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Joe M.
Democrat WV

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  • Omnibus and Tax Extenders Legislation

    by Senator Joe Manchin, III

    Posted on 2015-12-17

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    MANCHIN. Mr. President, I rise to applaud my colleagues for being in the Christmas spirit. I have never seen so many gifts and presents given out in one bill.

    Let's be clear, we aren't voting on just a $1.1 trillion spending bill called the omnibus, we are not voting on just that bill. That bill, by itself, could have been acceptable because it helps veterans, middle-class families, our Defense Department, our border security, and a host of other valuable Federal programs, but we aren't voting on just the omnibus bill. We are forced to vote on both the omnibus and the tax extender package that adds an additional unpaid-for $680 billion of gifts for special interest groups.

    We are giving out $680 billion in irresponsible tax breaks, Christmas gifts to every special interest and corporation that asked for one. We gave Christmas presents to millionaire race car drivers and motorcycle riders, film, television, and theater producers, and even racehorse owners. Don't get me wrong. I like going to the movies, I like riding my motorcycle, and even going horseback riding from time to time, but I don't think many middle-class Americans will be happy to know we gave away billions of dollars in tax gifts to millionaires and billionaires at their expense. They should be especially upset that we did it by mortgaging the futures of their children and grandchildren. I have always said we are writing checks that our kids can't cash.

    I think a lot of Americans would want to know how we got here. How did we get to the point where we force ourselves to vote on a 2,000- page, trillion-dollar spending bill at the end of the year just so we can all rush home for the holidays? How did we add a $700 billion tax extender package that gives the wealthiest among us the gifts they want? The truth is that we stopped following regular order. A lot of us only heard about regular order. We have never actually governed by it. I only know about regular order because before I joined the Senate and before he passed away, Senator Robert C. Byrd told me how this place used to work. We used to talk about how things would happen. He would be disappointed in all of us on both sides, Democrats and Republicans, that we have run the body he loved so much the way we have.

    This is what regular order is supposed to look like. After receiving the President's budget--which we do, starting our new Congress-- Congress is supposed to respond with our view of what the budget should look like. Then we work through 12 appropriations committees and their subcommittees to develop 12 separate appropriations bills. The entire body should then consider each individual bill and make sure they meet the demands of our constituents while staying within the means of our set budget. We need to do that 12 separate times so we can honestly tell the American public that we were responsible with their money and we can answer to that.

    Instead, we are jammed at the last minute with a $1.1 trillion spending bill that is over 2,000 pages long and considers the priorities of those 12 committees all at one time, without talking about them and debating them individually. Not only that, as if that is not enough, this year we have a special treat of adding on a $700 billion tax gift Christmas tree package instead of actually doing the tax reform all of us talk about but never actually get around to. At some point, we are going to have to start setting our priorities based on our values, budgeting based on our priorities, and being responsible stewards of the taxpayers' money. It will happen sooner or later.

    Instead of working throughout the year in a bipartisan way, we continue to govern by crisis, one after another. We kick the can down the road all year and then add in more than half a trillion dollars in gifts to our special interest friends.

    Both parties are to blame. This is not just a bipartisan issue, both parties are at fault. The Christmas gift will add $2 trillion to our debt over the next two decades. My grandfather Papa Joe always taught me to base our priorities on our values and then budget based on our priorities.

    Well, we have sure shown the American people what our values are with this bill. We pay a lot of lip service on this floor, on cable news, and on campaign trails about our priorities, but when it comes down to it and time to govern based on the priorities, all we get is lip service.

    We had choices to make in this bill. We could have helped middle- class families or could have given tax breaks to multinational companies--notably the major banks--parking their money abroad. We could choose to make college debt free or we could choose to help the film, television, and theater producers deduct the cost of their movies, shows, and plays. We could choose to double our border security or we could allow racehorses to be depreciable. We could choose to give every American family $5,600 in tax relief or we could have chosen to give favorable tax treatment to racing complexes. We could have chosen to keep the promise that President Truman made to our patriotic coal miners in 1946 and protect their pension and health care guarantees or we could choose to give $680 billion in tax breaks to special interest groups, millionaires, and billionaires.

    We chose poorly. We truly chose poorly. Democrats and Republicans both say we need to help our hard-working American families, but we have completely ignored the most hard-working people out there I know, our coal miners, and we should be ashamed of ourselves.

    I know some of my colleagues don't like coal. They think they don't need it and want to get rid of it, but this isn't about coal. It is about the brave men and women who gave and who have gone into those mines every day for over a century to power our economy, produce the weapons to fight our wars, and provide the energy we all depend on today. It made us the greatest country on Earth, a superpower. Basically, with this God-given resource that we had, these brave men and women worked and worked hard, very patriotically, to make sure this country had the energy it needed to defend itself and to build the industrial might that we have to be the superpower of the world.

    They were guaranteed affordable health care and dignity in retirement in return for the blood, sweat, and tears they shed for our country. That was a guarantee, a written guarantee, in 1946. They were guaranteed affordable health care and retirement. I want you to know that by not being able to have that in this bill--as laden as it is with all of these giveaways, freebies, picking who is getting what, and all the millionaires and billionaires--we went back on our promise. We decided to help race car owners, film producers, horseracing professionals, foreign entities, and a host of other special interest groups, but we didn't help our own miners. We did not help our own people.

    Today we said that despite finding a fiscally responsible way to meet these [[Page S8740]] obligations, our priorities were not in valuing their service. I cannot stand on the floor and vote for a bill that tells middle-class Americans, students and veterans, doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers, and our seniors that these are our values. They simply are not who we are and what we are about. They are not the values that the good people of West Virginia, Wisconsin or all the other 50 States that we have in this great Union basically value, and they are not the values the ``greatest generation'' and our miners fought for.

    I encourage all my colleagues to vote no and show the American people once and for all what our values should be and that our priorities are about them and not about special interest people and special people who don't need the help. They have already done very well in life. I would hope we would all think twice before voting on this absolutely irresponsible piece of legislation that adds another $700 billion of debt. It is uncalled for.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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