DEBATING REPUBLICAN TAX POLICY IN A CIVIL MANNER
Mrs. CAPITO. Madam Speaker, I want to thank my good friend and colleague, the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Cleaver) for joining me here this evening in an important discussion that I think should interest all Members. I am going to talk a little bit about how we got started on this.
I am a member of the Rules Committee, and on the Rules Committee we have a Subcommittee on Civility. The chairman asked me to chair the Subcommittee on Civility, and I have some frustrations because now it is just the two of us on the Subcommittee for Civility. But we share a common goal here, and I think that tonight we are going to do sort of a demonstration project.
We are here this evening to highlight a major problem facing the House of Representatives, and that is the continuing lack of civility during floor debate. The blame does not lie with one party or the other; rather, it is incumbent upon all of our Members to maintain an appropriate level of civility and decorum during debate.
The manner in which we address our colleagues on the floor is not only recorded in the Congressional Record, but is also broadcast through C-SPAN to millions of Americans across the Nation each day, and probably around the world. The advent of C-SPAN was a great public service, allowing the public to view the floor proceedings in Congress from their homes, both the good and the bad.
It is healthy for Members to come to the floor and debate the issues facing our Nation, but it must be done in a manner that is respectful of our fellow Members, the people we are elected to serve, and the distinguished body we are proud to serve. I can tell you when I speak to my constituents across the Second District of West Virginia on a variety of topics of concern to all West Virginians, I am always guaranteed one line of applause, and that is when I apologize for the lack of civility in the House of Representatives.
So, tonight, Mr. Cleaver and I will have a good, spirited debate on the tax policies put in place. I firmly believe that the tax policies have spurred the economic growth that we are experiencing and will continue to lead towards a robust economy.
Mr. Cleaver and I do not agree on this tax policy, but we can agree that it is an important debate to have and one that can be conducted in a civil manner. So we are going to highlight our differences of opinion on tax policy and then have a general discussion on improved civility in the House of Representatives.
Madam Speaker, I now yield to my friend from Kansas City for his opening remarks and any other remarks.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. Well, for some additional comments on that, before we move to our policy debate, I think you make excellent points. I want to congratulate you for your initiative on this matter. But I also know this is not a new initiative for you. When you were a Mayor of Kansas City, it was something that you were very dedicated to, a lot of coalition building, a lot of talking across the aisle or talking with maybe unnatural partners that you would not naturally see could be your allies.
And I think that, you know, we know and I know that when we go to our committees and when we go home or when we are in different arenas with our follow Members, Republican or Democrat, we can get a lot done when we are not on screen, or when we are not a talking head on a 60-second campaign or television ad.
I think that the American public has sort of lost faith that maybe we can accomplish things. We know that things get done. I think that what we are running the risk of, and you mentioned collateral damage, what we run the risk of is losing the ear of the American public.
Not only are they not bringing their children to the television to listen to what we are talking about, they are turning us off, because they cannot find the truth in what we are saying. Because we overexaggerate or we try to disparage people's character or lose respect in our arguments.
I think if we lose the attention of the American public, we run the risk of an apathetic country that no longer cares or has faith in their leadership to be able to cut through and cut to the chase and lead. So I think we are not alone in the Congress. There is a Center Aisle Caucus that was put together with Republicans and Democrats together to try to solve this problem.
But I am really pleased that tonight we are going to launch into this debate and see what we can demonstrate and what we can learn. If you will, we are going to go, kind of go free-wheeling. So should I go ahead and start?
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. I think the question I would ask you on your chart would be if those folks in the $10,000 to $20,000, and I do not know the answer to this, but I surmise that they really do not pay, by the time they get their deductions, by the time they get their child tax credit, by the time they get their marriage penalty erased, by the time the bracket is moved down, the actual amount that they pay in that income tax brackets is probably very small.
While I admit to you a $2 average tax lowering is diminimus. I mean it is nonexistent for anybody. But my question would be, what is their actual tax burden at that level? And would you be advocating giving a tax break to somebody who does not actually pay the tax? We already have the earned income tax credit, where we try to take some of those things into consideration.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. Well, I think that the way to pay for a war, the war on terror, it is tremendously expensive. We have had many votes on this.
I think we both agree that in order to stand behind our troops and arm our troops and give them the best technology, we want to make sure that we have the dollars in the Federal kitty to be able to do that. I believe that the tax and growth policies that we have put in place, that we need to have the firm and strong engine of the American economy running on all cylinders.
Because if we do not have businesses producing, if we do not have people employed, then we are not going to have the tax collections that we need to sustain what is a tremendously expensive time in our country's history.
But I would like to say, with the tax relief packages that we passed, the two major ones that we passed, we have had a surge in tax revenues. Just this year alone, tax revenues are running 11.1 percent over last year and a 14.6 percent increase over 2005.
So what does that tell me? That tells me that with more discretionary income for the individual, and we also have a higher per capita salary, rates are going up, with more discretionary interest for small businesses. I live in a State where the main economic engine is small business, so hiring that one more person is very significant in a small State like ours, a rural State. Because of the tax relief and the job growth policies that we have put into place, our engine, our economic engine is roaring in terms of employment, in terms of discretionary, in terms of consumer spending. And I think that is reflected in the numbers of our tax collections being higher and higher.
My State of West Virginia, State tax collections are up over $100 million. I happen to live in an energy-rich State, so because of the energy situation, I do have to put my plug in for coal, because of our coal, we are enjoying a good economic stand.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. So I think that the effect of these policies has been for us to be able to have higher tax collections to be able to afford and to be able to cut the growth of the deficit. We were projected that the deficit was supposed to grow by, originally projected to grow $423 billion. That is not good. That is not good. But the good news is it is only expected to grow $296 billion, which is $127 billion less than it was originally projected because of the higher tax.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. Well, I think you have hit on an excellent topic in that the deficit is troubling to all of us. I certainly don't want to pass on to my children and grandchildren a heavy and burdensome deficit. And we found ourselves in a position with the recession, with corporate scandals, with the war on terror, with an attack on our Nation where we had to respond, we have had to beef up our defense, beef up our intelligence, beef up our armaments and at a very, very expensive cost. Not even to mention our homeland security costs, something that unfortunately I wasn't here but I am not sure I would have been any wiser.
That is one thing I don't like about our debate in Congress, we all have great hindsight. We can predict what we would have done, but it is hard to say at the time that we would have been right. But I think we let our homeland security reach a point where we just weren't paying attention, and so we have put billions of dollars, and rightfully so, into not only protecting our localities to helping with our first responders. We found that was a real weakness on 9/11. We are now talking about border security and border protection, which is something that is tremendously important to all of us.
So there is no question that the strains and binds on our budget have been very, very difficult. And what we haven't done, along with the tax and growth policies, is we haven't reined in our spending as well as we should on certain areas where we can be much wiser with the Federal dollar.
But we cannot find ourselves in the situation where we are in now, where we have found this year with the larger tax collections of 11 percent higher that has been able to already demonstrate just this first 6 months that we are now able to say that our deficit growth is going to be $126 billion less than it was projected to be simply because we have more tax, a tax revenue that has been spurred by the economic growth that has been spurred, in my opinion, by the tax cuts and reconciliation packages that we passed.
And I would just like to read one thing to remind myself and everybody else, and this is a little off the subject, but if you will allow me, all the individual taxes that we all pay, we pay State sales tax, a lot of us do in West Virginia, we do, 5 percent on food, 6 percent on everything else; State income tax, local property tax, Federal income tax, capital gains tax, dividends tax, State corporate tax, Social Security payroll tax, FICA tax, gasoline tax, gambling tax, cigarette tax, cell phone tax, telephone tax, Federal State tax, State tax, municipal fees.
I mean, we are taxed not to death, but we are getting there. And I think the best thing that we can control here in Congress is our Federal income tax and the income tax that we assess on our small businesses. That is why I think Americans are always very mindful of their Federal taxes on April 15, but I think that come these past April 15s, with the tax relief, families with children, married couples, families in the lower-income brackets who have been moved either off the rolls or down to the 10 percent bracket have all seen, along with those who make more money on your chart, more than the $1 million, have been able to see more money in their pockets so they can have more discretion and more responsibility over their own personal money, and they don't send that money here to Washington where we spend it or, as you said, overspend it.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. I would be for keeping the tax cuts in place, letting them grow for their maturation. I think a lot of them do not kick in for full force until 2010, because the trend that I am seeing is this 11.1 percent more collections, more people working, industrial production increasing 4.3 percent, real hourly compensation rising at 3.2 percent, real consumer spending increasing at 5.1 percent over the first quarter, productivity in the Nation up 3.7.
See, I would say to you that because of the tax relief, because of the job growth package and because of that, we are going to be able to grow ourselves and our economy to meet the needs to be able to take a sizeable chunk out of that red part of your chart.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. Well, again, I think we are probably going to agree to disagree on this, our policies, and we have disagreed through our votes, I think, on the floor of the House.
I think what I have appreciated about your argument is you have talked about the problems that we have, and I think that is what we need to do in this body. We need to agree on what our problems are, and we have not even touched on some of our bigger ones like Social Security and Medicare for the future, and this is all going to pool into this argument.
So, my suggestion would be that, of course, I believe, and I think I have emphasized that point quite enough tonight, that the policies that we have put in place have us on the right track. What the future will bear, the future will bear, and we will be able to see, but had we not had these policies in place, I do not think we would see this engine moving as quickly as we have.
So I am going to rest my argument here on those facts, on the economic facts, on the facts that in my State of West Virginia, we have some of the historically lowest unemployment we have ever had; and that we have 50,000 West Virginians who have children who are now paying fewer taxes; and that we have 94,000 taxpayers in West Virginia who are benefiting from a lower tax rate; and that we have 510,000 taxpayers who now are in the 10 percent bracket; and we have 194,000 married couples who are paying less, and these are not the wealthy 1 percent.
These are the hardworking people of West Virginia who live in a beautiful State, the same State they want to raise their children in and want to have a future there.
So I will rest my case with that and listen to your final argument.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. Well, that is a very respectful debate, and if you are ready, I think we will just kind of close. I think we have covered a lot of our bases, and I want to thank the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Cleaver) for, I think, a very instructive debate, and I think we have learned a lot from each other. I certainly have, and I would now like to move just a little bit about the civility issue in Congress.
I found a couple of quotes, one of which was from Winston Churchill who said, ``Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in the world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.''
None other than our first President, President George Washington, when he began, he wrote, ``Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior,'' and it is fun to thumb through this because some of them are telling us not to spit on the floor and make sure we go out clothed and all those things that I think we do do that all right. But the very first one that he has is, Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present. He also said, ``Think before you speak, pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly, distinctly.'' Those are wise, wise words, I think, from our very first President. I am sure that if he is in Mt. Vernon listening to us right now, or not us, but some of the debate that we have on the floor of the House, then he is not too proud at the level of disrespect that we sometimes show our colleagues.
So I want the thank you for joining with me in this effort. I want to say to all the other Members on both sides that we want this to be an ongoing practice, where we will pick a good topic that we can debate civilly and other such exercises, and we are going to grow this committee, the two of us, so we can return this body to the great esteem, the great integrity, the great respect and the great historical honor that I believe it is due. So I thank Mr. Cleaver.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. CAPITO. I agree with the gentleman, and I have to say additionally that I am a mother of three, and I think sometimes that the lessons that we teach our children, when we come here, we have forgotten. We teach our children not to interrupt; we teach our children to show respect to their classmates and their parents; we teach our children to not say bad words; and we teach our children to listen or be quiet when other people are talking. I have even been in this Chamber when I have heard hissing at another Member when they are speaking.