable child tax credit.
Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, 2 weeks ago, in a debate on the Senate version of the tax reconciliation bill, I proposed an amendment to provide tax relief for victims of Katrina, paid for by restricting the extension of capital gains and dividend tax cuts only to people with incomes under $100 million. My amendment would have made all children of working parents in the disaster area eligible for at least a partial credit.
For the convenience of my colleagues, I agreed not to demand a vote on that amendment. But I rise again to urge my colleagues not to forget Katrina and her victims who continue to struggle. In a bill with $70 billion of tax cuts, surely we can find $274 million to do something for the most vulnerable members of our society.
In the weeks after Katrina made landfall, President Bush vowed to do what it takes to help the region recover. We wanted to believe him. We had witnessed the devastation caused by the hurricane, and we saw the terror of poor families with their lives turned upside down, homes destroyed, jobs and businesses lost, families separated, and lives permanently changed.
At the time, the President said:
We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.
Almost 6 months later, the Government's actions have not matched the President's rhetoric. Evacuees are getting kicked out of their hotel rooms this week because FEMA stopped paying the bill. Thousands of temporary mobile homes ordered by FEMA are sitting empty in nearby Southern States. The Federal response continues to be inadequate to get the families back on their feet.
We can do better for these families. At a time when we are debating $70 billion of tax cuts, most of which will benefit corporations and people who need help the least, why not set aside a small fraction to help those who need it most?
One way to help those who need help the most is to enhance the refundable portion of the child tax credit. Under current law, families who earn less than $11,000 get no benefit from the refundable child credit. That means that a child does not get any benefit from the credit even if her parents work full time at the minimum wage. And the child doesn't get the full benefit of the $1,000 credit until her parents earn close to $18,000, or even more if the child has siblings. As a result, almost 17 million children get less than the full credit. Wouldn't it make sense to recognize the damage wrought by the hurricane and to eliminate the income threshold that excludes the poorest of children from getting the credit? Wouldn't it make sense to say to the children affected by Katrina that they will no longer be denied at least a partial credit so long as their parents are working?
The cost of this fix is estimated at $274 million over 2 years. To get a sense of perspective, that is less than one-half of 1 percent of the cost of this entire bill. It is a matter of common sense and fairness--the least we can do when we are cutting taxes for wealthy Americans. If we do this, hundreds of thousands of this country's most disadvantaged children will see an increase in their credit--not as a handout but because their parents work.
I hope we don't forget the images we witnessed in the aftermath of the hurricane--the people, their suffering, and the devastation. We shouldn't forget the daily struggles families right now are going through trying to rebuild their lives. Let us not forget our Government's promise to do what it takes for families along the gulf coast. Let us not forget our duty, as the President put it, to confront poverty with bold action.
I urge my colleagues to join me in instructing the Senate managers to provide tax relief for the most vulnerable members of our society. Together, let us urge them to remember the low-income victims of Katrina and the children and families too poor to benefit fully from the refundable child credit. Obviously, this is a modest piece of legislation. It is a motion to instruct. My suspicion is that even if it passed, other priorities would move to the fore.
Let me say in closing that it is shameful, what is happening in the gulf coast right now. I think all of us recognize the scope of the devastation. All of us were embarrassed at the slow response immediately after the hurricane. It has now been 6 months. We have not shown the sense of urgency that the American people did privately after the hurricane. I would hope that at least we can send some small signal that we are concerned about the kids who are languishing, who have been uprooted, who aren't in the schools they were attending and in the neighborhoods in which they grew up.
This is one way to send that signal, and I urge my colleagues to support my motion.
I yield the floor.