U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, today delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the ongoing situation of the fiscal cliff and the critical need for bipartisan action to avert this looming crisis:
Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the ongoing situation with the so-called fiscal cliff. To millions of Americans, what's happening here in Washington must be a mystery. In less than two weeks, almost every single taxpaying citizen will face a massive tax hike if we don't act. For weeks now, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has been trying to get this President to come up with a fair, reasonable and balanced solution so we don't go over this cliff.
The President, thinking he has some sort of mandate after his reelection, has been less than reasonable. In fact, this President has proposed more and more spending, and more and more tax hikes in his proposals to the Speaker, while the Speaker is trying to stop these tax hikes and deal with our over $16 trillion debt. The President just can't take yes for an answer. He must think that if he keeps slow-walking these proposals that Republicans will get the blame -- and members of his Administration have even reveled that they would be more than happy if we went over the cliff. What kind of cruel Christmas gift is that?
After the Speaker and the President exchanged offers this week, House Republicans are looking at having votes on two competing pieces of legislation as early as tomorrow. The first is legislation that passed this body over the summer -- deeply-flawed legislation that every Democrat supported. I should note that I put forward a more common-sense alternative that would have extended all the current tax policy for one year during which time we could undertake a comprehensive overhaul of our bloated, broken tax code. The second piece of legislation that the House will vote on is legislation that Speaker Boehner has called "Plan B" -- a more limited piece of legislation that extends almost all the current tax policy as is in the law today.
I understand that this "Plan B" is a plan of necessity. And while I understand that the Speaker continues to negotiate with the President to try and reach an agreement, the Speaker has put this forward to force action from this intransigent White House. What does the Speaker's plan do? The Speaker's plan would provide seamless permanent tax relief for American taxpayers who earn less than $1 million. For taxpayers above $1 million, the statutory rates on ordinary and capital gain income would be set at the level President Obama and Congressional Democrats have insisted on.
Mr. President, my preference is clear -- I have legislation that this body voted on in August that shows what I believe is the better path. I oppose tax increases VERY strongly -- and have said over and over again that we should not be touching tax rates. But I also understand that given the reality before us that the Speaker has to move forward with a plan to force action. Is it perfect from my perspective? No, but we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The Speaker, in my view, is the only person in these negotiations trying to find a resolution. I commend him -- and I know he is working hard discussing this legislation with the members of the House Republican Conference as they move towards a vote. I hope they support this plan -- if I was a member of the House, I would.
But I'm a member of the Senate and this leads me to ask: after the House passes Plan B and defeats the Senate Democrats' tax bill, what is it that Senate Democrats want to do? The House will presumably send its bill to the Senate. Senator Reid and the White House have already said it is dead on arrival in the Senate. I find that very curious indeed since so many Democrats seem to have wanted exactly what the Speaker's giving them. Then they complain that the Speaker's plan isn't "balanced" despite the fact that the President in a proposal was calling on more stimulus spending and for the continuation of so-called temporary stimulus tax provisions that the President now some-how wants to make permanent.
So I would say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, what is it exactly that you want to do? What is it that Senate Democrats and the White House want? We are all waiting. The American people are waiting. Enough of the games. Put your money where your mouth is and tell us what you think is better than what Speaker Boehner has put forward.