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Syria - Closing Tax Loopholes

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEVIN. Before Senator Sanders leaves, let me commend him. I didn't hear all his remarks, but I know the subject of his address, his remarks, was the fact corporations now contribute about 10 percent of the total revenue which comes into Uncle Sam. Years ago, it was about 50 percent, and then gradually it has come down to about where it is now.

The reason for that, mainly, is that there are a whole bunch of gimmicks and loopholes which have been inserted into our tax laws which need to be closed. If they can be closed, we would be able to avoid sequestration. That is how big the loopholes are.

I am not talking about deductions, which most people would say serve a useful purpose. Whether people agree with that purpose, at least deductions, as we generally understand deductions, serve some kind of a productive purpose. For instance, corporations get accelerated depreciation when they buy equipment. That serves a very important purpose. It gives an incentive to buy equipment.

Even the oil and gas credit, which I don't support, nonetheless, the purpose of it is to give an incentive to explore and drill for oil and gas. Whether one agrees with that purpose, at least it is a purpose. When it comes to these loopholes and gimmicks which are used to shift revenues to tax havens, there is no useful purpose. The only purpose is taxable. Those are the loopholes which we can close, and those are the loopholes which it seems to me there ought to be broad bipartisan support to close. If we can close them, we can avoid sequestration. Again, that is how big these loopholes are.

I very much appreciate the reference by the Senator from Vermont to our Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and the work we have been doing, and I very much appreciate the energy he brings to this effort. It ought to be bipartisan. Again, these kinds of loopholes are not what most people consider to be legitimate deductions but are a kind of tax-avoidance scheme that should not be in the law even if we had no deficit. I guess one of the critical differences between these kinds of tax-avoidance gimmicks and the ordinary deductions corporations take is the fact that the use of these and the abuse of these should be eliminated on a bipartisan basis.

So I would like to thank my friend. I wish I had caught the early part of his remarks, but that was not to be.


Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, 5 weeks ago Senator Hagel was warmly introduced at his nomination hearing by two former chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Sam Nunn and Senator John Warner, who represent the best bipartisan tradition of the Senate and our committee. As a matter of fact, the Presiding Officer, Senator Manchin, was present at the time when that presentation was made by Senators Nunn and Warner, and he was a witness to how powerful their testimony in support of Senator Hagel was.

Senator Nunn told the committee:

I believe that our Nation is fortunate to have a nominee for Secretary of Defense with the character, the experience, the courage, and the leadership that Chuck Hagel would bring to this position.

He said:

There are many essential characteristics and values that a Secretary of Defense should possess in our dangerous and challenging world.

And he named a few of them, including someone who sets aside fixed ideology and biases to evaluate all options and then provides his or her candid judgment to the President and to the Congress. He also named this characteristic: someone who pays attention to people with the best ideas regardless of their party affiliation.

And then Senator Warner said:

Folks, there is an old saying in the combat Army infantry and Marine Corps. ``Certain men are asked to take the point,'' which means to get out and lead in the face of the enemy. Chuck Hagel did that as a sergeant in Vietnam. If confirmed, Chuck Hagel will do it again, this time not before a platoon, but before every man and woman and their families in the Armed Services.

Facing Senator Hagel, he said this:

You will lead them. And they will know in their hearts we have one of our own.

Earlier today the Senate acted in a bipartisan fashion in voting to end the filibuster of this nomination by a very substantial vote.

If confirmed, Senator Hagel would be the first former enlisted man and the first veteran of the Vietnam war to serve as Secretary of Defense. This background gives Senator Hagel an invaluable perspective not only with respect to the difficult decisions and recommendations a Secretary of Defense must make regarding the use of force and the commitment of U.S. troops overseas but also with respect to the day-to-day decisions a Secretary must make to ensure that our men and women in uniform and their families receive the support and assistance they need and deserve.

Our country faces major challenges. Abroad, we face challenges from Afghanistan, where the Department of Defense faces key decisions about the pace of the drawdown between now and the end of 2014, decisions about the size and the composition of a residual force, and decisions about the terms and conditions for our ongoing presence in Afghanistan after 2014.

Elsewhere overseas, we face the ongoing threat of Iran's nuclear weapons program, the destruction and instability caused by Syria's civil war, and the outgrowth of al-Qaida affiliates in ungoverned regions, including Yemen, Somalia, and north Africa.

We also face extremely difficult issues here at home. We have been warned that sequestration and a yearlong continuing resolution risk creating a hollow force and could confront our military leaders with the untenable choice between sending troops into harm's way without adequate training and equipment or being unable to take on certain missions at all. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has described the impact of this budget crisis on the Department of Defense as a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Now as much as anytime in the recent past, our men and women in uniform need a Secretary of Defense to guide them through difficult situations around the world and to defend their interests here at home. The President needs a Secretary of Defense in whom he has trust, who will give him unvarnished advice, a person of integrity and one who has a personal understanding of the consequences of decisions relative to the use of military force.

It is time to end the uncertainty relative to the leadership at the Pentagon. The time has come to now confirm Chuck Hagel as our next Secretary of Defense, and I hope the Senate will, on a bipartisan basis, soon do exactly that.

Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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