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Public Statements

Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COATS. Madam President, I came down to the floor early to line up in the queue to talk about taxes and the proposal that has just been discussed.

I sat here in amazement as the Senator from Utah has just expressed, and as the minority leader expressed the redefinition of ``filibuster.'' It was a tortured effort on the part of the majority leader to try to redefine it in a way that had just the opposite effect of what a filibuster really is.

I wish the majority leader had been at our caucus luncheon yesterday when we debated whether we would vote against the cloture motion to proceed on this bill. The consent of our caucus was, no; we welcome a debate on taxes. We welcome the opportunity to move forward and discuss our two visions of how we need to revive this economy.

So let's not use parliamentary tricks or a parliamentary procedure to avoid that debate and to avoid a vote on the President's proposal. We realized there was the opportunity for the majority leader to use parliamentary tricks and procedures in order to deny us the opportunity to offer our own version of what we thought we should do with our Tax Code and provisions, particularly as it reflects this particular tax on small business, but we welcome the opportunity to come and debate that and work through it and, hopefully, make an offer that is acceptable.

So the minority leader came down here this morning and turned to the majority leader and said: We are going to give you your vote. We are not going to use parliamentary procedures to prevent you from having an opportunity to vote on your proposal, the President's proposal.

By some tortured way of opposing this, the majority leader essentially said: There you go again. Republicans

are filibustering. I think we all just sat here with our mouths agape saying: Have we missed something? We are offering to give you your vote.

Now, it is clear this center aisle--not completely--divides us in terms of how we think we should go forward in dealing with this very sick and anemic economy. There is probably pretty close to a consensus that tax reform needs to be an essential part of what we need to do.

In a bipartisan way, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, and Dan Coats, a Republican from Indiana, have been working for 1 1/2 years now on something that was started with Senator Gregg, who is now retired from distinguished service in the Senate but worked with Senator Wyden for 2 years in putting a package together, a comprehensive tax reform package. It is the only plan out there that has been written, scored, and is available for debate and available to the tax-writing committees to use as a basis--or foundation or parts of it or all of it or whatever--in forming their own version to bring forward. But there is a bipartisan consensus that we ought to move forward on comprehensive tax reform.

Senator Hatch, our Republican leader in the Finance Committee--which is the committee responsible for writing that bill--has said piecemeal is not the way to go. Anybody who has analyzed our current situation understands that comprehensive tax reform is the best solution. But even Senator Hatch agreed, in this instance, given the situation we now face, he would accept going forward with a short-term proposal that would give us 1 year to put together a comprehensive tax reform package. The last one occurred in 1986, so long past time we overhaul the Tax Code. With all the credits and subsidies and additions and addendums to the current Tax Code, it is complex beyond anybody's ability to fully understand. And it isn't fair. It favors some at the expense of the many. In many cases, there are special credits and tax breaks that go to a single industry. So we need much more fairness across the board, and that is what Senator Wyden and I attempt to do in our proposal.

The word ``fairness'' is thrown around here as a condemnation on the Republican Party's ability to achieve bipartisan consent, but if we want to talk about fairness, let's talk about what just happened here. It was imminently fair for the minority leader to offer the Democrats a vote on the President's proposal. All we asked in return was an opportunity to present, debate and vote on our proposal.

What is amazing is that the Democratic Party controls the Senate. They have the votes to pass the President's proposal. So in the end, if they voted in unison with the President, their proposal wins. If we vote and we come up short, we lose.

Obviously, there must be a reason they don't want that vote. They don't want an alternative presented to them because they must fear they would lose votes on their side of the aisle for the President's proposal, and we would gain votes from them on our side. It has happened in the past, and apparently that is the decision they made.

But this torturous explanation of how this could be a Republican filibuster--if they can spin this one at the White House and at the press conference today, or if they can spin this through the press, they are not listening or understanding what is actually going on here.

What is going on here is a decided attempt by the majority leader to protect his party from having to take a vote for or against. If the American people want anything out of this body, and if they are disgusted with anything that comes out of this body, it is when people go home and say: Well, we didn't have a real vote on that. There was a procedural this or that and it got stopped here or modified there or the others tied up the legislative tree.

What in the world does that mean to most people outside of this body? They used some procedural way to avoid a real vote.

They want our yes to be yes and our no to be no, and we are offering to the Democratic leader that opportunity. Let your yes be yes and your no be no on the specific bill before us, and then go home and explain to your people why you voted yes or why you voted no. Then they can decide in this democratic process whether they want to send you back or send somebody else back for you.

The American people aren't getting that kind of clarity right now, and it is no wonder they are disgusted with Congress. It is 10:00 in the morning when we are talking about this. If they get a fair treatment in the press over what happened this morning, they will fully easily grasp and understand that what was proposed by the Republicans was nothing but fairness, and what was proposed by the other party was nothing but unfairness.

What could be more fair than giving each side, in a divided vision of how we should go forward, their opportunity to debate what they believe in and to call a vote for it? Particularly from the party that has the votes to win and the party that has the votes not to win, why not have the vote? What have you got to lose? Unless you think you are going to lose your own people or not want to put them on the line for having a yes or a no recorded clearly before the American people.

I have diverted from what I was going to say this morning. I was just so amazed by what took place down here I could not help but comment on it.

We will see how this all gets spun out by the White House. We will see what is the next diversionary tactic they use to stop us from talking about the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 issue facing this country; that is, this anemic economy. Eighty thousand jobs? Only eighty thousand jobs created in June. People say we are on the right track? That doesn't even replace the number of people who are retiring, let alone add new jobs. How many college graduates this spring are living in the basement of their parents' home? That has happened now for more than 3 years. There are millions, 12.7 million people who woke this morning with no job to go to. There are many more who woke to go to jobs far below their abilities or training. So 80,000 jobs, let's put this in perspective. It is far below what we need just to break even, just to give anybody a new shot and a new chance.

We have had 3 1/2 years of the policies of this administration which have not improved the situation and, in fact, some have said are making it worse. We all know we have come through a tough time. We all know just sticking the blame against one side or the other is not the solution. The solution is to find how to put sensible policies in place that will get this economy moving again. One of those policies is comprehensive tax reform.

Once again, I bring up the Wyden-Coats bill. It has been out there. It is written. It is scored. It is available to take up right now if that were the case, but because the tax-writing committees have the jurisdictional right to have a say and because it is a complex process, they would like some time to put it together.

The proposal of Senator Hatch, eminently fair, is to basically say let's not put a bandaid on the Tax Code now with something that is not going to make much difference at all and, in fact, we believe, will negatively impact small businesses around the country.

I had a small business group in my office yesterday basically saying the President only talks about the middle class. That is whom I hire, they say. That is who is working in our business. If they put a tax on me, the owner of the business, actually it is a tax on the business--the passthroughs, the noncorporations that exist here where, from a tax basis, everything flows through to that individual taxpayer. They say I am the guy who owns the business. I am the guy who makes the decision on hiring. I am the guy who has to put the health care plan together. I am the guy who hires the people and pays the people. If government taxes me more, I do not have the same flexibility to hire, expand or buy equipment or expand my factory or hire more people.

Yes, the White House can go out and spin it like I am a rich guy, but because I have chosen a certain way in order to form my business--not as a corporation--I am taxed in an entirely different way than corporations. But if you go out and say we are giving the middle class a break--and we are hurting the people who employ the middle class and you are raising their taxes--you are hurting the middle-class people. The very people the President says he is trying to protect, he is hurting by raising this tax. The President himself said in his campaign and throughout his Presidency: The worst thing you can do is raise any taxes during a time of economic distress.

I do not care if you are Paul Krugman or if you are the most conservative economic analyst out there, there is a widespread consensus that the last thing you do is raise taxes at a time of a stagnant economy, a recessionary economy. It is the last thing you do.

Dan Coats just said that, respected economists on the left and right said that, and even the President of the United States said that as a candidate and throughout his Presidency. In 2010, the President said the last thing we should do is raise any taxes. Now he has turned around to say let's tax up to 1 million small businesses because obviously they can spin that and play that in what sounds like a politically opportune way.

It is a direct contradiction coming out of the mouth of the President, out of the mouths of others. It is simply an election year political class division ploy to divert from the miserable record under this administration, in terms of dealing with this economy. Frankly, if they know--we can hardly conclude anything, but they just do not know what they are doing. But even if they know what they are doing, their policies have not worked.

Whether it is Republicans or Democrats, if they have done something for 3 1/2 years and it has not worked, isn't it time to look at a different set of policies? That is what we wanted to debate, but the majority leader is not allowing us to debate. In some excruciatingly, twisted way, he is saying Republicans are trying to prevent us from going forward. It boggles the mind.

I will stop with that and yield the floor.


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