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Tribute to Tim Russert

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

TRIBUTE TO TIM RUSSERT -- (Senate - June 16, 2008)

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, as Washington, and all of America, continue to pay tribute to Tim Russert, I wish to add a few more words about a man who impacted everybody in this body in one way or another over the years.

I have been a fairly regular guest on ``Meet the Press'' over the years, so I got to know Tim Russert primarily as a tough interviewer, but I also came to appreciate and admire his extraordinary people skills, which were as good as those of any politician here in Washington.

I remember him saying once that his son Luke was a big fan of Tubby Smith, the old UK Wildcats basketball coach. I think Luke even went to Tubby's basketball camp one summer. Well, anytime I or anybody else on the staff got on the phone with Tim, he would also start off with ``Go Cats.'' It is just one example of the great mind he had for small personal details and how he employed that skill in a totally unpretentious way.

He also knew I was a Louisville Cardinal basketball fan, and he invariably would turn the subject to Rick Patino and his considerable skills, and that is a way in which he kind of related to everybody.

Bill Kristol was getting at the same thing in his column this morning, in which he related a story that has been around this town for a while. The story goes that when Pat Moynihan was trying to convince Tim to come down to the Capitol to be his Chief of Staff, Tim didn't want to come because Moynihan's office was all Ph.Ds and intellectuals. He didn't think he would fit in. Moynihan said:

Tim, the things they know you can learn. But the things you know they can never learn.

So as Tim Russert rose to the height of his profession, it became clear Pat Moynihan was right on target.

I found it particularly moving to see Luke paying tribute to his father on television this morning. As Tim often said, being a good father was the job he put the most stock in, and it appears he has done a superb job in that respect as well.


Today the Senate will vote on whether to proceed to the House-passed tax extenders bill. Republicans support the provisions being extended in this legislation. That is why I, along with several of my colleagues, introduced an even stronger version of the House bill, one that contains even longer extensions of the expired provisions, provides AMT relief excluded from the House bill, and does both in a form that would avoid a veto; that is, of course, without raising taxes.

The tax provisions in question are an enormous help to millions of Americans, and a long-term extension would provide the added comfort of predictability into the family budget and the small business balance sheet in the midst of a difficult economic time.

Republicans have been firm on this point, which is why I read with some amusement a letter which was sent to me on Friday by my friend the majority leader, extolling the virtues of the House bill. As I said, Republicans truly agree that the expired provisions certainly merit extension. This is not a State secret. Our point of departure, the principle we have insisted on, is this: Short-term tax extensions should not be the occasion for permanent tax increases. If a new tax policy is being created, that is one thing. But if current taxes are simply being extended, those extensions should not be accompanied by new tax increases. To do so would be to transform the annual ritual of extending current tax law into a stealth exercise in increasing the size of Government.

Unfortunately, the House Democratic leadership seems to have dug in, saying it will not pass an extenders bill without tax hikes. This brings us to an impasse for no good reason. First of all, it strikes me as odd that the House Democratic leadership would single out these particular tax extenders for a fight on offsets. They didn't need offsets on the stimulus bill earlier this year. AMT relief will apparently not require offsets this year. House leaders have signaled that a new GI benefits expansion would not require offsets. And just last week, the House passed an unemployment insurance expansion bill that did not have offsets.

It is entirely possible that the Democratic leadership is open to compromise. Recall that during last year's AMT debate, House leaders also insisted on offsets. On December 18, just last year, House Democrats were saying they would not consider AMT relief unless it included tax hikes elsewhere. Then the following day, September 19, they passed an AMT bill without tax hikes by a vote of 352 to 64. After all the press releases and letters had been issued, our friends on the other side sat down with Republicans and did something we should do a lot more of around here: they negotiated.

So notwithstanding the letter I received on Friday from my good friend, the majority leader, I am hopeful we can do the same thing on this tax extenders bill--sit down together and come up with a solution that is acceptable to both sides and which actually has a chance of being signed into law.

I yield the floor.

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