12.15.10

Senator Leahy Votes No As Senate OKs Tax Package

[Following is the final statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) during Senate debate on the tax cut extension package, which the Senate approved Wednesday afternoon in a vote of 81 to 19.]

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy

In Opposition To Wholesale Extension

Of The Bush Tax Cuts

I strongly oppose the tax deal now before the Senate.  While I support tax relief for working and middle-income Americans, I am not willing to add $858 billion to the national debt in order to give enormous tax breaks to multi-millionaires.  One of the biggest mistakes in the last administration was to wage two wars without paying for them while cutting taxes for the wealthiest.  We should not repeat that mistake by rubberstamping this agreement between President Obama and Congressional Republicans for a wholesale extension and expansion of the Bush-era tax cuts for two more years.  

I voted against the Bush-era tax cuts that were tilted heavily toward the very wealthiest Americans.  I also voted against going to war in Iraq.  Those may not have been the most popular votes at the time, but the relative few in the Senate who cast them were voting for a path that would have averted much of the economic turmoil that has roiled the economy, the budget and the lives of ordinary American families since then.

If we are truly committed to helping our economy recover from the Great Recession and to putting our country back on the glide path to fiscal responsibility, then we should not extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts.  These enormous tax cuts have led to record federal deficits, contributed to the government’s current financial woes, and have not helped many Americans who face the greatest financial burdens.  Assurances at the time to the contrary, the Bush tax cuts failed to “trickle down” to help those Americans most in need, while the wealthiest two-percent of Americans benefited substantially. 

As The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, most of the wealthy beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts have not plowed those dollars directly back into the economy to hire new workers or create new jobs.  Rather than using their windfall to invest in our economy, corporations are building record cash reserves, and executive pay is through the roof once again.  Why would anyone think that extending the tax cuts to the wealthiest will produce a different result now?

Sensible choices are necessary now to protect the public’s interests and our national interests.  Many of them will be far more difficult than this choice is.  The responsible choice is to extend tax relief for the middle-income Americans who need it most, and not to renew tax cuts for the upper incomes of the wealthiest who have benefited the most for so long.  If we maintain these unbalanced tax policies, our soaring federal debt will have devastating repercussions and shortchange many of the nation’s priorities. 

I do think that Congress should provide directed tax relief that truly will help working families and that will improve our economy.  For instance, I support extending such provisions in this package as the increase in the child tax credit, the elimination of the marriage penalty, and the 10-percent tax bracket.  I also think we should retain many of the hiring incentives championed by President Obama that are providing needed assistance to Vermont small businesses looking to create job opportunities.  These tax incentives have allowed Vermont companies to hire new workers and purchase new equipment for their business, thus creating demand for other new jobs to produce that equipment. 

But now is not the time to extend tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and to companies that are sending American jobs overseas.  I am greatly concerned that if we maintain these policies, our soaring federal debt will have devastating repercussions.  We will become increasingly vulnerable to the foreign nationals who are collecting our debt.  The ability to provide promised Social Security and Medicare benefits will be eroded.  And our children and grandchildren will be left with an enormous debt that they cannot possibly afford.

I will support President Obama when he is right and oppose the President when he is wrong.  I feel the President is wrong to make this deal.  I am first and foremost a Vermonter, and the citizens of Vermont elected me to uphold my Vermont values.  In this case, I believe the deal on tax cuts is wrong for most Vermonters and wrong for our country.  That is why I am voting against this bill.

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