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Mr. REED. Mr. President, I want to address the bill before us tonight. Despite the best efforts of Senate Democrats to strike a balanced and fair compromise--to avert tax hikes on Americans making less than a quarter of a million dollars, to avert the expiration of unemployment insurance, to avert the damaging automatic spending reductions--we instead have before us a package that is at best a half-measure. This is not how we should govern.
However, the bill before us is better than the alternative facing millions of Americans. If we do not act, taxes for the middle-class will rise tomorrow, support for unemployed workers will lapse, Rhode Islanders will be hurt, and our economic recovery could suffer another Republican induced economic setback.
Unless this bill is signed into law, starting January first, taxes rise on every American and hundreds of thousands middle-income Rhode Island families will see their taxes increase by an estimated $2,200 in 2013. Rhode Islanders numbering 37,000 would lose a tuition tax credit to help them pay for college and 103,000 Rhode Island families raising children would see an average tax increase of $1,000 because they would no longer qualify for the Child Tax Credit. The economy is tough enough for most Rhode Islanders, and they shouldn't be asked to absorb a hit like that due to the stubbornness of the other side of the aisle.
This bill will also continue unemployment insurance for 2.1 million Americans and almost 9,000 Rhode Islanders. Without a continuation of unemployment insurance, millions of Americans actively seeking work will suffer a debilitating economic blow. People will lose their homes and be unable to put food on the table, as they lose one of the few lifelines they and their families have as they look for work in a tough economy. Neighborhood businesses would have taken a hit as well. An estimated $48 billion in economic activity will be sapped from our recovery and one of our most effective counter-cyclical economic policies would have been lost.
It is a sad truth, but the middle-class tax cuts and unemployment insurance were being held hostage by my Republican colleagues in order to secure even more generous tax cuts for the wealthy. So at least with the permanent extension of tax cuts for the middle-class and a one-year continuation of unemployment, that immediate threat is gone.
However, it is outrageous that this threat has been taken this far and that my Republican colleagues continue to demand a perpetuation of an unfair tax code that is tilted towards the wealthiest.
So I remain committed to reforming the tax system so it is fair for all Americans. I remain committed to ending egregious loopholes that result in absurd and unfair results, like a private equity partner paying a lower tax rate than a janitor.
I do want to stress that, despite Republican demands for big cuts in the social safety net, this bill protects Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid beneficiaries. Such beneficiary cuts would have made this package even more unbalanced and unfair. Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans are already planning to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Today they will insist on additional tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, especially estate tax cuts, but then demand that we cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to cover these and other debts. I will work to prevent such callous efforts.
I am deeply disappointed by the package before us today. I believe the White House should have stood firm on reducing the deficit by nearly $1 trillion and let income tax rates for those making over a quarter of a million dollars revert to Clinton-era levels. I am disappointed with Republican intransigence and the prospect of once again being on the brink of a manufactured economic catastrophe in order to secure tax preferences for millionaires and billionaires and attempting to pay for them by cutting Social Security or programs that benefit middle-income Americans.
In the coming weeks, I hope Republicans will drop their attempts to cut the deficit on the backs of the middle-class and seniors, and instead work with us to craft a fair and balanced compromise that strengthens, not endangers, our economic recovery.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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