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Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act. I realize that this legislation has stoked intense passions both among Members of this body and the public at large, and I would like to take a few moments to explain my thoughts regarding this legislation and my vote here today.
I have served in this Chamber for nearly 30 years now. And during that time, I have frequently been confronted with the extremely difficult necessity of voting for legislation that, while deeply flawed, includes provisions that are incredibly important for the well-being of the American people. Today is no exception.
Indeed, to say that the tax legislation we are voting on today leaves much to be desired is a vast understatement. There is quite a bit about this legislation that I find extremely objectionable.
By extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, including the top 3 percent in our country for 2 additional years, what we are ultimately doing is driving our country deeper into debt with foreign creditors, forcing damaging funding cuts during already tight budgetary times, and increasing the burden of paying for our excess on our children and grandchildren.
This legislation would also create generous new parameters for the estate tax, raising the exemption level to $10 million for couples and reducing the top tax rate to 35 percent--providing millions of dollars in tax breaks to the 39,000 wealthiest Americans. Indeed, in my own State, it is likely that fewer than 100 estates will actually be subject to any tax under the estate tax provision included in this bill.
And that is to say nothing of the fact that the agreement we are voting on today fails to extend numerous successful programs included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, like the TANF emergency contingency fund and the COBRA premium subsidy, or that the provisions that will actually stimulate economic growth are only extended for a mere year.
But in spite of my strenuous objections to much of what is included in this bill, I believe it would be a grave mistake for us to defeat this measure today. Because while it would be incredibly easy to simply vote against this legislation and head home, the truth is that what is at stake here is far more than my opposition to tax breaks for our Nation's wealthiest families.
At the end of the day, this is about the well-being of the American people, far too many of whom are hurting during this period of continued economic turmoil and uncertainty. In Connecticut, nearly 9.1 percent of the State's workforce--some 172,400 men and women--were out of work in October alone. And nationally, the numbers are even worse.
So, while there is much in this legislation that merits indignation, the fact remains that there are many provisions that are far too important to all those Americans who have fallen on hard times over the last several years to warrant its defeat.
Besides extending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, this legislation will also extend tax cuts for middle class families making under $250,000 annually, putting additional cash in the pockets of working Americans and their families.
This legislation will also extend and expand two critically important tax credits for lower income families for 2 additional years--the $1,000 child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit. Together, these provisions will benefit millions of working families and their children at a time when they need these benefits the most.
And perhaps most importantly, this legislation renews Federal emergency unemployment insurance through the end of 2011, preventing nearly 7 million Americans who have lost their jobs in the current recession--including nearly 80,000 in the State of Connecticut from prematurely losing their benefits next year as they look for work.
So, while my decision to vote in favor of this legislation today was incredibly difficult to make, I nevertheless believe it is the right one. Simply put, while it is a difficult pill to swallow, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act--the Middle Class Tax Relief Act--represents the best chance we have right now to extend some critically important benefits for working families in this country. These are the people who have been hit the hardest by the current recession, and as their representatives, I believe we owe it to them to provide some relief, even if it does come in the form of the flawed legislation before us today.
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