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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, today, Senator Brown and I are introducing important legislation to extend tax relief to working families: The Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2013.

This legislation will ensure that taxes do not increase on working families in the coming years, and will expand an effective incentive to work.

The Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2013 is pro-family, pro-work legislation that would permanently extend critical refundable tax credit provisions that have helped lift millions of working families out of poverty.

These provisions were only extended for 5 years in the American Taxpayer Relief Act, the same bill that permanently lowered the estate tax for the wealthiest Americans.

The Child Tax Credit, CTC, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC, are refundable tax credits that encourage work, help families make ends meet, and lead to healthier and better educated children.

Both the Senate-passed budget and the President's FY 2014 budget request call for making these provisions permanent.

Consistent with the original goals for the EITC, the Working Families Tax Relief Act would help the only group that our Tax Code pushes into poverty: childless workers.

The EITC was designed to help childless workers offset their payroll tax liability. In reality, employees bear the burden of both the employee and employer portion of the payroll tax.

As a result, a typical single childless adult will begin to owe Federal income taxes in addition to payroll taxes when his or her income is still significantly below the poverty line. These changes will result in a full-time worker receiving the minimum wage to be eligible for the maximum earned income credit amount.

This may sound complicated, but these CTC and EITC provisions have real-world impacts.

An analysis of Census data showed that these CTC provisions lifted 900,000 people above the poverty line in 2011, using a poverty measure that counts not only cash income but also taxes and government benefits.

According to recent estimates, letting the expanded CTC expire will increase taxes on 12 million families who will see the size of their CTC credit shrink, and 5 million families will no longer be eligible for the credit at all.

The EITC has long been one of the most effective anti-poverty measures in our toolkit. In 2011, according to the Internal Revenue Service, the EITC lifted 6.6 million Americans out of poverty, 3.3 million of whom were children.

In Illinois last year, 1 million taxpayers claimed the EITC and received an average credit of about $2,300. That money isn't a hand-out, it is food on the table, school clothes for children and maybe a little bit leftover to buy Christmas presents.

When Ronald Reagan signed the 1986 Tax Reform package, he had this to say about its provisions that expanded the EITC:

The Earned Income Tax Credit is the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.

I could not have said it better myself.

I thank Senator Brown for his leadership on this, as a new member of the Finance Committee.

I look forward to working with him and many of my colleagues to ensure that these provisions are included in tax reform.

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By Mr. DURBIN:

S. 846. A bill to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to permit leave to care for a same-sex spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent who has a serious health condition; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act. This bill, which I have also introduced in the previous two Congresses, would extend the important protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act to grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, adult children, and same-sex spouses and domestic partners throughout America.

I am pleased to introduce this bill with a coalition of Senators who are committed to ensuring justice and equality for all Americans. I would like to thank Senators Leahy, Whitehouse, Sanders, Murray, Coons, Gillibrand, Lautenberg, and Blumenthal for standing with me in support of the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act.

In 1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act to, among other things, protect American workers facing either a personal health crisis, or that of a close family member.

People in the workforce who suffer a serious illness or significant injury should be able to take time to heal, recover, and follow their doctors' orders, without the added stress of worrying about their job status. They should be able to return to their workplaces strong, healthy, and ready to be productive again. Thanks to the FMLA, they can take the needed time knowing that their jobs will be there when they recover.

Most employees, however, are not solely concerned about their own health and wellbeing. They are also concerned about the health and wellbeing of those they love. The FMLA gave workers with a child, parent, or spouse that was sick or injured, an opportunity to provide the needed care and support, knowing that their jobs would still be there when they returned.

When it was passed, the FMLA was an important and historic expansion of our nation's laws. Unfortunately, as families have evolved and expanded, we've learned that the FMLA does not adequately nor equally protect all American families. Under current law, it is impossible for many employees to be with their loved ones during times of medical need.

As I stated when I first introduced this bill, Congress followed the lead of many large and small businesses when it enacted the FMLA. Twenty years ago, many of these businesses had already recognized and addressed the need for employees to take time off to care for themselves or a loved one that was battling a serious health condition. These companies had put in place systems that gave their employees time to heal themselves or their family members, and ensured that those employees would return to work as soon as they could.

The FMLA took the model these companies provided and brought the majority of the American workforce under the same protections.

We once again have an opportunity to learn from the best practices of American businesses who have adjusted their personnel policies and benefit packages to better meet the needs of American families, as we find them today. These businesses have assessed the composition of their workforces and realized that, in order to meet the evolving needs of their employees and enhance productivity, they needed to go one step further than the protections provided by the FMLA.

It's time that we do the same here in Congress, and recognize in law that a healthy workforce, regardless of sexual orientation, is a critical component of a healthy, modern, and efficient national economy. The Human Rights Campaign, a leading civil rights organization that strongly supports the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, reports that at least 580 major American corporations, 17 States, and the District of Columbia now extend FMLA benefits to include leave on behalf' of a same-sex partners and spouses. Moreover, as of January 1st of this year, 47% of Fortune 500 companies provided health benefits to same-sex partners.

When the FMLA was signed into law, it was narrowly tailored to cover individuals caring for a very close family member. The law sought to cover that inner circle of people, where the family member assuming the caretaker role would be one of very few, if not the only person, who could do so. That idea has not changed.

What has changed are the people who might be in that inner circle. The nuclear American family has grown, sometimes by design, and sometimes by necessity. More and more, that inner circle of close family might include a grandparent or grandchild, siblings, or same-sex domestic partners in loving and committed relationships.

As the law stands right now, too many of these people are excluded from the protections of the FMLA.

In these tough economic times, when unemployment is high and those with jobs are doing everything they can to keep them, we all know the value of job security. Hardworking Americans should not have to make the impossible choice between keeping their jobs and providing care and support for loved ones in their time of need. Twenty years ago, the FMLA ensured that millions of Americans did not have to make that choice. Now, the time has come to bring this protection into the 21st century and ensure that the security afforded by the FMLA is available to a broader range of American workers.

There are many who would understandably question what this kind of change in the law would cost the business community. Ensuring that workers can take the time they need to recover from a health emergency not only benefits an individual family, it benefits the community where the family lives and the businesses for which the family members work.

As I have stated in the past, the FMLA is already a very good law; it is already in place and it is working. It provides for unpaid leave when the need arises, and it only applies to businesses that have enough employees on hand to handle the absence of a single worker without too great a burden.

Ninety percent of the leave time that has been taken under the FMLA has been so that employees can care for themselves or for a child in their care, and those situations are already covered under the law as it stands. What the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act would do is provide a little more flexibility, and recognize that there are a few more people in that inner circle of family who we might call upon, or who might call upon us.

We can all agree that family is the first and best safety net in times of personal crisis. Families need to be given the realistic ability to provide that assistance. What the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act does is give those family members the ability to help their loved ones in ways that only they can, without fear of losing their jobs in the process.

The Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act enhances the FMLA. Like the FMLA when it was passed two decades ago, the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act is long overdue. Our legislation contains reasonable changes that reflect what many of our nation's most successful businesses have already done and it accurately represents the modem American family.

The Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act is supported by over 80 organizations from the business, civil rights, LGBT, and labor communities, including: the National Association of Working Women; AFSCME; American Academy of Pediatrics ACLU; Families USA; Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, GLAD; Human Rights Campaign; People for the American Way; SEIU and; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act is the right thing to do, and I hope we can join together and pass it on a bipartisan basis.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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