Floor Updates

Leahy, Toomey, Rockefeller, Manchin, Grassley

Executive Session (Thacker nomination)

Apr 16 2012

05:29 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."