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Public Statements

This Week in Washington


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Congress goes back into session next week and there are many gravely important issues facing our nation that must be addressed. I'm hopeful that with the election behind us, people from both sides of the aisle will be ready to set aside the partisanship and political infighting that have marked the most recent years in Washington.

I challenge my colleagues to stop the posturing and name calling and finger pointing for which Washington has become so infamous, and get back to the very important business of helping get our great nation back on the right path to security and prosperity. If Congress does not act swiftly and wisely in the coming weeks, we will see the misguided Sequestration bill push us over the cliff with broad, sweeping cuts that will weaken our military. I voted against sequestration and against raising the debt ceiling because I do not think it is right to hold as hostage America's military preparedness, nor do I think we can borrow our way to recovery or prosperity. Hard choices, courageous choices, must be made by the people we have elected. The blind, automatic cuts to our armed forces as contained in sequestration and the open-ending borrowing made possible in the debt ceiling deal were implemented in order to keep those hard choices from being made. I opposed these Washington insider games the first time around, and will do so again in the coming weeks.

Without action in Congress, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire on New Year's Day. I still support an extension of all of these cuts until our economic recovery has stabilized. Until that takes place, our nation is better served by the people having more of the money they earn in hand to purchase goods and services. We are a consumer-based economy. And the more money left in the hands of the consumers, the stronger and quicker our recovery will be. It is shameful that Congress has taken no action to ensure tax relief up until this point. While most of the disagreement seems to be about what to do with the tax rates for the wealthiest, that argument has led to the possibility of taxes being raised on working families at a time when they need every dime they earn just to make ends meet. I will not support any measure that increases taxes on the middle class. It is an outrage that Congress has waited this long without providing that small measure of security to working people in this country.

Another serious matter that Congress has postponed is finding a solution to the impending increase in the Estate Tax. I think the Estate Tax rate should be zero as a matter of principle. Inheritance is not economic activity and it should not be taxed at all. I have never understood why the government considers itself entitled to any portion of an estate. "Your father died, give me 30 percent of everything he worked for and saved and dreamed of leaving to you to enhance your life" seems to make sense to some people in Washington. It makes no sense at all to me. Beyond my principled objections to the Death Tax, are the economic reasons that it should be done away with. Many small businesses and most family farms are subject to the Estate Tax. Traditionally, such enterprises operate on narrow margins with most of the revenue going to salaries, wages, and inventory and investments in equipment and machinery that are required to operate. A farm or small business may have assets on the books at two or even three million dollars, that doesn't mean there is several hundred thousand dollars cash sitting around to be paid out to the government because the person who founded and owned the business passes away. Liquidation or crippling debt are the only options available to grieving families when faced with this tax burden. Be it debt or liquidation, jobs and profitability and economic growth suffer. It is wrong and I will oppose it every chance I get.

Finally, I firmly believe the time has come for Washington to begin to care about its reputation in the eyes of the American people. Only by acting honorably and respectfully and in the best interest of the people can our elected officials hope to regain some semblance of respect for themselves and for the work they do. I have never thought of elective office as an achievement, so much as an honor. To represent one's fellow citizens in any capacity should be seen as an obligation to do what is best for those people. The next eight weeks in Congress will be filled with many important policy debates and decisions. No doubt those debates will be heated. But I encourage my colleagues to return to Washington in the wake of this election focused on the will and interests of the people and set aside the personal attacks and political games that have made getting things done all but impossible in recent years. For just this once and for these few weeks, I hope Congress will set aside its bloated sense of itself and draw upon the goodness and decency of the people back home and work together on their behalf. To do so would be an important first step on the path to recovering a small portion of the respect and confidence people should be able to have in their elected officials, but has in recent years been undeserved by many of those in Washington.

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