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Senator Murray on Budget Debate: If Republicans Won't Agree to Balanced Approach, Then We Won't Get a Deal This Year

Jul 16 2012

Murray calls on Republicans to stop holding middle class tax cuts hostage, work with Democrats on a balanced replacement to defense and non-defense sequestration

“Democrats are willing to compromise, we just need a partner.”

“…a budget tells the story of the kind of nation we are, and the kind of nation we want to be…it is a statement of our values, our priorities, and our vision.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. to lay out her values and priorities regarding the country’s fiscal challenges heading into the end of the year and beyond. Murray discussed how she views the path to a balanced and bipartisan budget deal, and what steps can be taken to extend tax cuts for the middle class, make sure the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share, and replace sequestration in a balanced and fair way.  Murray also spoke about the support her own family got from the federal government when they needed it and discussed where her values come from when it comes to the budget.

Watch the full speech

Key excerpts from Murray’s speech:

If Republicans won’t work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal. 

“…if Republicans won’t work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal.   Because I feel very strongly that we simply cannot allow middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans to bear this burden alone.

“So if we can’t get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle class families under the bus. And I think my party, and the American people, will support that.”

“…If Democrats were willing to accept a wildly imbalanced deficit reduction plan to avoid the automatic cuts we would have done that back in the supercommittee.  But we didn’t then, and we won’t now.  So anyone who tells you sequestration is going to simply disappear because both sides want to avoid it is either fooling themselves, or trying to fool you. It is going to have to be replaced, and that replacement is going to have to be balanced.”

“I will not agree to a deal that throws middle class families under the bus and forces them to bear this burden alone.  Unless Republicans end their commitment to protecting the rich above all else, our country is going to have to face the consequences of Republican intransigence.”

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“…many Republicans are starting to realize something important: On January 1st, if we haven’t gotten to a deal, Grover Norquist and his pledge are no longer relevant to this conversation.  A name I heard repeated by Republicans over and over in the supercommittee will no longer be a part of this debate.  We will have a new fiscal and political reality.”

“If the Bush tax cuts expire, every proposal will be a tax cut proposal and the pledge will no longer keep Republicans boxed in and unable to compromise.”

“If middle class families start seeing more money coming out of their paychecks next year—are Republicans really going to stand up and fight for new tax cuts for the rich? Are they going to continue opposing the Democrats’ middle class tax cut once the slate has been wiped clean?  I think they know this would be an untenable political position.  And I hope this pushes them to come to the table with real revenue now before being forced to the table if we don’t get a deal before the New Year.”

Murray challenges Republicans to offer a true choice and give certainty to 98% of taxpayers

“…when it comes to the expiring Bush tax cuts, I agree with President Obama. Let’s extend them for the 98% of workers and 97% of small business owners Democrats and Republicans agree should have their taxes cut—and then have a real debate about the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans we disagree on.

“Before August, we are going to have a vote to do exactly that in the Senate. Senate Republicans have indicated they are going to make an effort to extend all the Bush tax cuts—including those for the rich.”

“But I challenge them to do something different. To be honest about what they really want and allow everyone to clearly state their position on the issues.  I challenge them to offer an amendment to our middle class tax cut that would simply extend the tax cuts that they are fighting for , the tax cuts for the rich. Not a political amendment offered simply to give their members a way out of voting against a middle class tax cut, a real amendment.”

“If they do this, all of the Bush tax cuts would be up for a clean, honest extension vote.  And the American people would know where everyone stands.  Any senator who supports extending tax cuts for the middle class—they can vote for our bill.  Any senator who supports extending tax cuts for the rich—they can vote for the Republican amendment. And any senator who supports extending all the tax cuts—well, they can vote for them both.”

“That would give everyone the opportunity to vote for exactly what they want, and it would make sure political gimmicks don’t get in the way of delivering results for the 98% of workers both sides agree should have their tax cuts extended.

“If Republicans don’t do this, if they continue playing political games with this vote and only offer an amendment in order to kill the bill, then they will have proven conclusively that they don’t  care about certainty, they care about extending those tax cuts for the rich.  And that they will use every bit of leverage they have to do it.”

“If we are really going to address these issues we have to cut through the political smokescreens.  It’s time to put our cards on the table, offer real choices, and have a debate that’s worthy of the Senate.”

“Holding the middle class tax cuts hostage may be a smart tactical move if the goal is to protect the rich.  But it’s not good policy, it’s not good politics, and Democrats are going to keep reminding the  American people why middle class tax cuts aren’t being extended immediately even though both sides say they want them to be.”

Lessons from the supercommittee

“…as everyone in this room knows, the supercommittee was not successful. We couldn’t come to a bipartisan deal.  And the reasons for that, the lessons learned from those four months of intense bipartisan talks, are absolutely critical as we face the exact same issues heading into the end of the year and the so-called fiscal cliff.  Because if we want a different outcome, if we want to come together around the balanced and bipartisan deficit-reduction deal the American people expect and deserve, something is going to have to change.”

“So to spell out the obvious: Under the Toomey plan, the richest Americans would get a huge tax cut, while the middle class would lose the tax benefits that matter to them most....So not only is it deeply unfair to ask the middle class to foot the bill for another deficit-busting tax cut for the rich, but the Toomey plan would lock them in with no guarantee that the revenue will ever be found to pay for them.  There’s nothing responsible about that in my book. In fact, it’s offensive.”

“…the Toomey plan was a gimmick. A bait-and-switch.  It wasn’t a step in our direction—it was a leap toward the Tea Party. Away from a deal.”

“Democrats were willing to match the Republicans dollar-for-dollar on the spending side, and more. We went even beyond the Toomey plan when it came to tackling entitlements.  We had backing from our leadership and our party to make a big deal.  We jumped right out into the middle of the ring.  But Republicans refused to move an inch in our direction on revenue. They actually tried to use a deficit reduction Committee to cut taxes for the rich even further.  And they were so focused on how their extreme base would react that they simply couldn’t summon the will to leave their partisan corner.”

“There were times when I thought we were close. But looking back at the offers from each side that represented the greatest attempts at compromise—it’s clear that while we were close on the spending side, Republicans hadn’t even left their corner when it came to revenue.”

Reasons for hope

“… I think we have some good reasons to think a deal can happen before the end of the year.  I know Democrats are willing to compromise. We just need a partner.”

“Thankfully, I am seeing some encouraging signs from Republicans who are sick and tired of being boxed in by the most extreme elements of their base who don’t like being responsible for continued manufactured crises that hurt the economy and destroy our nation’s faith in its government, and who are concerned about the impact of sequestration.”

“In the privacy of back rooms and in small gangs, Republicans are far more willing to discuss the need for revenue.  And there are some Republicans passionate about national defense and willing to make some tough choices on revenue to protect the Pentagon.”

“In fact, some of the productive conversations my Republican colleagues have been having have led Grover Norquist to decry their ‘impure thoughts’ when it comes to taxes.  Well, I hope those ‘impure thoughts’ continue. If Norquist is mad, then we must be on the right track.”

“I know Democrats are ready to get to work. We want to make a deal. We are ready to compromise.  And as soon as Republicans decide to work with us, I am confident we can get to the balanced and bipartisan deal the American people expect and deserve.”

Defense sequestration shouldn’t be isolated

“We are also not going to allow just the defense cuts to be replaced without addressing the domestic spending cuts that would be devastating to the middle class.  None of the automatic cuts are good policy. They were packaged together in a bipartisan fashion to get both sides to the table, and they will be replaced, or not, as a package. 

“Here in D.C the defense cuts get most of the attention—but across America, all the automatic cuts would be deeply damaging to families and communities.” 

We don’t need to extend tax cuts for the rich to do tax reform

“You know, I’ve also heard the claim made that we need to extend all the tax cuts to give us time to reform the tax code.  Well, we absolutely need to reform the tax code. It’s badly broken. And I am certainly willing to discuss a fast-track process for getting that done.   But there is absolutely no reason—not one—that we need to extend the tax cuts for the rich as a precondition for reforming the tax code.”

“And when we do get to work on this, Republicans are going to have to accept that tax reform isn’t going to be a backdoor way for them sneak through more tax cuts for the rich. And it is going to have to raise revenue to help rein in the deficit and debt.”

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“Budget Priorities, Values, and the Path Forward”

Senator Patty Murray Speech at the Brookings Institution

Monday, July 16, 2012

“Thank you so much Ron for that introduction. I am so glad to be here today to discuss this issue with so many of you who have been working on this for so long. I want to thank the Budgeting for National Priorities project at Brookings for hosting us here today, as well as the great members of the panel we will be hearing from shortly, and all of you for taking the time to be a part of this discussion.

“As you all know, last August I was asked by Majority Leader Reid to co-chair the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or the supercommittee, as it was commonly called. This certainly wasn’t the most sought-after job in Congress, as you may imagine, it was probably just a notch below DSCC chair, but I agreed to do it because I thought it represented a few important opportunities.

“The opportunity to avoid the pain of sequestration that would be triggered if no deal was made, of course; to pass a responsible long-term deficit reduction plan with a simple majority, a guaranteed vote in the House, and no ability for it to be filibustered in the Senate, which is no small deal these days; and also, after years of partisan rancor culminating in a truly ugly and absolutely unnecessary debt ceiling battle,  the opportunity to finally show the American people their government wasn’t broken, that we could come together when we needed to.

“Well, as everyone in this room knows, the supercommittee was not successful. We couldn’t come to a bipartisan deal. And the reasons for that, the lessons learned from those four months of intense bipartisan talks, are absolutely critical as we face the exact same issues heading into the end of the year and the so-called fiscal cliff. 

“Because if we want a different outcome, if we want to come together around the balanced and bipartisan deficit reduction deal the American people expect and deserve, something is going to have to change.

“So today I want to talk about the vision, values, and priorities that drive my approach to tackling our budget challenges. And I am going to contrast that with what I see as the short-sighted and deeply flawed vision that has been dominating the Republican Party.

“I will run through how these contrasting visions played out in the specifics of the supercommittee negotiations and the recent budget debates, and then I will lay out how I see the path forward as we head toward the end of this year.

“My approach to this issue starts with my family. It starts with a story that probably isn’t so different from stories told by families across the country.  I was born and raised in Bothell, Washington, in a big, loving family.  My dad ran a five and ten cents store on Main Street, and everyone in our family helped out at the store. My family certainly was not rich, but we didn’t feel deprived in any way.

“But when I turned 15, things started to change.  My dad, a World War II veteran, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. In a few short years, his illness got so bad he couldn't work anymore.  My mom, who had stayed home to raise our family, had to take care of him. But she also needed to get a job so she could support our family. She found some work, but it didn’t pay enough to support me and my six brothers and sisters—and a husband with growing medical bills.

“Without warning, our family had fallen on hard times. But thankfully, we lived in a country where the government didn't just say ‘tough luck.’  My dad was a veteran—so we got some help from the VA for medical care.  For several months, our family had to rely on food stamps. They were not much, but they kept food on the table while we figured things out.

“To get a better paying job, my mom needed some training.  Fortunately, at the time there was a federal program that helped her attend Lake Washington Vocational School, where she got a two-year degree in accounting, and eventually, a better job. And my brothers and sisters and I were all able to go to college through federal grants and student loans.

“Like millions of families across America, we got by with a little bit of luck. We pulled through with a lot of hard work. And while I’d like to say we were strong enough to make it on our own—I don’t think that’s really true.

“I know the support we got from our government was the difference between seven kids who might not have graduated from high school or college—and the seven adults we've grown up to be today—all college graduates, all working hard and paying taxes, and all doing our best to contribute back to our communities.

“So this is the primary prism I view our nation’s budget through.  And it’s what guides me as I work in the Senate to impact the choices we make.  Not that government can or should solve every problem—of course it shouldn’t, and it can’t.

“But that we are a nation that has always come together to stand with families like mine.   To invest in our people, our communities, our future—and to build the most robust middle class the world has ever seen. That a budget is not just numbers on a page.  That despite what you may think if you listened in to some of the debates we’ve been having recently—the word ‘budget’ is not just a synonym for deficit reduction.

“That it is not just about charts, graphs, and trajectories we often hear about—though those are important too. But that a budget tells the story of the kind of nation we are, and the kind of nation we want to be.  And that it is a statement of our values, our priorities—and our vision.  Or at least, that’s what it ought to be.

“These ideas led to some very clear goals going into the supercommittee. First, I thought everything needed to be on the table when we started.  This didn’t mean members were supposed to check their values at the door, but it did mean we had the best chance of success if members didn’t rule out any changes to entire swaths of the federal budget before we even began.

“Second, I felt very strongly that any deal had to be balanced and include both spending cuts and new revenue. The middle class and most vulnerable Americans had already sacrificed so much—they’ve lost their homes—or see them drop in price, they’ve lost jobs—or their life savings—and they shouldn’t be called on to continue bearing the burden of deficit reduction alone.

“Third, I wanted to make sure we didn’t let the very real need to tackle our deficit and debt cause us to cut off the most critical investments in our families and our future, or set aside the values and priorities that have made America great.

“Fourth, I wanted to do a big deal. A grand bargain.  I was willing to consider a small deal to avoid the pain of sequestration, but I thought that should be a last resort.  I wanted us to truly put our country on track to tackle the debt and deficit— not simply continue lurching from crisis to crisis.  And I was willing to make the tough compromises required to get there.

“But unfortunately, while there are many Republicans who share these goals—who see the value of a government that works for middle class families, their party has been dominated by an extreme ideological strain that allows itself only to think in terms of cutting, shrinking, and eliminating—and never in terms of investing, growing, and fairness.

“They have a vision for our country in which families like mine wouldn’t have gotten a hand up—we would have been left to fend for ourselves.  A vision best articulated by one of their ideological leaders, Grover Norquist, who said: ‘I'm not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.’

“Grover Norquist, by the way, was kind enough to wish me luck on the supercommittee by telling reporters that ‘the lady from Washington doesn’t do budgets.’

“And he has elicited a pledge from almost every single Republican member of Congress to never, under any circumstances, raise taxes by even a penny, despite the fact that the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest rates in generations, and the federal government is taking in the lowest levels of revenue in decades.

Unfortunately, far too many Republicans have latched onto this deeply damaging ideology.

“They pay lip-service to deficit reduction, but what they actually seem to be concerned about is cutting taxes for the rich and starving programs that help middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans. If Republicans really thought the deficit was the most pressing issue, you wouldn’t have seen their presidential nominee say he would reject a deal to cut $10 in spending for every $1 in tax increases. You wouldn’t see them doing everything possible to protect the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

“You would see far more interest among their leaders in Congress in compromising with Democrats to get the grand bargain everyone in this room understands we need. And you wouldn’t see their single-minded focus on slashing non-defense discretionary spending which makes up only 16% of our federal budget, is already shrinking, and provides critical support for families and investments in our future.

“So it was with very different visions and priorities that the two sides came into the supercommittee last year. I understood it would be difficult, but I knew Democrats were ready to compromise and open to the concessions a balanced and bipartisan deal would require. And I was hopeful Republicans were as well.

“The first day the supercommittee met as a group, we went around the table and each talked about what we wanted to accomplish. We shared coffee, runny eggs, and our hopes for the months ahead. 

“Democrats discussed our priorities and willingness to put everything on the table to get to a balanced deal. We discussed our desire to continue working to cut spending responsibly. We talked about our willingness to tackle entitlements and make sure they were strengthened in a way that ensured they would be there for our children and grandchildren. We highlighted the need to responsibly reduce defense spending while making sure our national security needs were addressed.

“We laid out our belief that in a fragile economy with millions of Americans out of work, it made sense to invest in the short-term, while putting our nation on a path to long-term debt and deficit reduction.  And of course, we discussed the need for a balanced approach that included revenue.

“But Republicans opened in a very different way.  One said defense cuts were off the table and indicated that instead of trying to go big, the group should focus on doing the opposite. He wanted us to go small. Republicans pushed for us to focus on the so-called ‘low hanging fruit’ from prior negotiations before working on any of the tougher issues.  Meaning, they wanted to start by locking in and agreeing to all of the spending cuts identified as potentially working in a larger deal, but none of the revenue increases that would have actually made such a deal possible.

“This was a tactic we’d seen before, and, of course, we weren’t going to agree to an approach that could lead to an all-cuts, unbalanced deal. So that wasn’t a great start—but my hope was this was just a negotiating position—not a hard line. We continued our bipartisan conversations, we traded offers and ideas, we had our staffs draft and analyze potential language.

“There were times when I thought we were close. But looking back at the offers from each side that represented the greatest attempts at compromise, it’s clear that while we were close on the spending side, Republicans hadn’t even left their corner when it came to revenue.

“The biggest offer Democrats put forward was an attempt at a grand bargain.  This proposal built on the $1 trillion in cuts in the Budget Control Act with an additional $1.3 trillion in cuts to spending and changes to entitlement programs, as well as $1.3 trillion in new revenue. And it included a short-term investment in jobs to give the economy a much-needed boost.

“To be honest, it was a painful offer.  It included compromises on entitlements that personally, I wasn’t absolutely comfortable with.  It had deep concessions on the spending side.  But I knew the only way a deal was possible was if both sides were willing to accept some pain—and I was willing to do that for a balanced and fair deal.  

“But our balanced proposal stood in sharp contrast to the offer Republicans would hang their hats on when it all ended:  The Toomey plan.  This was their attempt at acting like they were putting revenue on the table and offering a compromise, while in fact, doing the exact opposite.

“The Toomey plan was small.  It included roughly $700 billion in spending cuts (less than what Democrats had proposed), around $300 billion in new government fees, and $300 billion in what they were calling new revenue.

“It’s important to note that many of these numbers were fuzzy, and it’s unclear how the CBO would score much of it.  But let’s unpack this last number a bit, because what Republicans were trying to do here is not unique to the Toomey plan—we’ve been seeing this over and over in their budget proposals. 

“The Toomey plan would permanently cut the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 35% now, and scheduled to increase to 39.6% on January 1, down to 28%, which would add trillions more to the deficit. But it gets even worse.

“The Toomey plan claims this lost revenue would be offset by closing loopholes and ending deductions.   And further, that there would be $300 billion in extra revenue once this is all said and done.

“But while the plan is explicit about giving the rich the biggest tax cut since the Great Depression, it is painfully vague when it comes to where revenue would be found to offset it. In fact, it ignores that part completely. It simply assumes Congress will be able to get that done through tax reform.

“Well, there was some analysis done on a proposal similar to Toomey’s. And what that found was that in order to pay for the tax cuts for the rich, we would have to slash to the bone: the personal and dependent exemptions, almost all itemized deductions, including the most popular ones like home mortgage, charitable contributions, and state and local taxes, the child tax credit, the college tuition credit, and almost every other credit.

“So to spell out the obvious:  Under the Toomey plan, the richest Americans would get a huge tax cut, while the middle class would lose the tax benefits that matter to them most.

“In the analysis of the similar plan, it was estimated that someone making over $1 million a year would see an average tax cut of $31,700.  In fact, anyone making over $200,000 would get a tax cut.  But for anyone making less than that—the middle class and the poor—the cuts in rates didn’t make up for the exemptions and deductions lost. 

“For example, someone earning $55,000 would see an average increase of almost $1,000. So not only is it deeply unfair to ask the middle class to foot the bill for another deficit-busting tax cut for the rich, but the Toomey plan would lock them in with no guarantee that the revenue will ever be found to pay for them.

“There’s nothing responsible about that in my book. In fact, it’s offensive. You know, I was actually reminded of the Toomey plan when I saw the Ryan budget this year.  Ryan’s budget cuts taxes for the rich even deeper than Toomey’s, down to a top rate of 25%, and uses the same parlor trick to raise revenue that Toomey does.

“Ryan, however, needed the Congressional Budget Office to score his plan as a deficit reducer—not the deficit-buster it really is. So he simply directed the CBO to score his plan assuming it would raise 19% of GDP. That’s quite an assumption—if only we could assume all our problems away like that.

“Former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett slammed Ryan’s tax plan in a column in the Fiscal Times, writing: ‘He offers only the sugar of rate reductions without telling us what the medicine of base broadening will be.’”

“And I should add Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s plan does something similar- it cuts rates for the rich while refusing to name what deductions would be closed to pay for it. 

“So the Toomey plan was a gimmick. A bait-and-switch.  It wasn’t a step in our direction—it was a leap toward the Tea Party.  Away from a deal.

“Democrats were willing to match the Republicans dollar-for-dollar on the spending side—and more. We went even beyond the Toomey plan when it came to tackling entitlements.  We had backing from our leadership and our party to make a big deal.  We jumped right out into the middle of the ring. But Republicans refused to move an inch in our direction on revenue.

“They actually tried to use a deficit reduction Committee to cut taxes for the rich even further.  And they were so focused on how their extreme base would react that they simply couldn’t summon the will to leave their partisan corner. But why is this?  Why is the modern Republican Party so opposed to allowing the rich to pay just a bit more in taxes that they would prefer no deal at all?  After all, it wasn’t always this way.

“President Reagan raised taxes 11 times.  President George H.W. Bush famously raised taxes to rein in the deficit. This really shouldn’t be controversial—and outside today’s Republican Party—it really isn’t.  Because if you believe the deficit and debt are major problems that need to be addressed—as Democrats do, and Republicans claim to— then you can’t simply ignore revenues at a time when, at 15.4% of GDP— they are the lowest in 60 years.

“Poll after poll shows the American people overwhelmingly want to reduce the deficit with a combination of cuts and revenue. Every single bipartisan group that has made progress in this area—from Simpson-Bowles, to Domenici-Rivlin, and others—they were able to come together because their plans were balanced.  And let’s be clear—We don’t want to increase revenue for the sake of increasing revenue. Of course not.  But as a nation, we need to pay for the services and programs the American people want. We need to rein in the deficit and debt—and we need to do that in a responsible way.

“Democrats understand this—and Congressional Republicans should too.  Because this is all coming to a head once again.

“Unlike last year, the consequences of gridlock could start to be felt immediately. Millions of jobs could be lost through the automatic cuts, programs families depend on would be slashed irresponsibly across the board, and middle class tax cuts would expire.  And once again, if Republicans won’t work with us on a balanced approach, we are not going to get a deal. 

“Because I feel very strongly that we simply cannot allow middle class families and the most vulnerable Americans to bear this burden alone. It’s just not fair.

“So if we can’t get a good deal—a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share—then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013, rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle class families under the bus.

“And I think my party, and the American people, will support that.

“But I hope it doesn’t come to that.  And I think we have some good reasons to think a deal can happen before the end of the year. I know Democrats are willing to compromise. We just need a partner.

“Thankfully, I’m seeing some encouraging signs from Republicans who are sick and tired of being boxed in by the most extreme elements of their base—who don’t like being responsible for continued manufactured crises that hurt the economy and destroy our nation’s faith in its government— and who are concerned about the impact of sequestration.

“In the privacy of back rooms and in small gangs, Republicans are far more willing to discuss the need for revenue. And there are some Republicans passionate about national defense and willing to make some tough choices on revenue to protect the Pentagon.

“In fact, some of the productive conversations my Republican colleagues have been having have led Grover Norquist to decry their ‘impure thoughts’ when it comes to taxes.  Well, I hope those ‘impure thoughts’ continue.  If Norquist is mad, then we must be on the right track.

“Because the only way we can get a balanced and bipartisan deal is if reasonable Republicans can persuade their leadership to stand up to the most extreme elements of their base— and come to the table with real compromises.

“I also think many Republicans are starting to realize something important: On January 1st, if we haven’t gotten to a deal, Grover Norquist and his pledge are no longer relevant to this conversation.

“A name I heard repeated by Republicans over and over in the supercommittee will no longer be a part of this debate.  We will have a new fiscal and political reality.

“If the Bush tax cuts expire, every proposal will be a tax cut proposal,  and the pledge will no longer keep Republicans boxed in and unable to compromise. If middle class families start seeing more money coming out of their paychecks next year—Are Republicans really going to stand up and fight for new tax cuts for the rich? Are they going to continue opposing the Democrats’ middle class tax cut once the slate has been wiped clean? I think they know this would be an untenable political position. 

“And I hope this pushes them to come to the table with real revenue now before being forced to the table if we don’t get a deal before the New Year.

“Because we really shouldn’t wait.  It’s not good for the economy,  not good for the markets,  and most importantly—not good for taxpayers and small business owners across America.

“So when it comes to the expiring Bush tax cuts, I agree with President Obama. Let’s extend them for the 98% of workers and 97% of small business owners Democrats and Republicans agree should have their taxes cut—and then have a real debate about the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans we disagree on.

“Before August, we are going to have a vote to do exactly that in the Senate. Senate Republicans have indicated they are going to make an effort to extend all the Bush tax cuts—including those for the rich. But I challenge them to do something different. To be honest about what they really want, and allow everyone to clearly state their position on the issues.

“I challenge them to offer an amendment to our middle class tax cut that would simply extend the tax cuts they are fighting for —the tax cuts for the rich. Not a political amendment offered simply to give their members a way out of voting against a middle class tax cut—a real amendment.

“If they do this, all of the Bush tax cuts would be up for a clean, honest extension vote.  And the American people would know where everyone stands.  Any senator who supports extending tax cuts for the middle class—they can vote for our bill.  Any senator who supports extending tax cuts for the rich—they can vote for the Republican amendment. And any senator who supports extending all the tax cuts—well, they can vote for them both.

“That would give everyone the opportunity to vote for exactly what they want,  and it would make sure political gimmicks don’t get in the way of delivering results for the 98% of workers both sides agree should have their tax cuts extended.

“If Republicans don’t do this,  if they continue playing political games with this vote— and only offer an amendment in order to kill the bill, then they will have proven conclusively they don’t care about certainty They care about extending those tax cuts for the rich—And they will use every bit of leverage they have to do it.

“If we are really going to address these issues we have to cut through the political smokescreens. It’s time to put our cards on the table, offer real choices, and have a debate that’s worthy of the Senate.

“Holding the middle class tax cuts hostage may be a smart tactical move if the goal is to protect the rich. But it’s not good policy, it’s not good politics, and Democrats are going to keep reminding the American people why middle class tax cuts aren’t being extended immediately—even though both sides say they want them to be.

“You know, I’ve also heard the claim made that we need to extend all the tax cuts to give us time to reform the tax code.  Well, we absolutely need to reform the tax code. It’s badly broken. And I am certainly willing to discuss a fast-track process for getting that done.   But there is absolutely no reason—not one—that we need to extend the tax cuts for the rich as a precondition for reforming the tax code.  And when we do get to work on this, Republicans are going to have to accept that tax reform isn’t going to be a backdoor way for them sneak through more tax cuts for the rich. And it is going to have to raise revenue to help rein in the deficit and debt.

“In addition to the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, we also face $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts.  As you all remember, sequestration was included in the bipartisan Budget Control Act to give both sides an incentive to compromise.

“But Republicans weren’t willing to offer any concessions to get to a deal—and now they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want all the deficit reduction, but without any of the bipartisan compromise or shared sacrifice.

“If Democrats were willing to accept a wildly imbalanced deficit reduction plan to avoid the automatic cuts— we would have done that back in the supercommittee. But we didn’t then, and we won’t now.

“So anyone who tells you sequestration is going to simply disappear because both sides want to avoid it is either fooling themselves, or trying to fool you. It is going to have to be replaced, and that replacement is going to have to be balanced.

“We are also not going to allow just the defense cuts to be replaced without addressing the domestic spending cuts that would be devastating to the middle class.  None of the automatic cuts are good policy. They were packaged together in a bipartisan fashion to get both sides to the table, and they will be replaced, or not—as a package.  Here in D.C the defense cuts get most of the attention—but across America, all the automatic cuts would be deeply damaging to families and communities.

“That’s why I’ve been working across the aisle with Senator McCain on legislation calling for an analysis of the impact of sequestration across both defense and non-defense spending.  And I am hopeful this information will help us bring that same spirit of bipartisanship to a balanced and bipartisan approach to replacing the automatic cuts.

“Because once again, I will not agree to a deal that throws middle class families under the bus and forces them to bear this burden alone.  Unless Republicans end their commitment to protecting the rich above all else, our country is going to have to face the consequences of Republican intransigence

“This is about more than tackling our debt and deficit,  it’s about our nation.  We can’t ignore this great challenge—we need to rein in the debt— but it is not all that defines our budget.  Our budget, and our nation, will be defined by: the scientists who come out of our schools—by the businesses we create—by our communities, our universities, our research, development, and innovation. And we will be defined by: the opportunities we afford to every one of our families and workers— by the fairness of our society— and by how we treat the most vulnerable among us.

“When I go back home to Washington state, my constituents don’t tell me they want the federal government to spend 18% of GDP. Or 20%. Or 25%. They tell me they want a strong school system for their kids, for them to be able to go to college if they want to.    They want good jobs in their community. Safe roads. They want government to be there for them when they need some support getting back on their feet.  In other words, they want government to do what it did for my family. What it has done for millions of families for generations.   Yes, they want us to tackle our deficits and debt— they certainly don’t want us to hand the bill to their kids—but they want that done in a balanced and fair way that doesn’t leave the middle class holding the bag.

 “Those are the priorities I will be pushing for when we vote on the tax cuts next week. And in the weeks, months, and years ahead.  I believe they reflect the American values that have carried our nation forward for generations. And the vision that will continue our great nation’s leadership into the 21st century and beyond.

“I know Democrats are ready to get to work. We want to make a deal. We are ready to compromise. I am personally willing to talk to anyone, from either party, who wants to solve this problem. And as soon as Republicans decide to work with us, I am confident we can get to the balanced and bipartisan deal the American people expect and deserve.

 “Thank you.”