Peters Floor Remarks on Need for Bipartisan Tax Reform

Peters: “Passing this budget is only a requirement to pass a tax bill with as few votes as possible, without input or buy-in from any members of the Minority. And this is not the way we should pass a real tax reform bill. Tax reform - if it is going to be successful - must have broad bipartisan input.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) spoke on the Senate floor today to voice his opposition to the Republican budget and the need to reach a bipartisan agreement on tax reform that benefits middle class families without raising the deficit. Below is video and text of his remarks as prepared for delivery: 

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“Mr. President, Later today, the Majority is going to attempt to pass a budget for 2018. ‘Passing a budget’ has come to mean all sorts of things in Congress these days.

“Last year’s budget was an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This budget is supposedly all about tax reform. A budget – first and foremost – is a statement about priorities for the coming year and the coming decade. So, let’s take a moment and examine what this budget says about the majority’s priorities.

“With any budget, I think you need to look at the end result and ask a couple of simple questions. First, does this budget help address federal deficits and debt with a responsible, sensible approach? And second, does this budget – ultimately – put us on a sustainable fiscal path?

“The answer to these questions is a clear no.

“Instead, this budget is primarily intended to allow the majority to use an expedited procedure to move tax breaks that would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. That’s trillion with a T.

“Mr. President, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will say this lost revenue is offset by spending cuts and promises of new revenues from economic growth far beyond what almost every mainstream economist predicts.

“Now, let’s look at the trillions in cuts they are proposing. Where the budget is specific, it’s bad. 

“Medicaid is cut by $1 trillion. Medicare is cut by $470 billion. On top of that, the budget includes over $3 trillion of ‘unspecified’ cuts. Now, you do not have to be an expert on the federal budget to know that $3 trillion in unspecified cuts means one of two things:

“They are either – one – cuts to programs that families and communities rely on, like Head Start, Pell Grants, and transportation funding. Or – two – they are unspecified because they are simply never going to happen.

“That is what we are voting on today. Nearly $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. And then, trillions in cuts that are either so unpopular they won’t dare name them, or trillions more in deficits because they don’t actually have a plan.

“The federal budget is about choices. You can learn a lot about which choices a budget puts in black and white, and which are left deliberately unspecified.

“When it comes to the majority’s tax plan – we know only a few details – but we know enough to see there will be winners and losers. The winners will be the wealthiest Americans and global corporations. We need to look at what this means for Michigan families and small businesses, but there is a deliberate lack of detail that makes figuring out the bottom line for working families impossible.

“We don’t know where the tax brackets will start and stop. We don’t know what personal exemptions families will be able to take. We don’t know the size and scope of the child tax credit. We don’t know if important incentives for charitable contributions will be kept. The majority is even keeping open the possibility of raising taxes on Americans who are trying to save for retirement.

“This budget should be straightforward.

“We should reduce the tax burden on middle class families. We should make it simpler for Americans to file and understand their taxes. We should make it easier to save for retirement, and we should increase take-home pay for Americans that work for a living every day.

“Unfortunately, none of the details that are important for middle-class folks were important enough to include in this budget, and I will vote against it. And I urge my colleagues to do the same. We cannot add another $1.5 trillion to the deficit. We cannot slash Medicare and Medicaid. This is simply the wrong direction for our nation.

“So why are we moving forward with this budget at all? Well – on this issue – the Administration has been clear. Passing this budget is all about passing a so-called tax reform bill.

“I want to address that statement for a minute, because I have heard it a number of times now. Passing this budget is not a requirement for passing tax reform. I repeat, Passing this budget is not a requirement to passing a tax bill. Passing this budget is only a requirement to pass a tax bill with as few votes as possible, without input or buy-in from any members of the Minority. And this is not the way we should pass a real tax reform bill. Tax reform – if it is going to be successful – must have broad bipartisan input. I stand ready to work with my colleagues on real tax reform.

“Modernizing and streamlining our tax code can boost Michigan businesses – raise take-home pay for workers across sectors – and help create the type of 21st century economy we need.

“We can make it easier for small businesses – including manufacturers and family farms – to invest in themselves. We can make the code fairer across sectors. We can establish incentives for smart investment in our communities. We can implement strong, enforceable rules to prevent companies from gaming our tax system and moving profits – and jobs – overseas.

“And for families, we can meaningfully boost take home pay. We can expand the Child Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. We can work together to find real ways to help alleviate the cost of child care. We can lessen the burden of student debt, and we can help people save for retirement.

“Tax reform can help create more good jobs right here at home, fix some of the issues in the code that drive jobs and companies overseas, and put more money in the pockets of working families.

“In 1986, Congress passed the most dramatic reform of the Federal tax code in modern history. How many votes did this sweeping overhaul get? When tax reform ultimately passed the Senate in 1986, it received 97 votes. If we want to repeat that accomplishment – and truly overhaul our code to make it work better for American families and American businesses – that level of bipartisanship should be our goal – not 50. Not 51. I know we can do these things in a truly bipartisan manner if we are given the chance.

“Let’s work together to pass real tax reform with broad support from both sides of the aisle, the American people deserve nothing less. I stand ready to work with the majority, and so do my colleagues. I urge the Majority to abandon this effort and start over.

“Make the decision to not add trillions more to the deficit. Make the decision to not cut Medicare and Medicaid for Americans in need. Start over and find a path forward to find real — lasting — bipartisan solutions.”