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Pathway to Job Creation Through a Simpler, Fairer Tax Code Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

It is true that Democrats believe that we need comprehensive tax reform. There is no doubt about that.

But I want to say to my good friend from California, when he used words like ``bipartisan,'' ``consensus,'' and ``compromise'' in the context of describing this piece of legislation, I have to respectfully disagree with him. It couldn't be farther from the truth. Those words do not apply to what we are talking about here today.

This is a very, very partisan bill. This bill was referred exclusively to the Rules Committee. I am a member of the Rules Committee. I don't recall the gentleman ever reaching out and asking my opinion on what a bill like this should be about. Perhaps my invitation to join the discussion was lost in the mail. If that's the case, I certainly will give the gentleman a pass, but I'm willing to bet that Ranking Member Slaughter was never consulted, that Mr. Hastings from Florida was never consulted, that Mr. Polis from Colorado was never consulted. In fact, this bill was given to us less than 48 hours before we considered it in the House Rules Committee, and every single amendment the Democrats had to try to influence this bill was defeated on a strictly partisan vote--every single one of them.

So this is not in any way shape or form about bipartisanship or consensus or compromise. This is a very partisan bill. I regret that very much because we do need tax reform in this country, but this approach of shutting out the minority party entirely, I think, is the wrong way to go.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to this very partisan Republican bill. Actually, I use the term ``bill'' very loosely here because this isn't really much of a bill. It's a press release masquerading as a meaningful piece of legislation.

H.R. 6169 would create expedited procedures for the Republican version of comprehensive tax reform. It lays out a whole bunch of criteria that tax reform has to meet in order to get fast-track protection in both the House and the Senate. It's sort of like reconciliation, but my Republican friends don't like to admit that. There are two very big problems with the Republican approach here.

First, there is nothing--nothing--in this bill that would prevent their version of ``comprehensive tax reform'' from containing anything else they want to do: Turn Medicare into a voucher program or eliminate Medicare altogether? That would be allowed. Repeal patient protections under the Affordable Care Act? Yes, they could do that, too. Eliminate the Department of Education? Sure, that would get special treatment. Or they might want to privatize Social Security--one of their oldies but goodies. It is absolutely outrageous.

The second big problem is that, under this bill, the Republican author of the tax passage, as the chairman of Ways and Means and as the person who is supposed to certify that the package is eligible for expedited process as chair of the Joint Committee on Taxation, can and likely will be the very same person. Now, I like Chairman Camp--I think he's a terrific guy--but I do not believe he should be allowed to serve as prosecutor, judge, and jury on the issue of tax reform. You don't put the fox in charge of guarding the henhouse.

But this debate is about much more than the terrible process outlined in this bill. This debate is about priorities. The choices here are very simple, and the contrasts are very clear.

Democrats want to give every American family a tax break. On the first $250,000 of income, everybody--including Donald Trump and including all of those friends of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who give millions and millions to Super PACs--gets a tax break on the first $250,000 of income. The problem is the Republican approach to tax reform is to raise taxes on millions of American middle class families--raise them.

Democrats want the wealthy to keep some of their tax cuts, but we believe during this time of budgetary crisis that we all have to sacrifice, including the millionaires and the billionaires. So we are asking them to contribute just a little bit. Everybody else is contributing. They should, too. Republicans say, no, that they want to protect those tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals and increase the deficit--in order to protect, again, the 2 percent wealthiest Americans in this country.

Democrats want to pass a tax cut bill that has already passed the Senate. That's the one I was talking about, the one that gives everybody a tax break on the first $250,000 of income. We want to pass that. It could be on the President's desk at the end of the week, and we could actually have done something for the American people. Republicans want to hold that bill hostage. There is an old saying that you don't have to agree on everything to agree on something. I mean, it seems to me--again, if I am to believe the rhetoric on the other side of the aisle--that there is no objection to protecting tax breaks on the first $250,000 of someone's income.

If there is consensus on that, then we ought to get that done, and then we could have the other fight about whether or not Donald Trump and Sheldon Adelson and all those other guys get tax breaks. We could have that debate later, but we could actually do something before we recess for August that would actually help people in this country. What a radical idea in this Republican Congress to do something to help somebody--to help middle-income families. We could do that, but they are saying no. We all agree that the economy continues to struggle. Of course the Republican strategy of rejecting President Obama's jobs bill and manufacturing a debt ceiling crisis contributed greatly to this economic crisis that we are in right now.

My Republican friends like to talk about tough choices, about how there needs to be sacrifice in order to get our fiscal house in order. But why is it, time and time and time again, that their tough choices always seem to hurt the most vulnerable Americans? Why does their idea of sacrifice always mean poor people getting less food, or students getting less help with their tuition, or States getting less help with their roads and their bridges? It takes no political courage--zero--to say to the very wealthy, You can keep all of your tax cuts, all of your special tax breaks, and we're going to protect all of those loopholes. It takes no courage. It takes no guts to help out millionaire hedge fund traders who write giant checks to shadowy Super PACs.

Mr. Speaker, this is a debate about fairness. That's what this debate should be about. It's about standing with the middle class instead of always standing with the millionaires and the billionaires.

If my Republican friends were so certain about the rightness of their priorities, they would put the so-called ``principles'' in this bill into legislative language and bring it to the floor. I think the American people would cringe once they saw what those numbers would mean, but they have the ability to do that. I should remind them--and I regret this very much--but they're in charge, they run the House right now. The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee could come up with a comprehensive tax reform bill--he could have at any time the Republicans have been in control and brought it to this floor. My friends on the other side of the aisle have enough votes to pass anything. They could have done it. If they did, and if it were clear what the priorities of this Republican majority really were, and if it were there in print, I think the American people, quite frankly, would be horrified.

Democrats stand ready, willing, and able to work with Republicans and all of our colleagues to enact meaningful, fair tax reform. This bill doesn't get us an inch closer to that goal. If my friends on the other side were sincere about achieving comprehensive tax reform, they would reach out to us in the drafting of a bill like this. They would have consulted with us. As I said, this legislation before us was referred exclusively to the House Rules Committee. Not a single Democrat on the House Rules Committee was consulted about this bill. My guess is not a single Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee was consulted about this bill. We will go through this exercise today. My friends on the other side of the aisle have the votes to pass it. But I'm going to tell you, Mr. Speaker, this is much ado about nothing because this is not meaningful tax reform. This is a very partisan approach to this issue, and I regret that very much.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman has no more speakers, I will close.

Let me repeat some of what I said in my opening statement, because I think it's important for my colleagues to understand this.

The Republican pathway to this tax reform is a path, as I said, for the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to draft and to certify a bill that would receive extraordinary fast-track procedures with virtually no limit on what can be contained in it. Republicans have promised that its fast-track bill would contain at least four proposals based on the Ryan budget, in addition to the repeal of the AMT. Together, these four provisions would shift the tax burden from the wealthiest to the middle class, and it would ship jobs overseas.

Let me just read one of the proposals in this bill. The Republican proposal is ``a consolidation of the current six individual income tax brackets into not more than two brackets of 10 and not more than 25 percent.'' What does this mean? It means that the average millionaire would lock in an annual $331,000 tax cut under the Ryan plan. To pay for these tax cuts, the Ryan plan would potentially eliminate provisions that are vital to the middle class, including tax deductions for mortgage interest, State and local taxes, and charitable contributions, as well as the tax exclusions for employer-sponsored health insurance and contributions to 401(k) plans. The source of this is the Joint Economic Committee. And the plan would necessarily have to raise taxes on middle class families by approximately $4,500.

Another proposal in this bill is ``a reduction in the corporate tax rate to not greater than 25 percent.'' What does this mean? It means eliminating every corporate tax credit and deduction would generate only enough savings to reduce the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. To get to even 28 percent, the Republican tax plan would require wiping out every provision in the Tax Code that encourages domestic job creation, investment, and innovation. In order to raise additional revenues for a corporate tax cut, the Republicans will go after individuals or small businesses.

Mr. Speaker, my friends on the other side of the aisle have made their priorities known in the budget that they all voted for. I think it's a radical approach to our economy. It's an approach that I believe and my colleagues on the Democratic side believe will be devastating to middle-income Americans. It is really unfortunate that we are here not in the spirit of bipartisanship, not in the spirit of compromise or trying to find consensus, but in a very partisan way moving this bill forward. At the end of the day, we're leaving here really doing nothing for the American people.

I was listening to the debate on the drought relief and listening to Democrats and Republicans both lament that there's no farm bill. We're going on vacation, and there's no farm bill. There's no jobs bill, no jobs agenda, no tax cuts for the middle class. We all agree that we should preserve the tax breaks on people earning up to $250,000. We seem to agree on that. My Republicans friends are saying, No, we're going to hold that hostage until you make sure that Donald Trump and the people that give these exorbitant amounts to super PACs, they get their tax breaks. We could agree on that. We could actually do something for the American people, and we're leaving. No farm bill, as I mentioned, no Violence Against Women Act, no cybersecurity plan, no bipartisan plan to prevent sequester.

I hear my friends on the other side of the aisle complaining about the sequester which, by the way, they caused that terrible idea to be a reality when they brought this economy almost to a collapse during the debt ceiling debate. But we're leaving. We're leaving town today to give away tomorrow. We're leaving town with all this unfinished business. We're leaving town not doing anything meaningful for the American people, especially for those in the middle and those struggling to get into the middle.

This has to be one of the least effective, least productive Congresses, I think, in the history of our country. When you read these public opinion polls, there's a reason why Congress is held in such low esteem. It's because people are watching what we're doing here and wondering why we're not on their side. People who are struggling to hold on to their jobs or to get jobs are wondering why aren't we moving forward with a jobs agenda, why aren't we passing a middle class tax cut. Instead, we are here basically to pass a press release that says that at some point we're going to do tax reform, and they don't want to tell you the details of the tax reform because they think that would be very unpopular and would frighten a lot of people in this country when they see the devastating impact on the middle class.

So having said that, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this bill.

And with that, I yield back the balance of my time.


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