Floor Updates

Lautenberg, McConnell, Isakson, Vitter, Boozman, Stabenow, Menendez

Buffett Rule bill (S. 2230)

Mar 29 2012

11:20 AM

Senator Lautenberg: (9:59 AM)
  • Spoke on the Menendez Energy Tax Credits bill
    • SUMMARY "Given how well these companies are doing, why are we giving them billions of dollars in tax breaks? The legislation that we're voting on today presents a better idea. It says that we should end these tax breaks and invest instead in clean energy solutions that can break our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. Investing in renewable energy has helped launch industries that create jobs and clean up our air and provide homemade American power. Clean energy is also our best chance to break through a spiraling gas crisis and our reliance on foreign oil. You would think that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would want to put a stop to the punishing effects of higher and higher gas prices on middle-class working people. Why wouldn't they want to end America's dependence on fossil fuels and eliminate needless tax breaks for oil companies? Two orders. Big oil. Big oil. Big oil is doing all it can to protect their tax breaks. And it was even said by a retired chairman, CEO of Exxon, that it's not necessary, they don't need it, but they are taking it. Big oil is doing all it can to protect their tax breaks, and the Republicans are lining up to help big oil. It's time to tell the truth. Making oil companies pay their fair share in taxes is not going to raise the price of gas contrary to what they published. It just means that big oil executives might have to trim their sails a little bit, share in the problems that we have. When I was a soldier a long time ago, we had an excess profits tax for companies that made in a way unconscionable amounts of money based on the situation that our country was facing. So it's just a matter of sharing some of the responsibility that our country has to keep everybody feeling like they are participating in the American dream, not a nightmare. While millions of Americans are struggling every week to pay their bills, I want everybody to take a look at how much oil companies are paying their executives. The person who runs ExxonMobil, the CEO, was paid $29 million last year. $29 million. ConocoPhillips' CEO, $18 million. And at Chevron, $16 million income in one single year."

Senator McConnell: (10:12 AM)
  • Spoke on the Menendez Energy Tax Credits bill.
    • SUMMARY "Our friends on the other side, the Senate Democrats, have put on a clinic this week on how not to run a serious legislative body, and if they have achieved anything at all, it's to make Americans even more frustrated with congress, as if that were possible. Faced with skyrocketing gas prices, Senate Democrats turned to a bill that even they admit doesn't lower them. And then to make matters worse, they block Republicans from offering anything that might. That was their brilliant plan on how to deal with gas prices. Raise taxes on energy companies when gas is already hovering around $4 a gallon, then block consideration of anything else just to make sure gas prices don't go anywhere but up. Somehow, they thought that doing this would set up some kind of political win for them, which, frankly, I don't understand. I mean, I can't imagine anybody giving them any high fives for not lowering gas prices. But anyway, that was obviously the plan. And it appears to have fallen short, because now they want to move off this issue and on to another political vote, to yet another debate where the goal isn't to make a difference but rather to make a point. To increase taxes, not lower price at the pump. Well, I don't expect this next vote will have the political punch they expect either, but that's the Democratic plan anyway. And it's getting really quite tedious. Day after day after day, senate democrats ask us all to come out here, not so we can make an actual difference in the lives of working Americans and families struggling to fill the gas tank, but so we can watch them stage votes for show. For some reason, they thought they would put some political points on the board this week if the American people saw them voting for a tax hike that we all knew ahead of time didn't have the votes to pass. That didn't work. If you have any doubt about that, just ask yourself why they were moving to actually get off of it. And now they think they will score political points by staging another vote on a tax hike we know doesn't have the votes to pass. None of this makes sense to me, have chosen to run this place, and if they want to keep trying to distract the American people from the fact that they don't have any solutions to the problems we face, that's their prerogative. But that's not going to keep Republicans from talking about ours. That's not going to keep us from trying to actually make a difference around here. Surveys show two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling high gas prices and we know high gas prices are having a negative impact on Americans' daily lives. So we think the American people are entitled to this debate. They sent us here to do something other than put on a show, and that's why we'll continue to insist on a serious debate."
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "One thing we should all be able to agree on is the President's health care bill is a mess, an absolute mess. The American people clearly don't like it, polls show the majority want the law repealed. More than two-thirds of the public including most democrats believe the core of this bill is unconstitutional and it's loaded, literally loaded with broken promises. The President said it would lower costs. It's in fact raising costs. Proponents said it would create jobs. Now we know it means fewer jobs. The President said families would save on their premiums. They're in fact going up. He said people would be able to keep the insurance they have and like. They won't. CBO's most likely prediction finds three million to five million Americans will lose their current plan every single year. The President said he would protect Medicare. But instead, the law raids Medicare for over $500 billion, cutting billions from hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and Medicare advantage. The President promised the American people their taxes wouldn't go up one penny. Well, two years later the American people found out their taxes are going up by more than $550 billion. The Joint Committee on Taxation found no fewer than 11 separate taxes and penalties that fall squarely on the middle class. Remember the CLASS Act, the administration said it would be fiscally stable and reduce the deficit. A couple of months ago it was determined to be unsustainable and was shut down before it even began. The President told the American people, "federal conscience law will remain in place." Two years later he gave his approval to HHS to mandate that religious affiliated hospitals and charities would have to violate their religious tenets or pay a hefty fine. Finally, the health care law will increase Medicaid rolls by nearly 25 million people, costing already cash-strapped states another $118 billion, money that many governors, including Kentucky's, don't know where to get. This law is bad for Kentucky, it's bad for the country, it's bad for health care, Americans don't want it, and regardless of what the court decides this summer, it should be repealed and it should be replaced."
  • Shared stories of the heartbreaking events in Kentucky, in the aftermath of the horrific wave of storms and tornados that ravaged the state.
  • Thanked Laura Dove, Assistant Secretary for the Minority, for her service to the U.S. Senate.

Senator Isakson: (10:36 AM)
  • Spoke on President Obama's comments to President Medvedev of Russia.
    • SUMMARY "I spent most of the previous year in the United States Senate as a member of the Foreign Relations committee working on the new START treaty, which the Senate adopted with 71 favorable votes a year ago. A treaty that's a treaty on offensive missiles, not defensive missiles nor strategic missiles, a treaty that began under Ronald Reagan, was ratified by George H.W. Bush shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, extended under George W. Bush, terminated a couple of years ago and needed to be renewed. It's a treaty that did three things. First of all, reduced offensive nuclear weapons held by the Russians and the Americans. Secondly, gave us unilateral access to Russia and the Russians unilateral access to us to trust but to verify the warheads that existed. And third, new identification systems and holographs that made it almost impossible to hide or mimic nuclear warheads. A comprehensive treaty important to America, important to the free world, and quite frankly important to Russia. I want to quote from the Washington Post exactly what the President was picked up as having said when he was talking to Mr. Medvedev after their official conversation, and I quote from the Washington Post, "On these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved." I underline nobody knows what this means. "But it is important for him to give me space." President Medvedev said back, "Yes, I understand." Then the President said the following, "This is my last election. After my election, I will have more flexibility." That flexibility obviously refers back to this which was in the first comment. So as a continuing member of the Foreign Relations Committee, one that's proud of the work that we did on the start treaty but one that understands particularly the commitments of the country, I think it's important that the president clarify what this meant and how flexibility would be implied if he were re-elected as president of the united states, for this reason - in the President's letter to the Senate, to endorse the new START treaty and ask for its ratification, he said the following - "He would pledge in his message to the Senate - on the fazed adaptive approach of nuclear missile defense in Europe, including qualitative and quantitative improvements to such system." That is a unilateral statement. I met with the Vice President Joe bidden in his office outside this chamber during the debate. Vice President bidden committed the administration in terms of continuing with missile defense. I met with Secretary of State Clinton. I met with Ellen Tauscher, who is one of the chief operatives, former member of the House working for the State Department. There was never any wiggle room nor need for flexibility. The United States was committed to missile defense in Europe, and we remain committed to this day, and it's important the president reaffirm them and not be confused or in any way blurred by the comments that were picked up on that microphone. It is too important, it is too important to the country, it is too important to this body and it is too important for me to be able to trust the words for each other without finding some time later they want flexibility without possibly removing from those words."
  • Spoke on the Menendez Energy Tax Credits bill.
    • SUMMARY "Prices are determined by supply and demand. If your supply goes down and your demand goes up, your prices go up. On the contrary, if the supply is plentiful, demand goes down, your prices go down. You can blame gas companies, Presidents' salaries, anything you want to blame, but the fact of the matter is we're talking out of the side of our mouth and particularly in the administration when it comes to exploration of natural resources in the United States of America, and only can we become energy independent when we develop all of our resources. And I support that. I drive a hybrid car. I'm not just somebody that talks about it. I believe that's important. It reduces my consumption. It extends my miles per gallon, and it's better for the environment. We have proven through the Solyndra case and other cases that some of the alternative energy sources are either not perfected or quite frankly just frankly don't work. So while we're developing ones that do, we should be robustly exploring in the gulf, in Alaska, in the Midwest, in the Northwest, and offshore like my state of Georgia. The resources we know exist raise the supply of petroleum in the United States and lower the price to the American taxpayer. All sources of energy that are safe and reliable should be promoted."

Senator Vitter: (10:44 AM)
  • Spoke on the Menendez Energy Tax Credits bill.
    • SUMMARY "I don't see real solutions and a real policy to address that coming out of the President or some of my colleagues here on the Senate floor. Right now, to the minute, as we speak here on the Senate floor, the President is speaking at the White House and he's laying out his proposal to raise taxes on domestic energy companies and domestic oil and gas production. That's not a policy that's going to help Louisiana and American families with the price at the pump. In fact, it's a policy that's going to make it worse, not better. Folks get it in the real world. They certainly do in Louisiana. When you increase taxes on something, those are costs that almost every business, if they possibly can, are going to pass on to consumers. That's pushing prices up, not down. It's also the first rule of economics. As my colleague from Georgia said, supply and demand. If you tax something more, you get less of it. If we increase taxes on domestic energy producers, on domestic oil and gas, we will get less of it. And less supply means price goes up. So two compelling reasons why this proposal isn't going to help Louisiana families, American families with their struggles, with the price at the pump. It's going to make it even worse when it's been getting worse on its own for a lot of related reasons, very, very dramatically. So that isn't a policy, that isn't a commonsense or a real-world solution the United States is actually the single most energy-rich country in the world, bar none. When you look at total energy resources, we lead the world. Russia is second. Other countries follow, way behind. Saudi Arabia is third, but cannot compare in terms of total resources. No Middle Eastern country can. And China is below that. We have the resources. We're the single most energy-rich country in the world. This map shows it. Enormous reserves, particularly shale in the west. Natural gas and in finds on land and offshore, enormous potential and reserves of oil. Hundreds of years' worth, literally. So what's the problem? The problem is we're the only country in the world that puts well over 90% of those resources off limits and doesn't develop them. But we can do better. We can reasonably, responsibly, safely open up that access."

Senator Boozman: (10:56 AM)
  • Spoke on the Menendez Energy Tax Credits bill.
    • SUMMARY "The legislation before this chamber proposed to raise taxes on American energy producers. This won't change supply and demand. And Senator Isakson just a few minutes ago talked about these are basic truths, supply and demand does control cost. This will do nothing to that. Once again hardworking Americans will be left with the bill as a result if this bill were passed. I believe a better way begins with adopting an energy strategy that increases our production of American energy in a clean, efficient way. Through developing wind, solar, and hydrogen technologies as well as tapping into the vast majority of natural resources that. The reality of our country's nonexistent energy policy is it forces us to rely on the Middle East for oil. We import half of our supply. This is costly to our economy, our citizens and it threatens our national security. This is the only developed country in the world that refuses to use its natural resources. Opening up Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and increasing offshore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf is a step in the right direction that puts us on a path of energy independence. We can boost our domestic energy supply through the development of the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed 1,700 mile pipeline would transport 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to U.S. refiners in the gulf coast and allow us to get reliable fuel from our largest trading partner and trusted ally. Unfortunately the project was rejected by the majority after the President Obama took the time to lobby against it after vetoing the project earlier this year. There is no time like today to pass legislation to fully utilize the sources we've been blessed with in our country, but this should not come at the cost of our energy producers."

Senator Stabenow: (11:03 AM)
  • Spoke on the Menendez Energy Tax Credits bill.
    • SUMMARY "We have a very important vote in front of us that goes to the question of whether or not consumers are going to continue to be held hostage by basically having one energy source: at the pump or whether we are going to give competition and give consumers choice. I believe we ought to do everything. There is no question about that in my mind. But it doesn't just mean having a tax code that has embedded for almost 100 years special tax breaks and subsidies for the oil companies and the other new clean energy alternatives that are growing and creating jobs in our country. They do not have the same treatment. In fact, they limp along with a tax cut that expires every year, not sure if it's going to continue, which is what happening right now. People are losing their jobs right now in the areas of wind production and other areas because they're not sure what's going to happen. And yet, we give preferential treatment to an industry right now whose top-five companies are making about $260,000 a minute. A minute. People in Michigan, the average wage does not equal $260,000 a year. And yet, $260,000 a minute in profit. And we as customers, as consumers, have the great privilege of on the one hand, paying whatever they want to charge at the pump because there are no alternatives and not enough choices. And at the same time out of other pocket, we get to subsidize them. 100 years ago those subsidies probably made a lot of sense. I'm sure I would have voted for them, as we were starting the new industrial economy and incentivizing the production of oil certainly made sense. I still support the efforts for small businesses and local efforts. But the top-five companies do not need taxpayer subsidies right now when they have t highest profits of anyone, any business in the world. So what are we talking about? We're talking about in tough times with budget deficits, when we need to be focused on jobs and getting us off of foreign oil, making choices that make sense for the future and not the past. And that means closing down these special subsidies for the top-five companies. Again, who are earning in profits about $260,000 every single minute we are standing here. And turning those dollars over to new clean energy alternatives, whether it be biofuels, wind, solar, electric batteries, all of the things that need to happen. Natural gas So that we actually have real competition."

Senator Menendez: (11:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the Menendez energy tax credits bill.
    • SUMMARY "I keep hearing over and over again from our friends on the other side of the aisle that if we just keep giving the oil companies taxpayer money, that they'll do the right thing. The problem is we already know that's not true. First of all, the United States has only 2% of the world's oil reserves, so we cannot drill our way out of this problem even if we wanted to. But more importantly, we cannot trust the big-five oil companies to simply do the right thing. Let's look at the record. Last year the big five oil companies took $2 billion of your money and saw their profits shoot up to $137 billion, an impressive 75% increase in profits. But did they use that extra money that we gave them in our subsidies to produce more oil? No. They didn't. They took your money and they didn't produce a drop more of oil. Despite the fact that overall U.S. oil production is higher now than it has been in the last eight years, last year these five companies actually produced 4% less oil. So here's another way to look at it. As each of these companies pocketed our subsidies to pad those profits, they did not use this windfall to produce more oil. If you take the word of our friends on the other side of the aisle, we have a contract in essence with these five companies. We pay you $2 billion, and you give us more oil. Last year they broke that contract and produced less. So instead, it appears that these poor oil companies took the taxpayers' $2 billion, and instead of having to suffer with only $135 billion in profits, they made $137 billion in profits last year. What a heartwarming story of robin hood in reverse. Taking from the American taxpayer to give to the rich. So congratulations, big oil. You got $2 billion extra in profits, and we got 4% less oil. But, of course, we're not just seeing less oil. We're also seeing the American driver gouged with higher gasoline prices. So what happens when taxpayers are forking over $2 billion in subsidies a year to highly profitable oil companies who in turn produce less? We get a double whammy with $4 a gallon gas at the pump and a bigger burden on taxpayers. How is that a fair return on our taxpayer dollars? It's pretty generous to big oil which stands to profit $1 trillion over the next decade while getting $24 billion in subsidies. But it's a bad deal for consumers struggling to make ends meet."

Senator McConnell: (11:13 AM)
  • Spoke on the Menendez energy tax credits bill.
    • SUMMARY "I just have one question before this morning's vote. One simple question: is this really the best we can do? Is this the best we have to offer folks who are staring at $4 a gallon on gasoline? A bill that even Democrats admit won't do anything at all to lower the price of gas. Is this the best we can do? And a process that blocks any other idea from even coming to the floor for a vote. No other idea has been allowed other than a proposal that would inevitably raise the price of gas at the pump. Does anybody really think the Senate has done its job on this issue? Well, if you don't, if you think we should do more with the American people at a time when they're paying $4 a gallon for gas, then raise taxes on energy manufacturers and block a pipeline from Canada, then you ought to vote against cloture. You should stand with Republicans and insist that we do more to lower gas prices in this country. I see the President made a statement a little while ago in support of this proposed tax hike. My question is: where was the White House when the Democrats voted to actually get off of this proposal? Maybe they were too busy lining up votes against the keystone pipeline. Maybe the President was too busy telling the Russians about how he's hoping for more flexibility. My point is that Democrats don't have to take orders from the White House. They don't need to serve the President's political strategy. They can do what their constituents want them to do on this issue. They can vote to stay on this bill and fight for real solutions to the problems of high gas prices. And any other number of issues the Democrats refuse to face, for that matter. We can use this institution to actually make a difference. And I hope at some point that's colleagues on the other side decide to do."