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Mrs. BOXER. I was here in the minority, and I was able to exercise the filibuster, and I was able to stop a lot of legislation that came over from Newt Gingrich's House. I believe in the filibuster completely, and I think it is important to protect minority rights. But I do think there is such a thing as the use of the filibuster versus the abuse of the filibuster. So my position has always been clear that I think the abuse of the filibuster is wrong.
When I first came here, I thought, well, we should just do away with the 60-vote rule. I came to understand that I didn't really, at the end of the day, wind up believing that was wise.
So I am working with colleagues to figure out a way we can have a talking filibuster but protect the rights of the minority. But I have to say, I don't think there ought to be a filibuster allowed on a motion to proceed to a bill. We have seen that abused and abused and overused. These are the kinds of things we should get together on as colleagues, as friends, across the issues that divide us and not engage in filibusters on a motion to proceed to a bill. There is plenty of time to filibuster the bill itself. There is plenty of time to argue. But it seems to me whoever is the majority leader, be it a Democrat or a Republican, he or she should have the right to take us to a bill. I think that is a power that should lie with the majority, whoever that majority is. So I would certainly approve of fixing that problem.
In addition, how many filibusters do we have to have before we go to conference? I will support one and we will fight it out. But three motions that can be filibustered before going to conference? That is not doing the people's business. Imagine if a bill gets all the way to that conference phase. Remember, it has gone through the committees of the House and Senate, it has gone through the votes of the House and Senate, it has gone through the conference committee to a vote of the conference committee. Why on Earth should we be allowed to filibuster three motions? So I think there are ways we can work together.
I know my friends from Tennessee and New York at one point were working on ways to prevent any President, be it a Democrat or Republican, from facing filibusters on more or less routine nominations. I could support that change too. But I do want to say, as I look at the abuse of the filibuster versus use of the filibuster--and, again, I believe the rights of the minority must be protected--we have to look at the bold, stark facts. Since Harry Reid became the leader here, he has had to face 388 filibusters. The last time the Democrats were in the minority we forced half as many. I think that is too much, but it is only half as many. So we have our majority leader facing twice as many as Democrats led, and it has gotten out of hand.
Members can stand up here and say it is a horrible thing to try to change the rules, but my test is abuse versus use. I think we can come together and avert any type of showdown at the OK Corral. That is ridiculous. We don't need that. We can talk as friends and figure out some of these commonsense reforms that we can do without having to get angry at one another. I don't think it serves anyone's purpose if we are all angry at one another over this.
THE FISCAL CLIFF
My last comments have to do with the fiscal cliff. I stand here 21 days before a tax increase on all Americans is going to occur. This tax increase will go up $2,200 for an average middle-class family.
That is the bad news. Taxes are going to rise. Here is the great news. The great news is the Senate already passed legislation to fix the problem. And guess what. We didn't do it yesterday or the day before yesterday. We saw it coming and we passed it on July 25, 2012. We passed the middle-class tax cuts. My understanding is we took care of the AMT.
The fact is all that now has to happen is for the House to take up our bill. If they take up our bill and they pass our bill, we will see everyone in America keep their tax cuts up to $250,000 in income, and after that $250,000 we will go back to the Clinton rates.
But here is the really good news, if we do that: We will raise $1 trillion and reduce our debt by $1 trillion. There is no reason why Speaker Boehner shouldn't bring this bill to a floor vote. He will win the vote because I know Democrats and some Republicans will definitely support him. He needs to be Speaker of the House, not Speaker of the Republicans, just as Tip O'Neill, when I was there, wasn't Speaker of the Democrats, he was Speaker of the House.
As a matter of fact, the way Tip did it is, he would get half the Democrats and half the Republicans--and he didn't care what you were, an Independent, whatever your affiliation, conservative, liberal--and he would go up to you and say: Can you be with me on this? It is good for the country. Ronald Reagan and I agree.
That was Tip O'Neill. And I know what that is like. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill. So it ought to be President Obama and John Boehner saying: We should pass this middle-class tax cut.
Here is the thing I don't get. When the Bush tax cuts went into place they were passed overwhelmingly by Republicans. Why wouldn't the same Republicans want to make sure they continue for 98 percent of the people? I don't get it. I did not vote for the Bush tax cuts then. I am going to vote for them now, for the 98 percent, because we are coming out of a tough time. I didn't vote for them then. You know why? I said we would go into huge deficits. And I don't want to say I was right, but we did go into a huge period of deficits. It was that, plus two wars on a credit card, and it was a prescription drug benefit that was not paid for by allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prices. I voted against that too.
So here we are at a magic moment in time--a magical moment because it is the holiday season--and we know the Senate passed the middle-class tax cuts in July, and we know there are 21 days left before taxes go up on 98 percent of the people. Rhetorically, I ask the Speaker: Why don't you just pass this?
Today I read the Speaker of the House said: Well, I don't want to do this until I see what programs Barack Obama is going to cut. That is his latest thing. To which I respond: Here is the deal. In the debt ceiling fight we cut $1 trillion of spending. It is shown in those caps that we vote on. Very tough, $1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. That equals what we will get from the tax hikes on those over $250,000. Plus, as part of health care reform, we found savings in Medicare of $700 billion.
By the way, the Republicans ran ads against our people saying the Democrats cut Medicare, and we explained they were savings, because what we did is we told providers: Cut down on fraud and abuse--you are overcharging. Be that as it may, the Republicans were just wiping their brow and crying for the Medicare recipients and saying we cut Medicare. Now they want more Medicare cuts. They have come up with a plan which would raise the age of Medicare, which I think is completely disastrous, and I will tell you why.
If we were to raise the age of Medicare recipients, we would leave 300,000 seniors uninsured. Just what we want. Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah all in one. We would increase the cost to businesses by $4.5 billion because people would stay longer on the business payroll--their medical payroll--at an age when they are getting older. We would increase out-of-pocket health care costs for those age 65 and 66 by over $3 billion. We would increase costs to the States by $700 million. We would cost millions of seniors age 65 and 66 $2,200 more for health care. And we would increase premiums for all other seniors enrolled in Medicare by 3 percent because the population enrolled in Medicare would be older and less healthy.
In other words, we would be pulling the healthiest seniors out of Medicare so that those who are left are sicker, and premiums would go up on everybody else.
The source for these statistics is the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Congressional Budget Office. I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record these facts regarding the raising of the Medicare eligibility age.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
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Mrs. BOXER. I want to say this rhetorically to Speaker Boehner, and I will quote Senator Stabenow, who is quite eloquent on this point. You have a three-legged stool here: You have reductions in spending, which we did in the debt ceiling argument of $1 trillion. It is done. You have cuts in the so-called entitlements of $700 billion, which was done under Obamacare--that is Medicare. The only thing we haven't taken care of is the third leg, which is revenues, and we are suggesting for that $1.7 trillion that we get $1 trillion in revenues.
There have been no revenues put on the table. The Republicans in the House are defending the billionaires, the millionaires--the Koch brothers and all the rest--from having to pay their fair share.
In closing, I would say the American people are very smart. I believe they understand this. They understand what it means to raise the age of Medicare, which we are not going to do. They understand what it means if we do not make sure they get that renewed tax cut. They understand what it means when they see millionaires and billionaires who not only have made even more millions and billions, but the disparity between the middle class and the millionaires and billionaires has grown wildly.
This last election was a lot about that. In this election that was not a side issue--that millionaires and billionaires aren't paying their fair share. It was not a side issue that we should have a budget issue that is fair. It is not a side issue.
It is very easy to resolve this. It is not a good idea for us to fall off that cliff. It is not a necessary thing. So I say to the Republicans, you want a tax cut for everyone, including billionaires. How about taking it for 98 percent of the people? I think that is a deal you should grab and leave Medicare alone. Let's do this now, and when we come back we can get a budget deal that is fair all around.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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