(Senate - September 14, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 149 (Thursday, September 14, 2017)]
[Pages S5711-S5712]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                               TAX REFORM

  Mr. SCHUMER. Finally, Mr. President--a lot to say this morning--a 
word on taxes. Last night at the White House, President Trump said he 
didn't want his tax plan to benefit the very wealthy. That is a good 
thing. We Democrats agree. Forty-five of the forty-eight of us signed a 
letter that no tax breaks should go to the top 1 percent. They are 
doing great. God bless them. I am glad they are doing well. They don't 
need a tax break. Middle-class people do.
  But the devil, when the President says that, is always in the 
details, and we haven't seen any details. We haven't seen anything 
resembling a

[[Page S5712]]

plan yet. We hear it is being written in a back room by the so-called 
Big 6--all Republican--but I haven't seen it, Ranking Member Wyden 
hasn't seen it, and no Democrat in the Senate has seen it.
  I can tell you one thing: If the President's tax plan repeals or 
rolls back the estate tax, it will be clear that a lot of this plan 
benefits the very rich, contrary to all of his words.
  I would remind everyone that only 5,200 of the over 2.7 million 
estates in this country will pay any taxes this year. The estate tax 
only kicks in when couples with estates of nearly $11 million transfer 
their wealth. Go to North Dakota--and I know the Acting President pro 
tempore has nice family farms out there--and ask how many have an 
estate worth $11 million, and if they do, I am willing to exempt from 
the estate tax a family farm that is over that. But almost no one does.
  A study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that of 
the 5,200 estates--here we have 2.7 million estates. Only 5,200 qualify 
for the estate tax because they are worth $11 million, and of those, 50 
are small farms or businesses--50. Let's exempt those 50. Let's make 
all of these other guys pay. We need the money. They are rich. God 
bless them.
  So when President Trump says the estate tax is a burden on the family 
farmer, I honestly don't know what he is talking about. There may be a 
few. They may make a lot of noise. God bless them. That is their right 
as Americans. There are very, very few. That is not what the facts say.
  Let me show my colleagues the next chart. Of 2.7 million taxable 
estates, just 50 are farms and small businesses that would benefit from 
the repeal of the estate tax--2.7 million; 50.
  There was an amazing moment last night at the meeting we held at the 
White House when the estate tax came up, and a few of the President's 
advisers said: Oh, no one pays the estate tax. There have even been 
news reports that Gary Cohn has told Members of Congress that ``only 
morons pay the estate tax.'' What they mean, of course, is that rich 
people--people rich enough to be levied estate taxes--can find ways 
around paying them; they can afford all of those lawyers and estate 
  Well, first, they are wrong. Repealing the estate tax would add $269 
billion to the deficit over 10 years--$269 billion. So there are a lot 
of people paying the estate tax. Maybe they are morons, as Gary Cohn 
once called them, maybe they are not, but there is a lot of money out 
there that comes in from these very wealthy with the estate tax.
  Second, Mr. Cohn and the others who say this bring up an important 
point. The right thing to do is not repeal the estate tax but close the 
loopholes. If you have an estate worth that much, you should be paying 
the estate tax, not finding clever ways to avoid your tax obligation. 
Again, if you are rich, if you have a big estate, God bless you. That 
is the American way. But pay your fair share. Pay your fair share.
  Democrats want to participate in reforming our Tax Code. There are 
lots of good things we can agree on--closing loopholes like this one, 
cutting taxes for the middle class, helping small businesses, bringing 
offshore deferred income back into the United States.
  We have laid out three principles: no reconciliation--that means do 
it together, not how they did healthcare, which didn't end up with a 
great result; second, no tax cuts for the top 1 percent, who are doing 
just fine, God bless them; third, fiscal responsibility--we should not 
increase the deficit as we cut taxes, particularly now that we are 
going to have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help the 
beleaguered States of Texas and Florida.
  Some Republicans have characterized those three principles as lines 
in the sand that show that Democrats aren't serious about tax reform. 
So I would ask my Republican colleagues, which of the three do you not 
agree with? Do you think we should cut taxes on the top 1 percent? Do 
you think we should create deficits by cutting taxes on the wealthy? Do 
you think you should just go at this alone? If you agree with those, 
fine. Say so. Don't say that these are lines in the sand. We are 
offering some policy guidance that has virtually unanimous support in 
our caucus.
  By the way, these three principles guided the 1986 tax reform, which 
was the most successful tax reform we have had in decades.
  It seems to me it is not Democrats who would move the goalpost on tax 
reform but some Republicans who no longer want to play by the same 
  Mr. President, I yield the floor to my dear friend, the chairman of 
the Armed Services Committee, who is doing a great job getting this 
bill through.