CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (Senate - March 16, 2005)
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I come to the floor to lay down an amendment to provide a place in this budget for the men and women who are placing their lives on the line for us.
A couple of months ago, before we went on our break in December and January, I had the great privilege, actually, of holding this body in a filibuster for 3 days. It was not something that was planned, but it was something that evolved after I found out that the last huge FSC-ETI bill that we passed in the Senate managed to find tax relief, tax cuts, special tax considerations for seemingly everyone in America except for the men and women in uniform fighting for us.
I know people listening tonight will really not believe what I am saying is true. But they can go to Web sites on this budget to look at the record, or talk to their Guard and National Reserve to see that what I am saying is actually true.
We have passed trillions and trillions of dollars in tax cuts since 2001. It would be one thing if we were taking money out of the budget to do that, but we are actually borrowing money to give tax cuts. We are not just taking money that is just sitting there sort of waiting for us to decide how to use it and then giving it to tax cuts based on some reason about who would need it the most. We are borrowing money, charging it to our children and our grandchildren, and then giving tax cuts to people who arguably do not need it.
Many Democrats have come to the Senate floor and tried to make that case over and over again, and I hope that some of this is getting through.
But whether they are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, or whether they were for the war in Iraq; whether they think the troops should stay there or come home; or whether they believe there were weapons of mass destruction and we went in for the right reasons or there were not and we went in for the wrong reasons, I think universally in America people believe, no matter what their political persuasion, that if we are going to continue to give tax cuts the first people who should get them are the people who are fighting to protect us.
But in this budget, on page 21, proposed by the President of the United States, in small print, which I am sorry cannot be picked up by the camera, it says:
The Committee-reported resolution assumes on-budget revenues are reduced by $70.2 billion over five years.
The resolution instructs the Senate Finance Committee to basically give out $70 billion in taxes. So if this budget passes the way it is now, $70 billion is going to have to be given out in taxes, in addition to the $2 trillion we have already passed--these numbers are just mind-boggling; it is impossible for me to describe how much money that is. But this President is intent basically on emptying the Treasury for tax cuts. So I have argued that is not what we should do.
I believe we should balance the budget. I was one of 50 Senators today who voted on the only amendment that actually would have gotten us there, which was the pay-go amendment. We lost by one vote. So I am not going to make that argument tonight again.
I believe that if we are going to give $70 billion in tax cuts, which is what this budget instructs us to do, please, Mr. President, could we please give a tax cut to the men and women in uniform? They are the ones who have left their homes in Louisiana, North Dakota, Tennessee, all over the country, and gone to the front lines to fight for us.
The sad thing about this is that 40 percent of those men and women who go from the Guard and Reserve take a pay cut to fight for us. It is inconceivable to me that this administration, or anybody in the Senate, would stand here tonight and argue for a budget that gives $70 billion in additional tax cuts to people who may or may not need them and yet at the same time ask our soldiers to go to the front line and take a pay cut.
When we come to the floor and go to the Finance Committee and beg and plead on their behalf, could they give them a few pennies, could they give them a few dollars, we are told over and over again, I am sorry, we cannot afford it.
The last ``military tax relief'' the Congress passed was a $1.2 billion bill. I wish I could show how tiny that is. I mean, $1.2 billion is a lot of money, but relative to what we are giving out to everybody else in tax cuts, it is so small. When we did that bill, I went to them and said: Look, can we do better? Our men and women need this tax break. Their employers are trying to keep their paychecks whole. If we give a tax cut to their employers who are voluntarily continuing to pay their active duty Guard and Reserve employees' salaries, perhaps they could at least keep their paycheck. We are not talking about extra money; we are just talking about letting them get their paycheck that they got when they were firemen, policemen, an architect, a doctor, or a lawyer. Let them keep that paycheck.
This is not even really for the soldiers, because these guys and gals are making the sacrifice. This is to keep their wives, their spouses, and their children in their homes, in their automobiles, getting them to the doctor.
For some reason--I do not know why--this Senate, particularly the Republican leadership, refuses to give a tax credit to the Guard and Reserve. So the last time a bill came through, I asked: Could you please attach this amendment to it?
Sorry, Senator Landrieu, we cannot afford it. We cannot possibly give the Guard and Reserve a tax cut. Do you not understand, we do not have any money.
I do not know what they are talking about, because this budget is going to give another $70 billion in tax cuts. So please do not even argue with me on the point. I am not going to listen. There is $70 billion given away in this budget again, and I am going to ask for the $1.2 billion out of $70 billion--pennies, pennies--for the Guard and Reserve.
Let me tell you how this affects Guard and Reserve families. This is a letter from Kansas, the State of Senators BROWNBACK and ROBERTS:
After 9/11 [my husband] was activated ..... His pay was significantly decreased, his health care was in jeopardy, and I was pregnant. Here was my family, making so many sacrifices for our country and our country wasn't taking care of us at all. How could this be happening?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Louisiana has consumed her time.
Ms. LANDRIEU. I ask for 2 additional minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Ms. LANDRIEU. Continuing:
Luckily, our country may not have been taking care of us under the circumstances, but [my husband's company] was. [They] sent us a check to make up the difference in pay for my husband's entire activation. They deserve to be recognized as a great supporter of our military by receiving this tax credit.
This tax credit would go to businesses that are doing the patriotic thing, helping the Guard and Reserve on the front line, keeping them and their families out of bankruptcy, not having to mortgage their house, not having to give up the car while they are fighting for us. This tax credit is going to benefit the thousands of Guard and Reserve in Louisiana and thousands of Guard and Reserve in our country. It is unconscionable that the Senate Finance Committee, or this budget, would contemplate yet more tax cuts for everybody in America and leave out the men and women in uniform.
What is worse about it is every picture we are in is taken with men and women in uniform, with that flag flying, but when it comes to putting them in the budget--we can put them in our campaign pictures, all right, but we cannot put them in the budget.
That is what my amendment does. We are going to vote on it tomorrow. It does not add one penny. It just says to the Finance Committee, go ahead and give away $70 billion again, but the first $1.2 billion is going to be given to the men and women in uniform. They deserve it. Shame on us if we do not put them in.
So we are not going to vote on this tonight, but for the Guard and Reserve in my State, for the Guard and Reserve in New Hampshire, for the Guard and Reserve in South Carolina, North Dakota, and South Dakota, I hope we will get 100 percent of the Senators to vote on this. If anybody wants to debate it, I will stay here all night and debate it as long as anybody wants, but I think my time has been limited.
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