UNANIMOUS CONSENT REQUEST--H.R. 4437 -- (Senate - June 05, 2006)
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Mr. REID. Reserving the right to object, the regular order is to go to conference with the House using one or the other legislative companion as the vehicle.
The House acted first, no question about that. I am proposing to go to conference with the House using their bill. Some may argue that the House will blue slip the bill and return it to the Senate because it contains some tax-related provisions. That will be the decision of the House. But it does not have to be that case since the Constitution states:
All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments, as on other bills.
We will be using their immigration bill, which originated in the House. We await their decision.
Anyone trying to use this blue-slip argument is doing so to avoid a conference on the immigration bill.
Further reserving the right to object, if the Republican leadership wants to take up the House-passed tax bill for purposes of moving to a conference on the immigration bill, we have amendments we would offer to that, and they are all tax matters. The recent tax reconciliation bill provided only 1 year of AMT relief; that is, for this year--presented with the tax bill on the Senate floor. Democrats would want to offer amendments to extend relief for at least one additional year and perhaps two, so that programs have certainty on the taxes they face the next couple years.
We would also want a number of important popular tax provisions which expired at the end of 2005 to be included, including, for example, the research and development tax credit, deductibility of the State and local estate tax, which is so important to Nevada, tuition tax credit, important to people trying to put their children through college, tax credits for employers who provide jobs to individuals, and welfare.
We would also be concerned about what is happening with the estate tax. Other tax provisions from the bill also expire at the end of 2010, as does the estate tax relief. We would want to make sure the present tax relating to estates be continued well past 2010. Also expiring at the end of 2010 is a 10-percent bracket that increases child credit and marriage penalty relief. That should not be placed behind estate tax.
We have unnecessary subsidies for big oil, expanding health care coverage, and, finally, energy independence. We would offer amendments, all tax related, to this proposal that the majority wants to bring to the Senate.
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Mr. REID. I agree with the distinguished senior Senator from Kentucky. There shouldn't be games played on the immigration bill, but let's face facts: 90 percent of the Democrats voted for the bill and--I don't know the exact percentage--65 or 70 percent of the Republicans voted against the immigration bill; we know 75 to 80 percent of the Republicans in the House do not like the immigration bill.
If there were ever a time to take an immigration bill to conference, it would be now; it would be to take immigration bills to conference, not tax bills.
Now, I don't think the bill is blue slippable. I read the Constitution, the provision of the Constitution that says tax measures must originate in the House. We are willing to take up the House bill.
I also say that I certainly in no way meant to surprise the distinguished leader. We alerted staff we were going to offer this unanimous consent request. I am sorry about that.
Anyway, we have an immigration bill. That is what should be taken to conference. That is what we should deal with, the immigration bill. Any excuse to get out of taking an immigration bill to conference and trying to substitute in its place a tax bill simply is wrong.
THE STATE OF THE WORLD
Mr. REID. Mr. President, gas prices are over $3 a gallon. Fill-ups at the tank, of course, cause emptiness at the bank. This administration, the most friendly to oil Presidency in our history, refuses to buck big oil with the auto manufacturers. Our citizens are literally choking on the lack of alternative fuel. Few incentives for energy created by the Sun, the wind or the Earth's geothermal reserves has this administration endorsed.
Raging in Iraq is an intractable war. Our soldiers are fighting valiantly. But we have Abu Ghraib and Haditha, for example, where it is alleged that 24 more civilians were killed by our own, and no policy for winning the peace. However, Secretary Rumsfeld continues in his job with the full backing of the President--not a reprimand, not a suggestion that his Defense Secretary is at fault; a national debt that President Bush won't acknowledge, but our children, their children, and their children's children will have to acknowledge with generations of debt created by President Bush's economic policies; Federal red ink as far as one can see. America is becoming continually more dependent on loans from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and even England; a world changing as we speak as a result of global warming, a condition our President does not acknowledge, let alone attempt to reverse.
Today, more than 46 million Americans have absolutely no health insurance. Millions more of our countrymen have inadequate health insurance. This administration has come forward with nothing of substance to address this national emergency.
Seniors in Nevada and each of the 50 States are struggling to survive. Some physicians refuse to take Medicare patients. The President's Medicare prescription drug plan has been a gift to HMOs, insurance companies, and drug companies and a nightmare for seniors.
Education for many of our graduating high school seniors has become a goal too far. Student loans and Pell grants are not a priority for the Bush administration. The ability to obtain a college education is becoming more and more based on how much money your parents have instead of how much academic potential our youth have.
Crime remains a national worry, but money from the Federal Government to our States for crime fighting and crime prevention is being drastically cut. Successful anticrime programs such as the COPS Program are being eliminated by President Bush, much to the consternation of police officers across America.
A trade policy that is continually ruining America's favorable balance of payments seems to be the watchword of the Bush administration. This trade policy causes America to be less and less globally competitive.
The scientific community cries for help. They believe dread diseases such as Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's, Parkinson's, and diabetes could be moderated and prevented. But President Bush emphatically says no to allowing scientists to study and research the healing powers of stem cells. He refuses to keep hope alive for the suffering people for our great country.
In spite of the many serious problems we have discussed, what is the Senate going to debate this week? A new energy policy? No. Will we debate the raging war in Iraq? No. Will we address our staggering national debt? No. Will we address the seriousness of global warming? No. Will we address the aging of America? No. Will we address America's education dilemma? No. Will we address the rising crime statistics? No. Will we debate our country's trade imbalance? No.
Will we debate stem cell research? No. But what we will spend most of the week on is a constitutional amendment that will fail by a large margin, a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage. It failed to pick up a simple majority when we recently voted on it. Remember, an amendment to the Constitution requires 67 votes.
I believe marriage should be between a man and woman. But I also believe in our Federal system of government described to me in college as a central whole divided among self-governing parts. Those self-governing parts, the 50 States, have already, in State after State after State, decided on their own and others are deciding it as we speak. For example, in Nevada, the constitution was amended to prevent same-sex marriage.
Congress and President Clinton passed a law that gave the States the guarantee that their individual laws regarding marriage would be respected. The Defense of Marriage Act creates an exception to the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution so that no State can force its laws of marriage on another. So why are we being directed by the President and this Republican majority to debate an amendment to the Constitution, a document inspired more than two centuries ago? Why would we be asked to change this American masterpiece? Will it next be to constitutionally dictate the cause of divorce or military service or even what America's religion must be?
For me, it is clear that the reason for this debate is to divide society, to pit one against another. This is another one of the President's efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract and confuse America. It is this administration's way of avoiding the tough, real problems American citizens are confronted with each and every day: high gas prices, the war in Iraq, the national debt, health care, senior citizens, education, crime, trade policy, stem cell research--each issue begging the President's attention, each issue being ignored. The valuable time of the Senate will be spent on an issue that today is without hope of passing.
These issues about which I have spoken are not Democratic issues. They are not Republican issues. There must be a bipartisan effort to address America's ills. I will vote no on the motion to proceed as it is not a measure meant to bring America together. Rather, it is an effort to cover and conceal issues necessary to make America more competitive, caring, considerate, and stronger.
Together, America can be better and do better.
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