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Public Statements

Concurrent Budget Resolution on the Budget, Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I thank my friend from the Northwest. We worked it out so I could talk a little bit about Medicare and taxes as well.

Before Senator Enzi leaves, I just want to tell him he is someone who gives public service a good name. We have spent a lot of time working together on a variety of issues, such as tax reform, and particularly this idea of transition rules. I just want to tell the Senator how much I appreciate the way he approaches problem solving.

I would say to colleagues that what I have not been able to figure out for the 10 years this debate has gone on is how we are going to make this work for America's innovators and small businesses. Let me give just a couple examples and be very brief.

What concerns me most about the bill as it is written today is State revenue collectors, under this legislation, in effect, will be outsourcing their jobs to America's small businesses, America's innovators. If the bill passes in its present form, those small businesses, our innovators, are going to spend their time trying to figure out how to collect all these taxes across the land rather than creating jobs. I don't think that is anything any of us want to do, Democrats or Republicans. That is point No. 1.

Second, I wish to talk about the international implications of this bill. Senator Murray and I and others, including Senator Baucus, are very close to the border. What concerns me, especially after the legal analysis I received from the Congressional Research Service, is I think the way this bill is going to work, people are going to end up calling it the shop Canada bill or maybe the shop Mexico bill or, what is even more ominous, the shop China bill. I wish to describe exactly why that is the case using the legal analysis from the Congressional Research Service.

The proposal, of course, requires American businesses to collect sales taxes on behalf of 45 State revenue collectors, but it imposes no such burden on foreign retailers that sell into the United States. So an Oregon business would have to collect taxes for New York, but Chinese firms wouldn't have to collect taxes for any State. Washington State businesses would have to collect taxes for Idaho, but Canadian firms are under no such obligation. I ask my colleagues: What is fair about sacking these American small businesses, these entrepreneurs, which are adding so much value to the new economy, to make it even more difficult for our small businesses to compete with Canadian sellers and European sellers and Chinese sellers? This bill as written is going to be a huge boon, for example, for the idea of setting up online businesses in Canada.

Small businesses all across the country, especially those that are near the border, in my view, would have every financial incentive to incorporate there. For the life of me, I don't see how that could be good for the American economy or fair to American firms that, for a variety of reasons, are not capable of moving.

Senator Alexander was spot on in terms of talking about how we should look to States rights--I am certainly interested in that--but let's not do it so that in a globalized economy, we make it even tougher for American innovators to compete.

At this point, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a legal memorandum that was prepared for me by the Congressional Research Service that describes in great detail the unfairness the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act would create for American firms in a global economy.


Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I will just wrap up with this. As colleagues look at this--and we are going to have plenty of debate--let's think through the implications of what the administrative water torture is going to be all about for small businesses and why it doesn't make more sense for State tax collectors to do their job, No. 1; and No. 2, let us not make it harder for American small business to compete in tough global markets. It is plenty tough as it is.

I yield the floor.


Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, when we began the budget debate in Senator Murray's committee last week, I said that Senator Murray's challenge gave new meaning to the idea of playing a tough hand. Many thought her task was essentially ``Mission Impossible.''

The fact is, for all of us who know Senator Murray well, she has spent her whole life coming up with solutions to those matters that people said were ``Mission Impossible.'' She spent her whole life coming up with accomplishments that actually solve problems. I commend Senator Murray for all of her work on this matter. I think it is very clear that when we get the kind of bicameral, bipartisan agreement that addresses the major concerns we are debating here on the floor, it is going to be in no small measure because Senator Murray continued to reach out to all sides. I want her to know how much I appreciate that.

I think we all understand these are complicated issues. At the same time, the challenge of coming up with a bipartisan agreement here is not rocket science in terms of identifying what the issues are. There are two issues here. One of them is taxes and the other is Medicare. The two of them in fact are inextricably linked in many respects, because I have heard some on the other side of the aisle say I will look at ways to reform taxes if colleagues on the Democratic side will look at ways to protect Medicare and at the same time hold down its costs. We have heard other Senators say the reverse. So these issues are inextricably linked.

One of the reasons I support this budget this evening is that I think this budget provides significant space for Democrats and Republicans, as this process goes forward, to produce bipartisan solutions on those two issues, the tax question and the Medicare issue, in the days ahead.

Let me take a few minutes. Senator Coats talked about our bipartisan efforts. I have had a chance for the last 5 years to work with two very thoughtful, conservative Republicans--Senator Coats and our former colleague Senator Gregg. Senator Begich and I have been part of a bipartisan team that is, in effect, seeking to modernize some of the principles that a very big group of Democrats and Ronald Reagan agreed to in the 1980s, which is to clean out some of these outlandish special-interest tax breaks.

I see my good friend Senator Levin tonight. He is going to outline just some of those outlandish tax breaks. We ought to clean them out and use a portion of those dollars to hold down the rates and keep progressivity. In the 2 years after Democrats and Republicans did that in the 1980s, the country created millions of new jobs. No one can say that every one of them was due to that tax reform effort, but it certainly helped.

We had Senator Enzi on the floor earlier this evening. I have been working with him on something that I think has been missed in the tax reform debate, and that is Senator Enzi has said when are people going to start talking about the transition rules you would need to actually implement the tax reform plan because today in a global economy--and Senator Murray and I come from a part of the world that is so trade sensitive--here we have Senator Enzi talking about something very practical that ought to be very attractive to the most progressive Member of the Senate and the most conservative Member of the Senate. Under the Murray proposal these are the kinds of ideas we should be looking at in the days ahead.

Let me now turn, if I might, to the Medicare issue. Again, we all understand it is right at the heart of this when Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan and all those who are going to be in a bipartisan conference are negotiating. I continue to believe it is critically important to protect the Medicare guarantee, something I have battled for since the days when I was codirector of the Oregon Gray Panthers, and we can do it in a way that will hold down costs. This is another area where Senator Murray has given us a chance to look at some of the solutions that could win support on both sides of the aisle. I will touch on them briefly.

For years now we have had advocates on all sides of the political spectrum talk about the value of merging Part A, which is the hospital portion of Medicare, with Part B, the doctors and outpatients part of the program. Here is a chance to save billions of dollars while also helping vulnerable seniors hold down some of their out-of-pocket expenses. It is there for the doing under the Murray budget. I think we can forge bipartisan support for it.

Let me move on now to the question of chronic care. This is where more than 70 percent of Medicare costs go, for those who are suffering from heart and stroke and cancer and diabetes. The accountable care organizations, which are an important part of the Affordable Care Act, are clearly going to help with respect to how we look to treat this population. But it is not going to lift all the boats. There are a lot of very effective plans and group practices around the country that are going to give us the opportunity to put in place integrated, effective plans to help the most sick among us. We ought to pursue it. The Murray budget will give us that opportunity.

I will close simply by saying there are some very good ideas for promoting Medicare quality and holding costs down, which cost very little, such as the approach Senator Grassley has given me the chance to partner with him on, that would open for the first time the Medicare database so that we would get a sense of what Medicare was paying various doctors and providers for various services.

I know colleagues are waiting to speak. I will wrap up by saying that on the biggest challenges of our time, which I think come down to two issues, taxes and Medicare, the Murray budget gives us a chance to come together in a bipartisan way. We are not going to get it all done, obviously, this week. But we are going to have a chance to do it and I think in both of these areas, taxes and Medicare, there are Senators on both sides of the aisle who can pick up on this budget and find a way to help Senator Murray and others who are going to participate in these discussions get us to the solutions we need that will strengthen our economy and protect our people.

I yield the floor.


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