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Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, first let me thank Senator Enzi and Senator Alexander. I completely agree with their position.
I had a chance to talk about this issue when we were debating it on the budget issue. The bill simply removes an impediment from the States being able to collect the sales taxes that are due. It responds to the Quill decision about requiring a physical presence in a State in order to require that State to collect the sales tax.
Senator Enzi points out there are no new taxes; that it is a matter of basic fairness. It really does help small businesses. The brick-and-mortar companies located in our neighborhoods, small shopowners who build a neighborhood and build a community, are the ones who are at risk where they have to pay sales taxes and yet their competitors don't.
I will give a short example with a story told to me about a retailer selling electronic goods. The consumer came into the shop, looked and found the product she wanted, went on the Internet, found the product for the same price on the Internet but didn't have to pay the sales tax, and literally bought it while the shopowner was watching--after the shopowner had given that individual personal service. The shopowner didn't lose the sale because of competitiveness but lost the sale because of tax avoidance. This bill would correct that.
This is $23 billion. This is a lot of money our States are not collecting. These are taxes that are already imposed. In my own State of Maryland, it is somewhere between $150 million and $300 million of taxes that could be used to reduce tax burdens to the taxpayers in my State.
It is a matter of basic fairness, something that needs to be done. As Senator Enzi pointed out, it will simplify the sales tax collections by using the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, and we exempt small sellers of $1-million-or-below sales. So it is an issue that needs to be passed, and I am pleased that we are finally getting around to passing it.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak for up to 10 minutes as if in morning business.
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Mr. CARDIN. I have never supported the sequestration. I always thought it was a big mistake. These are across-the-board, mindless cuts that say every priority in government is identical to the other. That is not the case.
If you had a problem in your family budget and you had to reduce some spending and you had money put aside for your mortgage payment, your rent payment, or your family food budget, and maybe some money for a weekend trip, you wouldn't identically cut every category. You may give up that weekend trip in order to be able to save the roof over your family or put food on the table. Sequestration says every priority in government is the same.
It is also not directed to where we need to go to reduce the deficit. Once again, sequestration primarily applies to domestic discretionary spending. It provides a fourth round of cuts when we have already had cuts over the last 3 years. For the agencies that are affected, it is equivalent to about a 10-percent cut. You can't do that without seriously affecting the mission of the agencies, and that is wrong. That is why I have said from the beginning, let's replace sequestration.
March 1 came; sequestration came; people woke up the next day and said, What is the big deal? Well, we are finding out what the big deal is all about. We just heard from the FAA, the air traffic controllers, that because of sequestration they have very little option--85 percent of their operational budget is in personnel, and air traffic controllers are most of the personnel. Therefore, they have announced they have to furlough 11 days during the remainder of this fiscal year. That comes out to about one furlough day over each work period. It is as much as a 10-percent reduction in the workforce to man our towers to make sure air traffic is managed safely. You can't do that with that type of reduction, and we are now looking at whether there are going to be significant delays of flights. Those types of cuts are ridiculous. We know better than that. There is no question about it, these are the types of things that are going to hurt our economy if we can't have a reliable air traffic service.
I was talking to one of the nonprofits in Maryland that manages a Head Start Program, and they were telling me about what the fall enrollment is going to be. They have a waiting list of families who want their children in Head Start and qualify for Head Start and aren't going to be able to get into a Head Start Program. Why? Because of sequestration. The waiting list will get longer. Children will be denied the ability to go to Head Start Programs. Did we intend that? I don't think so. I don't think our colleagues wanted to say we were going to balance our budgets on the backs of children being denied Head Start placement.
I was at the National Institutes of Health not too long ago. The research they do is so critically important to our country's future. It is not only the fact that they are discovering the answers to dread diseases or ways in which we can keep people healthy. They are now working on developing a universal flu vaccine against the influenza so you don't have to get a vaccine every year. Think how many lives that can save. It is also the basic research we need in order to create the jobs in the bioscience areas and the tech areas. This is about creating more jobs in our communities. Now they are going to have to give up grants as a result of sequestration even though today they are only approving about one out of every seven worthwhile grant applications. We certainly didn't intend that through sequestration.
I could talk about new transit starts. We have some very exciting programs in Baltimore, Washington, and Maryland--a purple line to provide transit between the Washington suburban counties and Maryland. We have transit programs in Baltimore. We have the corridor cities along the 270 corridor. We have southern Maryland that needs help. All these programs need to compete for a limited amount of funds. Now, because of sequestration, there are going to be less funds available, meaning we are going to have more traffic jams rather than less. Do we mean for that to happen?
I could go on and on. I could talk about the cuts to the Department of Defense and what they have to go through. These weren't cuts we initiated, saying this program needs to be reduced. These aren't the types of deliberative actions a Congress would do. It is saying we are going to do a meat ax approach and tell the agency: You cut your program by this percentage amount. We advertised it a little over 5 percent, but in reality it is much higher than that because these cuts over a 7-month period reflect a year's reduction. So the cuts are even more severe when used on an annual basis.
Our Federal workforce deserves more. These are people working hard providing vital services in our country, whether it is protecting our borders or doing research or keeping our food supply safe or making sure our seniors get Social Security checks. The list goes on and on. It is not fair to those who signed up to serve the public as Federal workers, and it is certainly not fair to our economy. This is having a very damaging impact on the economy of this country. We have already seen in the most recent job reports a slowdown of more than we predicted, and most economists say it is directly related to these across-the-board sequestration cuts.
So what should we do? We are in session. It is time for us to act. We are in the fiscal budget year 2013. Yes, we passed a budget at the end of last year. I think it was on January 1 when it finally got around to passing. We passed it at the sequestration levels saying we hoped we would figure out a budget plan to avoid the sequestration cuts in this year. So let us consider a way to avoid these mindless across-the-board cuts, and substitute it for sensible reductions that we know will not have the same type of unintended consequences on services that are vitally important to our economy and to the people of this country.
There are areas where we have savings. We know that. We have that in the overseas contingency accounts under the Department of Defense. We know we can find savings in tax expenditures. We spend $1.2 trillion a year in tax expenditures. We know we can certainly find some savings on tax expenditures. I think we have to look at a broader level than just these discretionary spending accounts that are particularly devastated by these sequestration cuts.
I urge this body to find a way we can replace sequestration for fiscal year 2013--this current fiscal year--by more responsible budget savings, and then, working through our appropriations committees, working through the Budget Committee and the other committees for fiscal year 2014, have time under a more normal legislative process to figure out our spending priorities to go beyond the appropriate dollars--what we do on the Tax Code, what we do under mandatory spending. Let's bring up that game plan after the next fiscal year, 2014, which begins October 1. But for the current situation, let's replace sequestration with a more sensible way to get those savings, rather than causing harm--whether it is to those who depend upon air traffic, those who depend upon a place in Head Start, those who rely upon the research done at NIH, or those who depend upon having adequate support within our military. All of the above are adversely affected by sequestration. It is time for us to take action, to do what we were supposed to do: Make the tough decisions. Don't take the way out that every program in government is of equal importance.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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