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Imposing a Minimum Effective Tax Rate for High-Income Taxpayers-- Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COATS. Mr. President, right now there is an issue on the mind of every Hoosier and most Americans, if not every American, and that issue is the high price of gas. Over the past few months, gas prices have risen higher and higher each week. Currently, across the Nation, the average price is $3.90. In Indiana, it is even higher. It is close to $4, and in many parts of our State it is well over $4 per gallon.

These prices obviously have a significant economic impact on our country. It causes budgets to get tighter, planned vacations to either be canceled or shortened; families, farmers, and businesses across the State of Indiana are having to rethink their budgets for the year and make tough financial decisions. This is all at a time when unemployment continues to remain high. Americans are struggling to make ends meet. Rising gas and energy costs only further weaken an already struggling economy.

It is true supply and demand of gasoline and oil prices are subject to global considerations. There are concerns that the supply is not meeting the demand. That triggers some clear increase in prices of crude oil. There is also the concern that conflict in the Middle East could potentially shut down lanes of commerce that bring oil out of the Middle East to the rest of the world. So we need to acknowledge there are these spikes.

However, this is a trend that has been going up and up and up. We have seen gas prices more than double in the last 3 years and, clearly, now $3.50, $3.75 is not something that looks like a spike; it is starting to look like the normal average and that certainly has real serious economic implications for this country.

There is some good news. The good news is, Americans are increasingly understanding and learning we can be a major player in producing energy. We are discovering abundant amounts of energy in this country we didn't think we had. A lot of that is right in our backyard. That is the good news. The bad news is, we have had an administration that for 3 years has been promoting policies that work against the goal of achieving more energy independence. That is the problem with the bill we are currently discussing because that bill raises gasoline prices by raising taxes on oil production. Why in the world would we want to raise prices on gasoline at a time when America's economy is struggling to come out of recession? At a time when gasoline prices are rising through the supply-and-demand issues we have had, why in the world would we want to do anything that would further increase the cost of gas at the pump?

The current Tax Code provides a number of targeted tax incentives for the energy sector. It is important to note the vast majority of those subsidies go to the so-called new wave of energy production, the renewables, and only a small minority of those subsidies and credits go to producing the oil and gas that drives this economy. So eliminating only those benefits that go to the production of needed oil and gas that benefits our economy while at the same time extending the subsidies and credits and support for renewables is not the direction we need to go. This is not about producing more energy; it is about targeting just one sector of our energy industry, which is oil--a fossil fuel energy source that is absolutely essential to our economy. If we want to eliminate oil and gas subsidies, we ought to put all subsidies for energy on the table.

Senator Wyden and I have coauthored a comprehensive tax reform bill, and in that bill we look at the idea proposed and suggested not only by the Bowles-Simpson Commission but by others who have looked at this and who have said we need to get on a level playing field. We are willing to make adjustments even in our own bill, if it is necessary, so we can lower tax rates on American companies and on the American people by getting to a more level playing field.

We have all heard the President say we are doing all of the above or we need to do all of the above in terms of an energy approach, and unblock American resources and put us back in the driver's seat of energy production. The reality is, the administration's policies over the last 3 years have been directed at only subsidizing a certain portion of the ``all of the above.''

Let me give a couple examples. President Obama has reduced the number of new offshore leases in half over the next 5 years.

In terms of current exploration and production, 97 percent of offshore areas are out of bounds, cannot drill, cannot explore.

Most recently, the President rejected the Keystone XL Pipeline, a privately--privately, not publicly--funded project that would create 20,000 jobs and deliver more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada.

Then, just last week, the President says we are going to improve the pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma down to Port Arthur, Texas but rejected doing anything to bring the pipeline from the source of the oil down to the point in Oklahoma where it would continue on. That is essentially akin to saying: We have goods we need to move. They are essential. They are essential to the running of this country and the economy and we need to ship those from Chicago to New Orleans, but we are only going to build the road from Little Rock to New Orleans, and we will not have any other way of transporting it to get it to that particular point. So it makes no sense whatsoever.

We cannot have it both ways. We cannot tell the American people we support an ``all of the above'' energy plan and then undercut attempts to produce domestic energy sources. We cannot say we want to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and then block major parts of the Keystone Pipeline or tell political leaders in Brazil we want the United States to be one of their best customers. We cannot tell Americans we are focused on job creation and then impose one unrealistic regulation after another that increase energy costs, jeopardize jobs, and shut down plants across the country. But that is exactly what this administration is doing.

The Obama energy plan is to pay lip service to American energy production at the same time while enacting policies that limit our ability to tap into domestic resources.

Our country faces an energy crisis. We have high unemployment. We have troops putting themselves on the frontline to protect oil in the Middle East. But we can change that. We can unlock American energy resources. We can put Americans back to work in doing so. We can protect our troops and reduce our dependence on Middle East oil. We have the ability, we have the innovation, and we have now, we know, the resources to lead the world in energy production. It is time for the President to support American energy production. That is the real ``all of the above'' energy plan.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.


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