Floor Updates

Monday, April 16, 2012

Apr 16 2012 2:00 PM

The Senate Convened.

Reid, McConnell

Opening Remarks

Apr 16 2012 2:19 PM

Senator Reid: (2:02 PM)
  • Today --
    • The Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 2230, the Buffett Rule bill, with the time until 4:30 PM equally divided.
    • At 4:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to Executive Session for 1 hour of debate, equally divided, on Executive Calendar #460, Stephanie Dawn Thacker, of West Virginia, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      1. Executive Calendar #460, Stephanie Dawn Thacker, of West Virginia, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit; and
      2. Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2230, the Buffett Rule bill.

  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "As millions of Americans prepare to file income tax returns the Senate will consider one of the basic unfair provisions of the tax code. Today, the wealthiest 1% of the stakes home the highest share of the income since the early 20's, the roaring 20's. While their bank accounts have firestone, their tax bills have become smaller. The wealthiest Americans pay the lowest tax rate in more than five decades, the rich pay less than they have for more than 50 years. This unfair system has turned the gap between the richest few into a gulf, not a gap. They've seen their incomes SUMMARY "skyrocket" by almost 300%. For the rest of Americans they haven't kept pace with the price of a modest home, college or a secure retirement. Times are tough for many middle-class he families but millionaires and billionaires aren't sharing the pain or the sacrifices, not one bit. Last year there were 7,000 millionaires who didn't pay a single penny in federal income taxes. 7,000 millionaires didn't pay a single penny in taxes. Instead, ordinary Americans footed the bill and, that's not fair. In recent years saw Americans earning north of $110 million a year paid a lower tax rate than millions of middle-class families. That's also not fair. That's how someone like our frequent Warren Buffett ends up paying a lower tax rate than his secretary which also is not fair. When the richest few are making more than ever before, they can afford to shoulder their fair share of the burden to make this country prosper. And they shouldn't be allowed to hide behind tax loopholes that rig the system in their favor. The paying a fair share tax act known as the Buffett Rule would restore fairness to a system that has favored the interests of the wealthy far too long. This legislation would ensure Americans who make more than a million dollars a year may by the way, at least 30% of their income in taxes. The bill would hold harmless nearly every small business in America, in fact, more than 99% of small businesses would be held harmless. It would maintain the deduction for charitable giving and it would be a small but important step toward restoring fiscal responsibility as our nation makes difficult choice where to spend and what to cut."

Senator McConnell: (2:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "The growing bipartisan consensus not only about the existence of these problems but also about the proper solution. Just about everybody agrees that comprehensive tax reform would help turn this economy around, strengthen entitlements, spur innovation and economic growth, and create jobs. We've got a President who seems more interested in pitting people against he'll he each other than he is actually doing what it takes to face these challenges head on and to solve them in a bipartisan manner. And if anybody had any doubt about that, the President's relentless focus on this so-called Buffett tax over the past few weeks should have dispelled it. This entire debate has been very illuminating for a lot of folks. It's revealed a lot about this President. By wasting so much time on this political gimmick, hat even democrats admit won't solve our larger problems, it's shown the President is actually more interested in misleading people than he is in leading. Now, I know that it may sound a little strong to some, but just step back and think about what's going on here. We've got a $15 trillion debt, some call it the most predictable crisis in history. We have the largest tax increase in the history of the country looming that will hit every single American in less than nine months from today. Are President Obama looked at the options, sat down with his political advisories and said let's go with poll-tested tax increase on investment and job creation that won't fix anything and won't pass anyway instead of actually doing something about the debt and the deficit. And the same thing on gas prices. The President looked at $4 a gallon gasoline and said let's go with a poll-tested tax on energy manufacturers which would increase the price at the pump instead of actually doing something to solve the problem. Isn't this precisely the kind of thing President Obama campaigned against in the first place? Politics as usual. But that's all we get. The worse our problems get, the less serious he becomes. The more people coalesce around a bipartisan solution, the more he focuses on something that's completely irrelevant or that has absolutely no chance of passing. We're in a crisis here. And sadly, it's all politics all the time. Somewhere along the way, this President seems to have forgotten why he elected. For him, it's not about jobs or the economy. It's about his idea of fairness, about imposing it on others. And if we lose more jobs in the process, oh, well, so be it. Just take the Buffett tax. Any time the President proposed anything in the past, he told us how many jobs it would create. Whether it was the FAA bill, the Highway bill, the stimulus, you name it. Apparently those days are over. Nobody is even claiming this thing creates jobs. It's all about the President's idea of fairness now. Well, I think Americans are tired of the blame game. They want their President to solve problems, not point fingers. They think their President should spend his time working out a solution between the two parties instead of running around the country trying to distract people from his own ability to get the job done."

Whitehouse, Portman, Harkin

Buffett Rule bill (S. 2230)

Apr 16 2012 3:14 PM

Senator Whitehouse: (2:19 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "Last May the IRS published the most recent data on the top 400 taxpayers for the year 2008. Let's look how they did in that year. They had average income of $270 million each. That's not bad. In fact, that's wonderful. That's part of what makes America great. But here's the crazy part On average, these 400 extremely high-earning Americans - $270 million in one year - actually paid an average federal tax rate of just 18.2%. On adjusted gross income. We've spent a fair amount of time in the senate debating whether the top income tax rate should be 35% or something else like 39.6%, as it was in the Clinton boom years, but the ultra rich get around this top rate through a variety of tax gimmicks. We looked at what level of income a single filer would have to make to start paying 18.2% or more in federal taxes. It is $39,350. If you look at the Department of Labor's wage levels, that's about what a truck driver on average earns in Rhode Island, $40,200 is what an average truck driver, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in Rhode Island, more than the $39,350, which means that they're probably paying actually a higher tax rate as a single truck driver in providence, Rhode Island, than a billionaire who just made $270 million in the last year. That's just not fair. That's not right. That's not the progressive tax system we've always had. The problem goes beyond the top 400 income earners in the country. The Congressional Research Service confirms that roughly one-quarter of million-dollar-plus earners - about 94,500 taxpayers - pay a lower effective tax rate than over 10 million moderate-income taxpayers. Reuters recently reported this: "taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year pay an average U.S. income tax rate of nearly 19%." And the story goes on, "about 65% of taxpayers who earn more than $1 million face a lower tax rate than the median tax rate for moderate-income earners making $100,000 or less a year." Let me say that again. "About 65% of taxpayers who earn more than $1 million face a lower tax rate than the median tax rate for moderate-income earners making $100,000 or less a year." Our tax system is supposed to be progressive. The more you earn, the higher the rate you pay. That's not class warfare. That's tax policy. And it's been that way for decades, if not generations. We undermine that principle when we allow the highest-income Americans to pay a lower tax rate than the package truck driver delivering packages to their door pays. It's no wonder that so many of the Rhode Islanders with whom I've spoken have lost confidence that our tax system gives them a straight deal."

Senator Portman: (2:44 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "I think the concern is we have an income tax code that has too many preferences, deductions, credits, exemptions. By the way, mostly taken advantage of by wealthier taxpayers. We ought to reform the tax code. But because the tax code is already so progressive as we talked about, this proposal from the president works primarily by increasing the tax a lot of wealthy people pay on investment income. Primarily investment income, what's known as long-term capital gains. Capital gains have historically been taxed in this country at a lower rate for individuals, and they're taxed at a lower rate for good reason. Capital gains are the return on longer-term investments and enterprises that create jobs, and that's something we've always wanted to encourage in this country. A lower tax on capital gains drives job training investment, and according to the nonpartisan congressional committee on taxation, it increases wages over the long run. By having a lower rate for capital investments, long-term investments in job creation, it will increase wages in the long run. By the way, that's why presidents kennedy, reagan, clinton and bush all backed capital gains rates cuts, as president kennedy said so well, "a rising tide lifts all boats." second, we should realize that raising the capital gains rate doesn't translate directly into higher revenues. Why is that? It's because it's an elective tax. Think about it. You only pay it when you choose to sell an asset, when you choose to realize what's called a gain, when you sell something. You don't have to incur this tax. Common sense, experience teaches a higher economic gains rate causes some to hold assets rather than sell them just as a lower capital gains rate will encourage more people to sell an asset because the rate will be lower. And this is what's happened. After every recent capital gains cut, rate cut, in 19 81, 1997 and 2003 capital gains revenue actually increased. You had a cut in the rate in 1981, 1987 and 2003 and what happened? The revenues actually increased. Lower rate, higher revenues. How could that be? Well, because with the lower rate, people sold more assets and created more economic activity. Capital gains tax rates increased by between 37% and 114% over four years. And that's after inflation. By contrast, after a capital gains rate increase took effect in 1987, that was just talked about a moment ago, capital gains revenues actually dropped 55% over the next four years. So we can debate about what the rate ought to be, but the fact is to say that there's going to be a direct correlation between raising that rate and more revenue simply is not borne out by historical experience or by common sense. Third, unlike other types of income, capital gains are often double taxed. Think about a typical capital investment, someone buying corporate stock. That's the most typical one. Holding that stock for over a year - you've got to hold it for over a year - and then selling it for a profit. That gain has already been subject to the 35% rate at the corporate level. It's then followed by the capital gains rate now at 15% when the shareholder sells. For a combined 45% tax on that capital investment."

Senator Whitehouse: (2:56 PM)
  • Responded.
    • SUMMARY "It's interesting that my Republican colleagues tend to refer to this as a tax gimmick. It was referred to as tax gimmick week because we're considering having people earning $250 million pay a rate equal to what a truck driver pays. That doesn't sound very gimmicky to me. That sounds like pretty main street fairness to me. The bottom line is there is a gimmick at stake. It's the gimmick in the tax code that allows for that to take place, that allows for a hedge fund billionaire to claim a lower rate than a truck driver. So if there's a gimmick here, it's the gimmick that we're trying to remove. It's not a gimmick that we're trying to pursue. It's been said that this is a tax on investment, a tax on job creation. It just isn't. It's a tax on income when it's declared as income ... The IRS and the Federal Reserve point out that for the top 1% in America, the top 1% in terms of wealth control 33.8% of the nation's wealth. The top 1% in taxes pay only 28.3% of the taxes, when all taxes are taken into consideration. The top 5% control 60% of the nation's wealth. But the top 5% in taxes only pay 44.7%. So if you want to take numbers sort of without context, you can make it look as if it's very progressive. But when you measure against the wealth and inequality in this progressive tax system. That is why as Reuters reported, about 65% of taxpayers who earn more than $1 million face a lower tax rate than the median tax rate for moderate income earners making $100,000 or, less a year, according to the Congressional Research Service."

Senator Harkin: (3:00 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Matt Rutherford, who is sailing single-handed East to West through the Northwest Passage to benefit Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating.

Thune, Baucus, Barrasso

Buffett Rule bill (S. 2230)

Apr 16 2012 3:48 PM

Senator Thune: (3:13 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "President Obama has been flying around the country touting the importance of a proposal that if enacted would raise about half of one day's worth of federal spending. So between now and this time tomorrow, we will actually spend more federal tax dollars than what this would bring in an entire year. In an entire year. Put another way, the revenue this legislation would generate each year amounts to .003% of the national debt. .003% of the federal debt. This bill would raise less than 1% of the $1.4 trillion in deficits projected under the Obama administration's budget. It's not about deficit reduction or taking meaningful action to get our fiscal house in order. What then is this legislation about? The President and men and women democrat members of congress stated they believe the Buffett Rule is about quote tax fairness end quote. This view is wealthy Americans are not paying "their fair share." The facts simply don't support that view. According to the organization for economic cooperation and development, the United States already has the most progressive income tax system among its 34 member nations. In fact, in 2009 the top 1% of taxpayers by adjusted gross income paid 37% of all income taxes even though accounted for 17% of all income. The top 5% of taxpayers paid nearly 60% of all income taxes even though they only accounted for about 32% of all income. In 2009, taxpayers with over a million dollars in adjusted gross income accounted for 10% of income reported but paid 20% of income taxes. In terms of effective income taxes rates Congressional Research Service recently reported that the effective tax rate among millionaires is already 30%. It's true some millionaires like Warren Buffett pay a lower rate because they get a large percentage of their income from education and dividends. It isn't a tax loophole. It's the result of a deliberate policy by Congress and past Presidents to encourage new investments in our economy. Had, in fact, if 1997 a Democrat President Bill Clinton signed into law a reduction in the capital gains doubled over the next three years. Unemployment fell below 4%. The increased federal revenue from capital gains helped achieve a federal budget surplus the Buffett tax would take us in the opposite direction. The Buffett tax is nothing more than more than a back door tax on the capital gains that is earned by upper-income taxpayers."

Senator Baucus: (3:27 PM)
  • Honored Montana's soldiers serving in the military.

Senator Barrasso: (3:33 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "This tax will take money from the pockets of small businesses that they would use to create jobs. More than a third of all business income reported on individual returns would be hit by this tax increase. Back in September, President Obama said that this tax hike on American families would raise enough money not only to pay for his increased spending but he said, "to stabilize our debt and deficits for the next decade." He said back then, he said, "This is not politics." He said, "This is math." Well, of course we now know that the Buffett tax is about only one thing - politics. The increased tax revenue would amount to about $5 billion this year, which is about the same amount of money that Washington will borrow over the next day and a half. The President would have to collect his so-called Buffett tax for more than 200 years just to cover the Obama deficit from last year alone. That's not just my math. That's the math from the Joint Committee on Taxation. The Buffett tax won't fix Washington's debt because Washington doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Even one of President Obama's top economic advisors finally admits that the Buffett tax will not "bring the deficit down and the debt under control." Based on his record, it is clear that the President would not put a single dollar raised by his new tax toward the debt. He will just spend it. So the President has now changed his story once again. Now he says that this is no longer a way to pay down the deficit. Now he says it's just a matter of fairness. Well, President Obama has been using the word "fair" in quite a few of his campaign speeches lately. It's a word of great appeal to most people. Just like hope and change, the buzz words of the 2008 Presidential campaign, people can interpret it to fit their own meaning. President Obama's idea of fairness doesn't match up with the American people's idea of fairness ... Today the Obama administration is trying to make Washington irreplaceable in the lives of Americans. The great irony, the great tragedy is that no one is more trapped by this failed redistribution than the poorest. The people that the president so often claims to be trying to help. That's part of the downside to the culture of dependency. It's why Washington company never provide for people as well as people could and should provide for themselves. President Obama is focusing on fixing all the faults he sees in the American people. Republicans are focusing on giving the American people the opportunity to succeed using their talents and their hard work."

Mikulski, Kyl, Sanders, Whitehouse, Corker

Buffett Rule bill (S. 2230)

Apr 16 2012 4:35 PM

Senator Mikulski: (3:46 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "Let's talk about what the Buffett rule actually is and what the gentleman from Rhode Island is advocating, and I salute him for offering it. This would ensure that high-earning Americans who make more than $1 million a year pay at least 30% income tax on their effective rate on their second million. Let me repeat what this is. Your first million you keep at the same tax rate that it is right this afternoon. What we're talking about is changing the tax rate not on your first million but on your second million. Now, I don't think that stifles entrepreneurship. I don't think it breaks the neck of small business. What the small business needs is not more tax breaks; they need more customers, which is about more jobs. So, I think this bill really talks about this fairness. It would phase in additional tax liability for taxpayers earning between $1 million and $2 billion to avoid a tax cliff. And they're saying, oh, well, let us keep our money so we can give it to charity. This preserves the incentive for charitable giving and, quite frankly, from what we're told, the highest-earning 400 Americans make about $270 million each. They're the ones that paid an effective tax rate of 18%. Now, just think. You make $270 million. That's not exactly the entrepreneur in a garage. That's not exactly that small business person, a florist or, like my grandmother running this polish bakery or like my father with his little grocery store. $270 million each. They pay 18%. So here it is, April 16, they pay 18%. And that, by the way, is the rules. All we're saying is, you can pay that 18% on your first million, but on that second million, you got to get into the game and start to pay 30%."

Senator Kyl: (3:54 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "Today I want to talk about why this legislation is fundamentally misguided and why it would be harmful to businesses, workers, and the economy. The Buffett tax may make for good politics for President Obama on the campaign trail but it's bad policy. It is deeply flawed. First, let's start with its premise. There is a key misconception about Warren Buffett's tax rate. The notion that Mr. Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the tax code. Mr. Buffett, and I would add many older Americans, attain most of his income from investments. That income is taxed at the capital gains rate. Mr. Buffett and President Obama would have us believe that capital gains income gets preferential treatment in the tax code. But that doesn't tell the real story. Capital income is actually taxed twice. First it's taxed at the 35% rate that corporations pay on their income. It's taxed, money is paid to the government. And then it's taxed again when the distribution of capital gains or dividends is made to the investors, when it's passed on to shareholders as dividends or capital gains. That means the tax rate is already far higher than 30%. It is actually not 30% plus 15%, but it is higher than 30%, and it's closer to 45%. President Obama ignores these facts when he says Mr. Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. You have to count it twice, not just the second time. And that leads me to my second point. The fairness of the current tax code: Does it really favor the wealthy at the expense of others, as President Obama argues? Perhaps one could cherry-pick some statistics to show that pun person or another pays more or less. But the actual tax numbers show the real progressivity of the American internal revenue code, and interestingly enough, among all the industrialized countries in the world, ours is the most progressive. In other words, the U.S. income tax code has the wealthier people paying a far higher percentage of income taxes than any other country in the industrialized world. Yes, even more than Sweden and even more than France and even more than the other countries in Europe. According to Congressional Budget Office data, the average tax rate paid by middle-income earns is 14.2%. In contrast, the average tax rate paid by a high-income American is 31.2%, more than twice as much. So the average tax that the secretary or somebody else like that might make, 14.2%. The average tax paid by high-income Americans, 31.2%."

Senator Sanders: (4:16 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "The wealthiest people in this country have an effective tax rate that is lower than many middle-class workers. It makes no sense that the richest 400 people in our country who earned an average of more than $270 million each in 2008 pay an effective tax rate of just 18%, which is less than many small business men, nurses, teachers, police officers, et cetera. That is wrong from a moral perspective. It is also very bad economic policy. But, the issue we are debating today really speaks to a much larger crisis that is taking place in America, and that is that in many important ways, the united states is departing from its democratic tradition which has always included a strong and growing middle class and is moving rapidly into an oligarchic form of government in which almost all wealth and power reside in the hands of the very richest people in our society, the top 1%. That, is not what America is supposed to be about. Let me mention to you a recent study which shows not only why we should pass this Buffett Rule, but why we should go, in fact, much further. An economist at the University of California, professor Emmanuel Sayez, studying tax returns, found that in 2010, 93% of all new income generated during that year went to the top 1%. Let me repeat that. Between 2009 and 2010, the last year we have statistics on this issue, 93% of all new income went to the top 1%. While the rest of the people, the bottom 99% were able to receive 7%. Even more incredible is the fact that 37% of that new income went to the top .01%. In other words, of the $309 billion in new income gained in 2010, $288 billion went to the top 1%. Only $21 billion in new income went to the bottom 99%. Today the top 1% earns over 20% of all income in this country, which is more than the bottom 50%. In terms of distribution of wealth, accumulated income, as hard as it may be for us to believe as a country which believes in mobility, in a country which believes in equality, today we have a situation where the 400 wealthiest people in America now own more wealth than the bottom half of America, 150 million people. 400 people here own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans, and that gap between the very rich and everybody else is now wider than it has been in this country since the late 1920's, and we have by far the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth. So that is where we are today as a nation, and it is not a good place to be."

Senator Whitehouse: (4:23 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "One of the speakers has said that we do have a progressive tax code, that the income tax generates 31.2% of the total income tax revenue from high-income folks versus 14.2% from the middle as their rate. But it's worth focusing on the fact that when my Republican colleagues talk about taxes and they focus on income taxes, they leave out the payroll taxes that virtually every American pays, that a great number of Americans pay. More pay payroll taxes than pay an income tax, I believe. And if you look at all of those taxes and you put them together, you find that the top 1% of Americans do indeed pay 28.3% of the taxes. 1% pays 28.3% of the taxes, and that sounds pretty progressive until you realize that the top 1% in America controls more than a third of the nation's wealth. The top 1% holds more than a third of the nation's wealth but pays only 28% of the taxes. That's not progressive if you're measuring in what you're usually taxing, which is income and wealth, not just the existence of a human being on the planet. If you go to 5%, then the top 5% pay 44.7% of all of our taxes, which, again, is a lot and is progressive, but not when you consider that that 5% owns or controls more than 60% of the nation's wealth. We are a country in which more than half of the wealth of the country, more than 60% of the wealth of the country is concentrated in the hands of 1/20 of the population, the top 5%. And so for them to pay a higher rate makes a lot of logical sense, and what you find is that they actually pay a lower rate all too often The other point that I'd like to address is the argument that this will take money from the pockets of small businesses. If you look at the office of taxation and the treasury's definition of what a small business is and look at how many would be affected by this bill, it would be 3.3%. Nearly 97% of small businesses would have zero effect from this bill. And of the 3.3% that would be affected, it's hard to know how many of those are simply high-income individuals who have incorporated themselves for tax purposes but don't fit the ordinary definition of a small business."

Senator Corker: (4:29 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "This last March, 64 Senators, 32 on each side, wrote a letter to the President asking for real reform and real entitlement reform. I think most of us know that today's exercise is a political exercise. It's not intended to deal with deficits. It's intended to divide. I heard the President speaking to a college in Florida last week about the Buffett tax. And in that speech he was talking about spending all of that money on things that they were interested in. In other words, this money is not being used per the President's speech in any way to reduce deficits. I would just encourage all of those on both sides of the aisle, 32 Senators on each side, that have spoken earnestly and sincerely about pro-growth tax reform and entitlement reform to not follow this folly of division but to hold together as we need to do something that is great for our country, and it's my hope that by later this year, possibly lame duck, although I hope that something happens sooner than that, all of us who really care about solving problems, not about scoring political points, which this bill is about, will come together and do something great for our country."

Leahy, Toomey, Rockefeller, Manchin, Grassley

Executive Session (Thacker nomination)

Apr 16 2012 5:29 PM

Senator Leahy: (4:31 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Thacker nomination.
  • Spoke on the Violence Against Women Act.
    • SUMMARY "The Violence Against Women Act is about responding to domestic and sexual violence. Programs that are vitally important and our legislation has looked and learned from the experiences and needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence from all around the country. We've also had the recommendations of the tireless professionals who work every single day, I might say virtually every single night, to serve them. The builds on the progress that has been made in reducing domestic violence. It makes vital improvements to respond to unmet needs as we have each time we've reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act. The provision that the minority on the judiciary committee have labeled controversial are in fact modest changes. They meet the genuine, unmet needs that service providers tell us they see every day when they work with victims over the country. This is what we've done on every single VAWA reauthorization. We've looked at what we've learned since the last one, and then we take steps to recognize those victims whose needs are not being met and we find new ways to meet them. That's nothing new or different. It's what we've always done and because we have improved it each time is one of the reasons why domestic violence has dropped. Should not be a basis for a partisan division or delay. The legislation also includes important legislation to respond to current economic realities. While the economy is now improving, there remain difficult economic times and we have to be responsible in how we spend the taxpayers' money. That's why in our bill we consolidate 13 programs into four. Remove duplication and bureaucratic barriers, another one of those things you do each time reauthorization, you try to make it better. It would cut the authorization level for VAWA by more than 135 million a year. That's a decrease of nearly 20% from the last reauthorization. It's also significant accountability provisions, audit requirements and enforcement mechanisms and restrictions on grantees and costs. Again, saying we want to do the right thing in the Violence Against Women Act but we also want to protect the taxpayers' dollar. That's why it's a bipartisan bill, it's a product of careful consideration, and that's why it has widespread support."
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "Calls for a minimum 30% income tax rate for tears taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above a million dollars. Pay at least the tax rate paid by middle-class families. Also reduce the deficit by $47 billion over the next decade. Now, hard-working Vermont families and small businesses are struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy. But tax fairness has continued to erode benefiting the wealthiest 1%, at the expense of the rest of the country. By now a very large proportion of millionaires pay a small percentage of income than do a larger share of moderate-income taxpayers. Warren Buffett one of the wealthiest people in the world noted last year he paid taxes only 17.4% of his taxable income. A lower percentage paid by any of his 20 employees. They paid from 33% to 41% of their income. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service studied these claims and confirm Mr. Buffett's assertion, a large percent of millionaires pay a smaller percentage of their income than average working Americans and Vermonters do. Let's end the loopholes."

Senator Toomey: (4:47 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "Why are we having this argument? Unfortunately, it looks like it's an effort on two fronts. One is to simply engage in class warfare, generate envy and resentment and try to use that for political gain. And, secondly, it's an effort to distract from the underlying mismanagement of economic policy and fiscal policy that we have seen from this administration. Now, I know what the claim is from the other side. We hear that this is all about making sure that the rich pay their fair share. I have to say, I have a little bit of trouble taking lectures on fairness from folks who think that taxpayers ought to be made to put $500 million into a solar energy company that does not have a competitive product, which drives it into bankruptcy at the cost to the taxpayers, from the same folks that want to force taxpayers to continue subsidizing plug-in cars that people don't want to buy. That kind of crony capitalism and distorting of our economy at the expense of taxpayers doesn't strike me as fairness, so I have a hard time taking a lecture on fairness from people who advocate those things. But let's look at this tax code. If we want to talk about fairness, that's fine. How about the fact that, according to the joint committee on taxation, almost half of all Americans today pay no income tax at all or actually receive money through the income tax code the other half pay all of the taxes, and we're hearing from our friends that that's not enough, they need to pay still more. According to the CBO, if we look at all federal taxes, the middle quintile, the middle 20% of wage earners in America pay about 14% as an average tax when you combine all the kinds of federal taxes that are paid. Top 1% pay 30%. So more than - more than twice as high, 29.5% actually. If we look at just the income tax, the disparity is even bigger. If we look at the income tax alone, the middle quintile, the middle class, the middle 20% when it comes to income tax alone, on average pay about 3.3% as an effective average income tax rate. The top 1% pay 19%. So on average, almost six times as high. The fact is, we have a very progressive tax system. Not just by the historical measures of our own previous tax systems, but look everywhere else in the world. In fact, the United States, according to the OECD, the U.S. has the most progressive tax system in the industrialized world."

Senator Rockefeller: (5:01 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Thacker nomination.

Senator Manchin: (5:08 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Thacker nomination.
  • Spoke on the Buffet Rule.
    • SUMMARY "I rise to speak about my support for the Buffett Rule which would take a small step toward fixing the unfair system and paying down this country's nearly $16 trillion of debt. Now a lot of people here believe that this bill will fail because of politics on mostly a party line vote, and that is a shame because the only line that we should be voting for is the American line. For a year and a half I've been coming to the Senate floor to urge my colleagues to put party and politics aside and vote for the good of the next generation, not the next election, whether it's a Democrat idea or Republican idea. But, even though this vote on the Buffett Rule might fail today on party lines, we cannot give up. We have to find a way to come together for the next generation. Now I've said before let the Buffett Rule alone does not address the full scope of the problem. All it does is nibble around the edges of our broken tax code. We still have too many corporations that can take advantage of too many loopholes, credits and exemptions. We're pushing $16 trillion in debt and we're still spending more than $1 trillion more than we take in every year. That just doesn't make sense. We've got to fix the whole thing so that we can start reducing our deficit, paying down our debt, and putting our fiscal house back in order for the next generation. To do that, we have a plan with bipartisan support. I'm sure that you all have heard about it. It's called the Simpson-Bowles. It's a framework, a template which will reduce loopholes, exemptions and credits across the board. It will lower tax rates and get everyone to pay their fair share. Just as importantly, it would cut spending and start paying down our debt."

Senator Grassley: (5:16 PM)
  • Spoke on judicial nominations.
    • SUMMARY "We are moving forward under the regular order and procedure of the Senate on another nomination for the judiciary. This year we have been in session for about 37 days, including today. During that time we have confirmed 15 judges. an average of better than one confirmation for every two and a half days that the senate has been in session. With the confirmations today, the Senate have confirmed nearly 75% of President Obama's article 3 judicial nominations. Despite this progress, we still hear complaints about the judicial vacancy rate. We're filling those vacancies but, again be, I want to remind my colleagues, that of the 82 current vacancies, 50 have no nomination. That is over 60% of the vacancies with no nominee, and quite frankly, everybody understands it. We can't fill vacancies if the President doesn't get those names up here to the Senate. Another complaint we hear, which is a distortion of the record, is the so-called delay in confirming nominees. Those who raise this complaint only focus on the time a nominee is reported out of committee until confirmation, but the confirmation process is more than just Senate floor action The average time for this process for President Bush's circuit judge nominees was 350 days. 350 days from the time president bush put circuit judges up to the senate until they were confirmed. That means it took, on average, nearly 12 months from the time a nomination was received in the Senate until final confirmation. For President Obama's circuit nominees, the average time for a nomination to confirmation is 243 days. That means President Obama's circuit nominees are being confirmed much faster than those of President Bush. So to those who ask, what is different about this president? Well, a legitimate question. I would respond to that question this way: that one thing that is different is that this President's circuit nominees are being treated much more fairly than President Bush's nominees were treated."

Apr 16 2012 6:02 PM

Confirmed, 91-3:
Executive Calendar #460, Stephanie Dawn Thacker, of West Virginia, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Apr 16 2012 7:04 PM

Not Agreed to, 51-45:
Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2230, the Buffett Rule bill.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Apr 16 2012 7:24 PM

Senator Whitehouse: (7:05 PM)
  • Spoke on the Buffett Rule.
    • SUMMARY "I was pleased that a majority of the Senate - indeed, a bipartisan majority of the Senate - has just voted to eliminate an unfortunate gimmick in the tax code that allows people who make north of a quarter of a billion dollars a year to pay lower tax rates than a providence, Rhode Island, truck driver pays, if he's single. And I think that's pretty hard to justify, frankly. I think a lot of Americans spent last week preparing their taxes and having heard from Warren Buffett who one year paid an 11% all-in federal tax rate, a rate obviously higher than his secretary paid, something that Mr. Buffett himself has complained about. There's a pretty wide sense that the American tax code serves special interests and people who have phenomenal amounts of wealth much better than it serves regular, middle-class taxpayers. And that's particularly true if you avoid doing what my republican colleagues have done which is to focus on the most progressive part of the tax code, the income tax, and ignore the most regressive part of the tax code, the part that hits working families the hardest, which is the payroll taxes. And almost everything they say about the American tax code conveniently omits the taxes more Americans pay than the income tax, frank. But we had a good discussion on that subject and I think because it was so difficult for so many of my colleagues to come out in favor of an upside-down tax situation in which somebody making a quarter of a billion dollars pays a lower rate than somebody making $100,000 or $90,000, other topics were brought up. We kind of had a march through all the possible topics one could practically think of and one of them very central to all of us here in the senate today is jobs. And it was pointed out that the tax fairness bill is not a jobs bill. Of course, it would be if you take the $47 billion to $162 billion in revenue that it creates and put it towards infrastructure. Then it would create literally hundreds of thousands of jobs. But because it doesn't define where the revenue's going to go, I can't say that it is a jobs bill. It's a tax fairness bill. That was its intention."
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY SUMMARY "When the dust settled on the whole process and everybody had had their say and everybody had had their vote and all the amendments that could be considered were considered, we voted on it. And 75 Senators either voted for it or were out of town and have said that they would have voted for it had they been here. So you had an effective vote of 75-22 I think. By our standards here, that is a colossal bipartisan landslide. And the bill itself was supported by everybody from the United States Chamber of Commerce, which is probably the most active Republican lobbying and political organization in the country, to environmental groups, to the laborers' union. This is a bill that everybody supports. And from a jobs point of view, it's 2.9 million jobs. It's 9,000 jobs in my home state of Rhode Island. This is a big deal. The bill was sent over to the other side and there it sits. The Speaker won't take it up. And what I hear is it's because he doesn't want to count on democratic votes. To somebody who wants a job or who wants a husband or a sister to have a job out working, rebuilding roads, rebuilding bridges, rebuilding highways, rebuilding our national infrastructure, it's pretty hard to explain why you'd walk away from a bill that creates 3 million jobs, that's bipartisan, that went through a full process in the Senate when they have no bill whatsoever of their own and do so because they don't want to use Democrat votes? That's sort of the ultimate Washington insider reason for not doing something important to the country. So when we talk about jobs in the Senate, until we get action in the house that creates a real bill, I don't think we should be getting any lectures about jobs from our republican colleagues. I'm told that the House is passing another extension. And as the presiding officer knows, these extensions cost a ton in the way of jobs. And it's been estimated by our director of transportation that it would be a thousand jobs lost in Rhode Island just from the extension that we have already agreed to through the ends of June. If we pass that through the end of September, there goes the entire building season. And that's going to hurt."
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 10:00 AM and proceed to a period of Morning Business until 11:00 AM, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each. The time will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first half and the Majority controlling the second half.
    • Following Morning Business, the Senate will resume consideration of the Motion to Proceed to S. 1789, the Postal Reform bill, for up to 10 minutes of debate, equally divided.
    • Circa 11:10 AM, the Senate will conduct a ROLL CALL VOTE on the Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 1789, the Postal Reform bill
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.
The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 AM Tuesday, April 17th.