Stakeout Media Availability with Sens. McConnell (R-KY); Lott (R-MS); Cornyn (R-TX); Hutchison (R-TX) and Kyl (R-AZ) Following the Senate Policy Committee Luncheon
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SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, let me begin today with the vote in the House of Representatives last Friday on the rather large tax increase on a lot of Americans. I thought it was noteworthy that every single House Republican voted against it and eight House Democrats voted against it as well.
It's pretty clear to me that the tax issue is back on the front burner in American politics going into 2008. There is almost beyond anecdotal evidence, looking back at last Tuesday's elections, where a health care measure for children in Oregon financed by a tobacco tax was defeated 60-40; where the mayor of Indianapolis and a majority of the city council were defeated over a tax increase. In my hometown we had a referendum on raising the library tax for children. It went down 2-to-1. I think the American people are speaking here again that they are not interested in having tax increases.
Now fast-forward to what's going on here in Congress. You're looking at a Congress that has already illustrated, through Chairman Rangel's mother of all tax increases, that what they are mostly about is taxation, regulation and litigation, but at the top of the list is taxation. I think we're going to be seeing more and more bills raising taxes on the American people. It is a bill that -- it is -- is a -- it is an approach that unifies Republicans of all stripes. And we look forward to this big debate that'll be coming in waves, I think, over the next year, over just who wants to increase the tax burden on the American people.
With that, let me turn it over to Senator Lott.
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SEN. MCCONNELL: We'll take a couple of questions.
Q Where are you on farm bill amendments? Will you -- (off mike)?
SEN. MCCONNELL: We've been talking -- Harry Reid and I have been talking about trying to get started here on some reasonable basis. Senator Chambliss and Senator Harkin have been collecting amendments, and we hope to be able to pare that list down and get started. I think there's a pretty broad bipartisan agreement that we would like to get the farm bill finished. I think it's highly unlikely to be finished this week, but we are going to try to get started with the amendment process.
Q Do you suspect there'll be a vote on Iraq funding this week, and do you expect that there will be any Republican support for the idea of a goal of withdraw by next June?
SEN. MCCONNELL: I would say that there will be minimum enthusiasm in my conference for passing the kind of bill on troop funding that we think the House is going to pass tomorrow. We'll have to wait and look at it, but if it is the kind of bill I anticipate it will be, it's not going to pass in the Senate this week.
Q In that case, what will your strategy be to get more money to the troops? The president's asked for more money.
SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, we'll be talking in the two weeks until we come back about the need to get the troop funding bill done. I'm going to rule 14 onto the calendar today the amendment Senator Stevens offered in the Appropriations Committee that would provide a clean funding for the troops, that would carry us over into next year. That's what we ought to pass. I'm going to put us in a parliamentary position to be able to vote on something in regards to that.
Q That will come this week, then?
SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, we'll see how it plays out.
SEN. MCCONNELL: Probably.
Q And are you going to insist on 60 votes for passage or are you going to filibuster -- (inaudible) -- resembles what the House passed.
SEN. MCCONNELL: Yeah, I think we can stipulate once again for the umpteenth time that matters that have any level of controversy about it in the Senate will require 60 votes.
Q Senator McConnell, are you comfortable now with the amount of time -- (off mike) --
SEN. MCCONNELL: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the first part.
Q On the farm bill -- (off mike) -- comfortable with the -- (off mike)?
SEN. MCCONNELL: I'm not comfortable with the tree being filled up. I'm talking about a process under which the tree would no longer be filled up and we would start processing amendments in the way that I've been insisting on from the beginning.
Q Senator, should the AMT fix be paid for, and if so, how?
SEN. MCCONNELL: The AMT fix should not be paid for. This is a tax that's never going to be collected anyway. Why should we raise taxes on a whole lot of Americans?
Q Because that just presumes that that money would be collected.
SEN. MCCONNELL: Yeah, but that was a budget that passed without Republican support. We think it is a mistake to do what the House did last Friday, which was my first observation and I started the press conference, which is to raise taxes on a whole lot of Americans in order to prevent a tax increase that we all know is not going to clear anyway. We should have fixed the AMT many months ago, many months ago. Republicans are -- as Senator Kyl and others have pointed out -- been on record wanting a permanent AMT fix for years, and to use the need to fix the AMT as an excuse to raise taxes on a whole lot of other Americans is a bad idea, going to have limited, if no, Republican support.
Q Senator McConnell, Democrats released a report today saying the cost of the war will be higher than previous CBO estimates. I wondered, did you get a chance to see that? Could you comment on that?
SEN. MCCONNELL: We're grateful for the fact that we haven't been attacked again here at home for the last six years. Most of us don't think that's an accident or good luck or because we had the perfect defense. (Light laughter.)
Of course the war has been costly, but we have been protected from attack here at home. There's progress that is obviously being made in Iraq, being written about by most of your newspapers and outlets. And we need to finish the job, and finish the job is to leave Iraq in a condition that it can defend itself and be an ally in the war on terror.
Q Would an override attempt on Labor-HHS's veto be a waste of time?
SEN. MCCONNELL: I think we demonstrated last week on the conference report that we had more than enough votes to sustain a veto of the Labor-H bill.
Q As you take up the farm bill, has there been any progress in paring down the amendments today?
SEN. MCCONNELL: I think I've already covered that. We're in a process of collecting amendments, and we hope to have an open process where we can go forward.