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Mr. MANCHIN. Mr. President, I rise today to express my indescribable frustration and genuine disbelief that we are looking at two proposals that do not do enough to fix this Nation's financial problems--and both have been predicted by both respective sides to fail. I speak of the Bush tax cuts and how those of us in the responsible middle find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place, with a vote that offers, truly, no real solutions.
It is no secret that I prefer fixing the problems this country faces, like most of my colleagues, and we all have different approaches. We are hurling toward $16 trillions in debt, and for the first time since the World War II era our debt exceeds the output of our economy. Even our generals say the greatest threat this Nation faces is not a foreign power or a terrorist organization but the debt we have created ourselves.
We are staring down the barrel of insurmountable obligations for decades to come, and we are passing up a key opportunity to put this country in better shape for the next generation.
As you can see, and as West Virginians know, we urgently need to put our country's financial house back in order, and the people of West Virginia are tired of temporary solutions to our long-term problems.
As I have said so many times, I will work with both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, on a comprehensive solution that lowers tax rates, broadens our revenue base, closes loopholes, cuts spending, and reduces our debt, like the framework proposed by the Bowles-Simpson plan.
Unfortunately, neither of the proposals on the Bush tax cuts will solve our long-term debt and fiscal problems. At the same time, with our debt problems getting worse every year, we must come together to take responsible action and fair steps toward reducing our debt, even if they are only temporary.
Let's look at the two proposals that have been offered, one from my Republican colleagues in the House that, unfortunately, kicks the can down the road entirely and extends these tax cuts at a cost of $400 billion. What people do not know is that even though it would extend tax cuts for the wealthiest--and this is what they do not know--it would actually get rid of some tax reductions for middle- and low-income Americans, such as the expanded child tax credit. That is tremendously unfair.
Another proposal from the Democrats here in the Senate, our side, would cost about $250 billion, which is at least starting to move in the right direction to reduce our deficit, and it keeps the tax cut for more than 99 percent of all West Virginians and a high percentage in every State such as the Presiding Officer's.
When considering these two proposals, I kept two priorities in mind--putting our fiscal house back in order and restoring fairness to the Tax Code. So while I would prefer a bipartisan comprehensive solution, I will support the plan to keep taxes low on families that make less than $250,000. According to the latest available figures from the West Virginia Department of Revenue, more than 99 percent of all West Virginians will get a break on their taxes under this proposal. And the wealthiest among us will pay the rates they did during Bill Clinton's Presidency, which was the greatest era of prosperity I can remember in my lifetime.
On the other hand, the proposal that includes extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans carries a heavy price for this Nation. It is about $150 billion more than the Democrats' proposal. Given our dire budget situation, this country cannot afford that. We simply have to prioritize and close the gap. The fact is we cannot keep trying temporary solutions to our serious budget problems. And the truth is, these tax cuts will not restore confidence in our government or our economy to create good jobs or keep the ones we have. They certainly do not put our fiscal house back in order. What they will do is be used as fodder in political ads in the next 100 days against both sides. I cannot understand why we continue to take votes that are more about making one side look bad or worse than the other, or taking cheap shots, than actually solving the problems we have before us.
I will continue to work across the aisle on a comprehensive bipartisan plan, because when it comes right down to it these tax cuts simply will not fix the financial problems our country faces. I have talked to countless business leaders and laborers all over the State of West Virginia and all over the country. When I asked them what will encourage them not only to create the good jobs we need but to keep the jobs we already have, the answer is simple: Certainty. They need to be able to plan their next steps. They need to know their government is working as a partner, an ally, not as an adversary.
We did not pull these stunts in West Virginia when I was Governor. We were willing to get our hands dirty, to come to the table, to have a genuine and respectful discussion on the right direction for our State, and sometimes that led to respectful agreement to disagree. But in the least, we moved forward and made a decision. It has been nearly 2 years since the bipartisan commission on reducing our debt recommended a plan that people of all political stripes support. It is time to go back to that framework and provide this country with an honest solution.
In fact, the only thing that seems to be holding our feet to the fire right now is the sequester, which is becoming quite the scary term around here. For people who do not live and work in the Beltway, here is what the sequester is: If those of us in Congress cannot agree on a real, substantial plan to fix our finances, we will have to make some very painful cuts in some very important areas--our Department of Defense, our schools, and our domestic priorities such as veterans services and Head Start. Both Democrats and Republicans care about those issues.
So both Democrats and Republicans have some skin in the game when it comes to finding an agreement, because, let me tell you, the reason the sequester was put in place almost a year ago was in case we could not come up with an agreement on a big fix, one the so-called supercommittee was tasked to put forward. Well, they did not agree on the superfix and this is our penalty. I believe the greatest mistake we could make would be to walk away before the end of the year and not vote on a clear direction to fulfill the commitment and promises we made to the American people, which were that we would fix the country's financial problems or the sequester would go into effect. That is the biggest mistake we can make as a Nation, letting the American people down.
So now a year after Congress has failed to reach an agreement, I am surprised to find some of my colleagues who voted for the sequester, knowing full well that Congress needs the threat of painful cuts before we can get anything done, are complaining about something they supported. I stand with those, including the President, who are drawing a hard line in the sand on our finances.
Like it or not, this painful sequester is the linchpin to a better government and a better agreement. It is the only way we are going to get something bigger. A better agreement will look a lot like the bipartisan comprehensive Bowles-Simpson framework, not the Bush tax cuts, because this country needs a real solution, because this country needs to come together on that solution, because if we cannot come together, there will be dire consequences for this country with or without the cuts in the sequester.
I sincerely hope and pray and will work for a compromise. But I believe the threat of a sequester might be the only thing that will force Congress to get its job done.
I yield the floor.
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