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Press Conference with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX); Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) - Taxes


Location: Washington, DC

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SEN. MCCONNELL: Good morning, everyone.

Our Democratic friends have campaigned hard on tax relief for the middle class. They say any tax hikes that they propose would only affect the rich, but they define the rich as single workers who earn $34,000 a year and couples who earn $63,000 a year. I ought to put that in context. First-year schoolteachers in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky make about $35,000 a year. I really don't think that they think they're rich. Couples with children who make $63,000 a year I think have no sense that they are rich. The fact is that under the Democratic plan, 28 million families will wake up happy to hear that they've gotten rich all of a sudden, only to realize really the only change in their lives is that they will have higher taxes.

The Republican Congress passed tax relief that benefits every taxpayer earlier in the decade, and every one of those people is going to see their taxes go up under the budget that the Democrats passed earlier this year.

With that, Kay.

SEN. HUTCHISON: Well, thank you.

As we all know, today is tax day. But unfortunately, tax freedom day doesn't come until April 23rd. That's the day that people stop working for state, local and federal government through their income taxes and begin to keep the money they earn for themselves.

We are now spending more in taxes in America than people are spending on food and shelter, and that is the wrong equation.

I think the Democratic-passed budget that would stop the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 would hurt the economy more now, and it's a time when we know we should be helping the economy so that people can recover and keep their homes and keep their jobs.

So tax increases by not extending the tax cuts would certainly keep our small businesses from continuing to hire. We've already seen unemployment creep up, and I don't think we need a jolt to our economy that would be a bad jolt.

Last but not least, we've just voted to give people a tax rebate, and now we turn around and take that rebate plus more back? It just doesn't make sense.

So I hope that people on April 15th, as they are mailing those checks to the IRS, will remember that we're trying to keep taxes low. We are trying to stop the tax increases. And it is going to be a major issue for 2008 in this campaign, as it should be.

SEN. GREGG: Thank you, Mr. Leader, Senator Hutchison.

Well, to paraphrase Will Rogers, the only thing certain in life are death and taxes, but death doesn't get worse every time a Democratic Congress meets. And that's what's happened here. The Democratic Congress has passed a $1.2 trillion tax increase. Well, what does that mean, a trillion dollars? The American people can't understand that. I can't understand it. The number's too big. What it means in real terms is that for senior citizens, a retired couple making $40,000 a year, their taxes are going to go up $2,200 a year. For a family of four, the average American family, making $50,000 a year, their taxes are going up $2,300. And for that small business that we look to for the purposes of creating jobs in America, their taxes are going to go up $4,100.

That's real money. That's about what it costs probably to run your car, to pay your rent for a couple of months. It's very expensive for the American people to have this Democratic Congress. And it's going to get more expensive, because if you look at the proposals, for example, from their presidential candidates, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton specifically, Senator Obama has proposed $300 billion of new spending annually -- annually! Well, you've got to pay for that some way. That will double these numbers. So the number on a working family will go to almost $5,000 in order to pay for the Obama spend-o-rama. It's expensive.

Well, the American people don't need this. What they need is a Congress to be fiscally disciplined. And hopefully we can do that, and that's what we're committed to on our side of the aisle.

SEN. MCCONNELL: We'll take a few questions. Yeah.

Q Your thoughts on -- anybody -- Senator McCain's proposal for a tax holiday on gasoline? (Off mike.)

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, I just heard about it, we'll be thinking about it and see if it has any merit.

Q Senator Baucus has -- (off mike). Is that something that your side of the aisle would support?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Let me let Senator Gregg tackle that.

SEN. GREGG: Well, here's the problem. Last year they said they were going to do this. If you'll recall, they passed an amendment to the budget last year that said that they were going to extend some of the tax issues, such as R&D tax credit, spousal deduction, tuition tax credit. They said they were going to do that last year; they didn't do it. This year, they passed the same amendment claiming they were going to do the same thing. How much credibility do they have?

When they come forward with a package, we'll take a look at it. But we haven't seen it yet, and my own view is that we don't need to raise taxes on the American people to cut taxes on the American people. The American people are not fundamentally undertaxed, you know; they're overtaxed. So if you're going to extend tax benefits which apply today, which are reasonable enough so they've got majority support, then why do you need to pay for that extension? It makes no sense at all, especially in this economy.

I think Senator Hutchison's point was right on. In this economy, raising taxes will only aggravate a very tentative situation.

SEN. MCCONNELL: Let me just add to that. The principle that Senator Gregg was talking about played out last year on the AMT. They wanted to use an extension, continuation of existing law as an excuse to raise taxes on others.

That's something that our conference almost entirely thinks is a bad idea.

Q Do you support the Coburn amendment to the highway bill on -- (off mike)?

SEN. MCCONNELL: We're going to discuss the highway bill actually at lunch and the way forward on that. I haven't looked at that carefully yet, but I will.

Q Senator McConnell, Senator Reid and Senator Durbin were on the floor this morning complaining about the number of cloture motions they've had to file this year. Senator Durbin went as far as to say the GOP stance for "Graveyard of Progress" this year. (Laughter.) Can you talk to that?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Let's see, the last time they used charts on filibusters, I think they used the number 73. This morning I'm told they used the number 65. So obviously, the number of filibusters as they see it is diminishing. Maybe by the end of the summer we'll be down to none. (Laughter.)

Q Well, and yet 65 is -- Senator Durbin said 65 is still a record, that the previous record is --

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, he's been filing them in rapid-fire order. You know, frequently cloture is invoked in order to advance bills, not to slow them down. So they're not always for the purpose of preventing things from going forward. Their statistics are largely nonsense.

SEN. HUTCHISON: Yeah, I would just say when you put a bill on the floor and file cloture immediately, that's hardly a filibuster.

SEN. GREGG: (Off mike.)

Q (I'm curious ?) if any of you saw the Third Way study. They broke down a taxpayer paying $13,000 in taxes a year. This is sort of, you know, $2,700 of that goes to Social Security -- (off mike) -- or something. Did any of you see that and have any reaction to that?

(No audible response.)

Q A quick question on the tax increase. What year did that tax increase happen?

SEN. GREGG: That tax increase has hopefully not happened and hopefully will not happen. But if you follow -- if the Democratic budget is executed on, that's when it would occur. That would be 2010.

Q 2010. So before that, there would be no tax increase?

SEN. GREGG: Well, that depends on what they -- how they approach things on the AMT, on their reconciliation instruction, and on the representation of the question earlier about the Baucus proposal for extenders. Maybe no net tax increase, but as a practical matter there will be shifting around and people see their -- some people see their taxes go up for sure under that scenario potentially.

Q Senator, today on the floor Senator Cornyn said that keeping taxes low is the best stimulus package for America. The Democrats now are obviously pushing an extension of unemployment benefits. Where are the Republicans standing on that at this point?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, we're going to take a look at these proposals as they come along.

You know, I've been amused by one of the Democratic senators referring to the president, for example, as Hoover. Nobody has read any history, apparently, on the other side of the aisle. What did Hoover do? He did two things: He raised taxes in the middle of a deep depression and signed Smoot-Hawley, protectionism. What do the Democrats have in mind as they go forward? Raising taxes, as Senator Gregg, Senator Hutchison and I have just pointed out, and not passing the Colombia free trade agreement. The signal to the world, America is going to raise taxes, implement protectionist policies -- talk about the wrong thing to do in an economic slowdown! They can't even get their history straight.

Okay. Thanks everybody.

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