(Senate - January 31, 2012)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.

[Pages S209-S213]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Ms. COLLINS (for herself, Mr. Brown of Massachusetts, Mr. 
        Akaka, Mr. Coburn, Mr. Levin, and Mr. Kyl):
  S. 2044. A bill to require the Under Secretary for Science and 
Technology in the Department of Homeland Security to contract with an 
independent laboratory to study the health effects of backscatter x-ray 
machines used at airline checkpoints operated by the Transportation 
Security Administration and provide improved notice to airline 
passengers; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
  Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation 
aimed at ensuring that the health of American travelers is not placed 
at possible risk as our airport security technology evolves. I am very 
pleased to be joined by Senators Akaka, Coburn, Scott Brown, and Levin, 
who are cosponsoring this bill.
  Our bill has two major components. First, it would require the 
Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, 
in consultation with the National Science Foundation, to commission an 
independent study on the possible health effects of the x-ray radiation 
emitted by some of the scanning machines we see and pass through in our 
airports. Second, it would give airline passengers, especially those 
passengers in sensitive groups such as pregnant women, clear notice of 
their ability to choose another screening option in lieu of exposure to 
ionizing radiation.
  Some advanced-imaging technology--or AIT--machines rely on x-ray 
backscatter technology. Time and time again, I have expressed my 
concern over their use, particularly since there is an alternative 
screening technology available. While the TSA has repeatedly told the 
public that the amount of radiation emitted from these machines is 
extremely small, passengers and some scientific experts have raised 
legitimate questions about the impact of repeated exposure to this 
  Last November, during a hearing on aviation security before our 
Homeland Security Committee, the TSA Administrator, John Pistole, 
agreed to my

[[Page S210]]

call for an independent study to address the lingering health concerns 
and questions about this additional and repeated exposure to radiation. 
Shortly thereafter, however, he appeared to back away from this 
commitment, suggesting that a forthcoming report by the Department of 
Homeland Security's inspector general might be a sufficient substitute 
for a new, completely independent, thorough study.
  Chairman Joe Lieberman and I wrote to the Administrator to press for 
more details about TSA's plans for an independent study. Two weeks 
later, having received no reply, I sent another letter to Administrator 
Pistole asking why he believed the IG report on TSA's use of 
backscatter machines was a sufficient substitute for an independent 
study of the health impacts. TSA's response lacked any detail as to why 
the agency no longer believes an independent study on the health 
effects of x-ray backscatter machines is warranted, nor did it explain 
how the IG's review would be a sufficient substitute for an independent 
study. That is why I have introduced this bill today.
  Late last year, the European Commission announced that ``in order not 
to risk jeopardizing citizens' health and safety,'' it would only 
authorize the use of passenger scanners in the European Union that do 
not use x-ray technology. This prohibition gives even more need and 
justification for an independent study of the safety of the AIT 
  Some respected experts have warned Congress and the administration of 
the potential negative public health risks posed by the x-ray 
backscatter machines. They note that while the risk that someone might 
develop cancer because of his or her exposure to radiation during one 
screening by such an AIT machine is very small, we simply do not truly 
know the risk of this radiation exposure over multiple screenings for 
frequent flyers, those in vulnerable groups, or TSA employees 
themselves who are operating these machines.
  When a person is scanned by these machines, they receive a dose of 
radiation--what experts in the field call a direct dose. During the 
scan, some of the radiation is not absorbed but is scattered in random 
directions from the person being scanned. Experts call this the scatter 
dose. Some experts point to anomalies between the scatter dose 
reportedly associated with these scanners and the scatter dose 
associated with comparable medical technology. Specifically, the 
scatter doses for these AIT machines are higher in relative terms than 
scatter doses for comparable medical devices. What is troubling is that 
the experts are not sure why the AIT scatter doses are higher. They 
point to possible deficiencies with the testing equipment or the poor 
placement of the testing equipment as possible explanations. Overall, 
they say this anomaly could point to higher direct dose rates and 
should be yet another impetus for an independent study.
  Additionally, some experts note that the safety mechanisms in these 
machines that would prevent them from malfunctioning have never been 
independently tested. This means that if a machine malfunctions and the 
safety features designed to shut the machine down in such an instance 
do not work, a traveler could receive a higher dose of radiation. 
Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and as much as 5 percent of the 
adult population are more sensitive to radiation exposure. At a 
minimum, this suggests the need for further independent study.
  Mr. President, I wish to share with my colleagues a tragic episode 
involving the daughter of two of my constituents. She underwent 
screening at the airport with a backscatter x-ray AIT. She was pregnant 
and directed by TSA to a line for a backscatter x-ray AIT machine. She 
was completely unaware that she was entering into an x-ray emitting 
machine before she stepped into it. She thought it was the more 
traditional magnetometer. Afterward, she was distressed to know she had 
exposed her unborn child to x-ray radiation. Had she realized ahead of 
time, she clearly would have opted for the alternative screening 
methods. Only 2 weeks later, she suffered a miscarriage which she 
attributes to the radiation she received from this scan. We will never 
know for certain the cause of this family's loss, but they believe in 
their hearts that the backscatter radiation is to blame.
  Clearly, at a minimum, this young woman should have been informed by 
a prominent sign that an alternative means of screening was available. 
That is why my bill also requires TSA to have larger, understandable 
signs at the beginning of the screening process, not later when it is 
only noticed, if at all, after a lengthy wait in line. Signs should 
alert passengers that pregnant women, children, and the elderly can be 
more sensitive to radiation exposure. These signs should also make 
clear that passengers can opt out of this type of scanning.
  I have urged TSA to move forward using only radiation screening 
technology, but in the meantime, an independent study is needed to 
protect the public and to determine which technology is worthy of 
taxpayer dollars. Surely passengers should be well informed of their 
screening options.
  We Americans have demonstrated our willingness to endure enhanced 
security measures at our airports if those measures appear to be 
reasonable and related to real risks. But travelers become frustrated 
when security measures inconvenience them without cause, cause privacy 
or health concerns, or when they appear to be focused on those who pose 
little or no threat.
  On this particular issue, Senators Akaka, Coburn, Scott Brown, Levin, 
and I agree that we are past the time when an independent review of the 
scanning technology that emits radiation must be undertaken. I urge my 
colleagues to join us in quickly passing this legislation.
      By Ms. SNOWE (for herself, Ms. Landrieu and Mr. Brown of 
  S. 2050. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend 
certain provisions of the Creating Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, and 
for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I rise to introduce along with Senator 
Landrieu the Small Business Tax Extenders Act of 2012, that will 
provide targeted tax relief legislation to small businesses and extend 
the essential tax relief provisions that were included in the Small 
Business Jobs Act of 2010, P.L. 111-240.
  When the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 was crafted, Senator 
Landrieu and I worked closely with Finance Committee Chair Baucus, 
then-Ranking Member Grassley, and now Ranking Member Hatch to ensure 
the critical small business tax provisions that reflected our shared 
priorities were included in that legislation. We sincerely appreciate 
all of their hard work on that legislation.
  As the former Chair and now Ranking Member of the Committee on Small 
Business and Entrepreneurship, and along with current Chair Landrieu, 
we are well aware of the urgent imperative of job creation in our 
country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average 
annual unemployment rate for 2011 was 9 percent. For the past 3 years, 
unemployment has been no lower than 8.3 percent, so we are far from 
where we need to be in a recovery. About 45 percent of the unemployed 
have been out of work for at least 6 months--a level previously unseen 
in the 6 decades since World War II.
  At a time when 14 million Americans are still unemployed, and have 
been so for the longest period since record keeping began in 1948, our 
government should be taking every possible step to ease the burden on 
job creators. We must help create an environment that is conducive to 
small businesses' job creation. Our Nation's small businesses are the 
engine of job creation, being responsible for at least 60 percent and 
perhaps as many as \2/3\ of all new jobs created, and they should be 
the focus of our support. One critical way to do so is through targeted 
small business tax incentives.
  The bill Senator Landrieu and I are introducing today provides those 
targeted tax incentives that in the past have received bipartisan 
support both in the Senate and in the House. These tax provisions 
provide relief to small businesses in their capital investments and to 
those willing to risk their own savings by investing in the small 
business. The provisions provide relief to the self-employed as well as 
to S corporations and partnerships. The success of these provisions 
over the past

[[Page S211]]

several years is evident in the fact we noted above, about small 
businesses being the one bright spot of job creation even in these 
troubled times, and this bill will help them continue to grow and 
continue to help provide jobs.
  The lifeblood of a small business is its cash flow and this bill 
contains several provisions to improve it. One of these provisions will 
address a fundamental injustice of the tax code by extending the 
deduction for health insurance premiums against not only income taxes 
but also against payroll taxes. At a rate of 15.3 percent, the self-
employment, or SECA, tax is imposed on the health benefits of business 
owners. This is a costly injustice that makes health insurance just 
that much more expensive at a time when insurance costs are already 
prohibitively expensive.
  In the coming years we will certainly see health premiums rise, 
making it all the more onerous on small businesses to provide critical 
benefits to their employees. Allowing the full deduction for health 
insurance is critical for its affordability. I was thrilled that we 
were able to address this injustice in the Small Business Jobs Act of 
2010, and I sincerely hope that this provision can be extended again 
until we can find a permanent solution.
  This legislation will also extend a provision permitting general 
business credits to be carried back 5 years and taken against the 
Alternative Minimum Tax, AMT. Before the enactment of the Small 
Business Jobs Act, a business's unused general business credit could be 
carried back to offset taxes paid in the previous year, and the 
remaining amount could be carried forward for 20 years to offset future 
tax liabilities.
  The 5-year carryback of credits will allow business owners to reach 
back to prior years when they had taxable income to offset prior tax 
liability with these credits and get immediate cash infusion. Business 
owners can use this cash as they choose, but as we have seen with net 
operating loss relief, they use these funds for anything from meeting 
payroll to investing in new equipment. The same principle applies with 
respect to the provision that allows credits to be used against the 
  When Congress implements policies through the tax code, it is with 
intent that businesses will utilize such incentives to do what they do 
best, and that is to grow their operations, which in turn leads to 
hiring additional employees. Unfortunately, during a struggling 
economic cycle that we have been experiencing for more than 3 years, 
businesses do not have income tax liability that can be offset with a 
credit. It is rather simple: if you do not have enough revenue to claim 
a credit, that credit is of little use to you.
  An incredible benefit of the carryback and the use of general 
business credits against the AMT is to make health insurance more 
affordable for business owners to offer to their employees.
  This bill would also extend the availability of the so-called Section 
179 expensing to give businesses the option of writing off the cost of 
qualifying capital expenses in the year of acquisition instead of 
recovering these costs over time through depreciation, and allow 
businesses to take advantage of higher limits for the so-called Section 
179 expensing. Under this provision, up to $250,000 can be expensed for 
real property and up to $250,000 for equipment, or up to the full 
$500,000 for just equipment.
  Expanding Section 179 expensing has been a significant Small Business 
Committee bipartisan priority of mine and Chair Landrieu's, as well as 
of former Small Business Committee Chair Kerry, as reflected in no 
fewer than three separate bills in the previous Congress.
  I want my colleagues to understand that this provision is expected to 
confer a major economic boost because it certainly speeds up the 
recovery time on these investments. Extending this provision will help 
the businesses modernize while aiding construction firms and their 
  Additionally, the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 provided for a 
temporary reduction in the recognition period for S corporation built-
in gains tax. When businesses convert from a C corporation to an S 
corporation, they have been required to hold their appreciated assets 
for a full decade or face a punitive level of double taxation. In such 
instances, first the built-in gain corporate tax rate of 35 percent is 
applied and then all other applicable federal, state and local 
shareholder tax rates are applied, often totaling near 60 percent in 
most states, including Maine. In effect, the built-in gain tax locks-up 
businesses' own capital and forces them to look elsewhere--a particular 
challenge for S corporations since closely-held businesses have limited 
access to the public markets and therefore fewer options for raising 
needed capital.
  Recent law changes temporarily shortened this holding period to 7 
years, but that is still too long. By infusing capital--that is, 
releasing their own capital--this provision in the Small Business Jobs 
Act, reducing the holding period from 7 years to 5 years, enabled 
companies that have long been S corporations to redeploy this capital 
to invest in and grow their businesses. Extending this provision also 
underscores how vital access to capital is for small businesses, while 
preserving the original policy intent of the holding period and making 
it more reflective of the shorter business planning cycles of the 21st 
  A final provision would extend a complete exclusion on capital gains 
attributable to small business stock held for five years. Extending 
this measure will help further critical investment in our nation's 
small businesses. This is a longstanding priority of mine and of 
Senator John Kerry--former Chair of the Small Business Committee and my 
fellow colleague on the Finance Committee. The Kerry-Snowe Invest in 
Small Business Act of 2009 included this exclusion, which we fought to 
incorporate into the Small Business Jobs Act. Chair Landrieu and I are 
very pleased to take-up that mantle together and we are committed to 
its extension.

  But targeted small business tax provisions, for all their importance 
and critical need, are not enough. That is why as a senior member of 
the Senate Finance Committee, I have been urging this administration to 
champion tax reform, and, in fact, I led a panel on the issue as part 
of the Economic Summit at the White House more than three years ago.
  The individual income tax form has more than tripled in length from 
52 pages for 1980 to 174 pages for 2009. American taxpayers spend 7.6 
billion hours and shell out $140 billion--or one percent of GDP--just 
struggling to comply with tax filing requirements. This is not 
surprising as there have been 15,000 changes to the tax code since the 
last overhaul in 1986.
  Alarmingly, the tax code is also needlessly restricting our ability 
to compete in today's integrated global economy, as we strain under the 
second highest corporate tax burden in the industrialized world. And 
while this Administration and the Senate majority are pondering whether 
we should reform our tax code, small businesses continued to struggle 
with the current tax regime at the expense of creating more jobs and 
growing operations.
  While I continue to advocate for comprehensive tax reform, there are 
certain measures that, although not a silver bullet, should be passed 
right away to help improve the economic environment for small 
businesses. The Small Business Tax Extenders Act is a critical example: 
this legislation contains provisions that Senator Landrieu and I have 
championed for years to provide small businesses greater cash flow, 
incentivizing their investments, and increasing tax fairness.
  Mr. President, it is essential that we pass these small business tax 
extensions. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation so we can 
ensure that our Nation's small businesses and their employees are 
provided with much needed tax relief.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:

                                S. 2050

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       (a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Small 
     Business Tax Extenders Act of 2012''.

[[Page S212]]

       (b) References.--Except as otherwise expressly provided, 
     whenever in this Act an amendment or repeal is expressed in 
     terms of an amendment to, or repeal of, a section or other 
     provision, the reference shall be considered to be made to a 
     section or other provision of the Internal Revenue Code of 


       (a) In General.--Paragraph (4) of section 1202(a) is 
       (1) by striking ``January 1, 2012'' and inserting ``January 
     1, 2013'', and
       (2) by striking ``and 2011'' and inserting ``, 2011, and 
     2012'' in the heading thereof.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section 
     shall apply to stock acquired after December 31, 2011.


       (a) In General.--Subparagraph (A) of section 39(a)(4) is 
     amended by inserting ``, 2011, or 2012'' after ``2010''.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section 
     shall apply to credits determined in taxable years beginning 
     after December 31, 2010.


       (a) In General.--Subparagraph (A) of section 38(c)(5) is 
     amended by inserting ``, 2011, or 2012'' after ``2010''.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section 
     shall apply to credits determined in taxable years beginning 
     after December 31, 2010, and to carrybacks of such credits.

                   BUILT-IN GAINS TAX.

       (a) In General.--Clause (ii) of section 1374(d)(7)(B) of 
     the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by inserting 
     ``2012, or 2013,'' after ``2011,''.
       (b) Conforming Amendment.--The heading for section 
     1374(d)(7)(B) is amended by striking ``and 2011'' and 
     inserting ``2011, and 2012''.
       (c) Technical Amendment.--Subparagraph (B) of section 
     1374(d)(7) of such Code is amended by striking ``The 
     preceding sentence'' and inserting the following: ``For 
     purposes of applying this subparagraph to an installment 
     sale, each portion of such installment sale shall be treated 
     as a sale occurring in the taxable year in which the first 
     portion of such installment sale occurred. This 
       (d) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section 
     shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 

                   179 PROPERTY.

       (a) In General.--Section 179(b) is amended--
       (1) by striking ``2010 or 2011'' each place it appears in 
     paragraph (1)(B) and (2)(B) and inserting ``2010, 2011, or 
       (2) by striking ``2012'' each place it appears in paragraph 
     (1)(C) and (2)(C) and inserting ``2013'', and
       (3) by striking ``2012'' each place it appears in paragraph 
     (1)(D) and (2)(D) and inserting ``2013''.
       (b) Inflation Adjustment.--Subparagraph (A) of section 
     179(b)(6) is amended by striking ``2012'' and inserting 
       (c) Computer Software.--Section 179(d)(1)(A)(ii) is amended 
     by striking ``2013'' and inserting ``2014''.
       (d) Election.--Section 179(c)(2) is amended by striking 
     ``2013'' and inserting ``2014''.
       (e) Special Rules for Treatment of Qualified Real 
     Property.--Section 179(f)(1) is amended by striking ``2010 or 
     2011'' and inserting ``2010, 2011, or 2012''.
       (f) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section 
     shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 


       (a) In General.--Clause (ii) of section 460(c)(6)(B) is 
     amended by striking ``January 1, 2011 (January 1, 2012'' and 
     inserting ``January 1, 2013 (January 1, 2014''.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section 
     shall apply to property placed in service after December 31, 

                   FOR START-UP EXPENDITURES.

       (a) In General.--Paragraph (3) of section 195(b) is 
       (1) by inserting ``, 2001, or 2012'' after ``2010'', and
       (2) by inserting ``2011, and 2012'' in the heading thereof.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendments made by this section 
     shall apply to amounts paid or incurred in taxable years 
     beginning after December 31, 2010.


       (a) In General.--Paragraph (4) of section 162(l) is amended 
     by striking ``December 31, 2010'' and inserting ``December 
     31, 2012''.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section 
     shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 
      By Mr. REED (for himself, Mr. Whitehouse, Mr. Franken, Mr. Leahy, 
        Mr. Sanders, and Ms. Stabenow):
  S. 2051. A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to extend 
the reduced interest rate for Federal Direct Stafford Loans; to the 
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  Mr. REED. Mr. President, today I introduce with my colleagues 
Senators Whitehouse, Sanders, Stabenow, and Franken legislation to stop 
the student loan interest rate from doubling on July 1 of this year.
  This is an issue that weighs heavily on many of Rhode Island's 
students and families who rely on student loans to finance college. 
Rhode Island's college graduates have the ninth highest student debt 
total in the Nation, according to a recent study by the Project on 
Student Debt. In Rhode Island, 67 percent of students graduating from 
four-year colleges and universities in the 2010 school year had debt 
averaging over $26,300.
  Nationwide, the Department of Education estimates that more than 10 
million students will borrow subsidized Stafford Loans in fiscal year 
2012. Unless we act soon, they will see their interest rates double for 
the upcoming academic year.
  In 2007, Congress made a historic investment in higher education by 
passing the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. Included in this law 
was a provision that reduced the fixed interest rate on Stafford Loans 
for undergraduate students from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over a 4 
year period, easing the financial burden on millions of students and 
their families.
  This was the right investment to make for our future. Today, 
education, particularly higher education, is even more essential than 
ever. In 1980, the gap between the lifetime earnings of a college 
graduate and a high school graduate was 40 percent. In 2010, it was 74 
percent. By 2025, it is projected to be 96 percent. Since at least the 
1980s, we have not been producing a sufficient number of college-
educated workers to meet the demand of a more sophisticated and 
challenging economy driven by global competition. Indeed, our country 
lags behind in college education, ranking 14 in international 
comparisons of college graduates. For young adults, ages 25 to 34, we 
rank 16.
  This is no time to make financing a college education more expensive 
for middle class families. Yet, absent enacting this legislation, that 
is what will happen. According to an analysis by U.S. PIRG, allowing 
the interest rate to double could cost borrowers who take out the 
maximum $23,000 in subsidized student loans approximately $5,000 more 
over a 10-year repayment period.
  The subsidized student loan program for undergraduates is highly 
targeted to low- and middle-income families. Approximately 37 percent 
of the dependent borrowers in this program come from families with 
annual incomes of less than $40,000. An additional 21.6 percent of 
students receiving subsidized students loans come from families with 
incomes between $40,000 and 60,000 per year. These students receive 
very little, if any, benefit from the Pell grant program but still have 
significant financial need. The subsidized student loan program is our 
main vehicle for addressing that need.
  Tax loopholes and giveaways that let the biggest companies ship jobs 
overseas cost roughly $37 billion over ten years. Loopholes like this 
one should be ended, with those savings used to prevent an increase in 
college costs, which are already a crushing burden on families. Indeed, 
those savings are more than enough to extend the student loan interest 
rate at least through the next reauthorization of the Higher Education 
Act, expected in 2014. I would that my colleagues on both sides of the 
aisle will support helping millions of middle class families finance a 
college education over continuing to provide incentives for companies 
to take jobs and their investments overseas. In his State of the Union 
Address, President Obama called on Congress to prevent this doubling of 
student loan rates. As families continue to struggle with the rising 
cost of college and newly minted graduates face one of the toughest job 
markets since the Great Depression, it is vital that we protect middle 
class families and their children from higher student loan rates.

 =========================== NOTE =========================== 

  On page S212, January 31, 2012, the Record reads: . . . 
graduates face the toughest job market since the Great Depression 
. . .
  The online Record has been corrected to read: . . . graduates 
face one of the toughest job markets since the Great Depression . 
. .

 ========================= END NOTE ========================= 

  I urge my colleagues to join me in cosponsoring and pressing for 
passage of this legislation.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be 
printed in the Record.

[[Page S213]]

  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:

                                S. 2051

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       Section 455(b)(7)(D) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 
     (20 U.S.C. 1087e(b)(7)(D)) is amended--
       (1) in the matter preceding clause (i), by striking ``and 
     before July 1, 2012,''; and
       (2) in clause (v), by striking ``and before July 1,