EXECUTIVE SESSION
(Senate - November 15, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 187 (Wednesday, November 15, 2017)]
[Pages S7226-S7229]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           EXECUTIVE SESSION

                                 ______
                                 

                           EXECUTIVE CALENDAR

  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the 
Senate will proceed to executive session and resume consideration of 
the Zatezalo nomination, which the clerk will report.
  The legislative clerk read the nomination of David G. Zatezalo, of 
West Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and 
Health.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from South Dakota is 
recognized.
  Mr. THUNE. Thank you, Mr. President.


                               Tax Reform

  Mr. President, on Sunday, Politico offered this headline: ``Middle 
class biggest winners in Senate tax plan, study says.''
  The article goes on to say: ``Moderate-income people would 
consistently see the largest percentage declines in their tax bills, 
according to an analysis released late Saturday by the official, 
nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.''
  It goes on to say: ``In 2019, people in the middle spectrum, earning 
between $50,000 and $70,000, would see their taxes fall by 7.1 percent. 
Those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 would see a 10.4 percent 
decline.''
  This is what we set out to achieve with the Senate tax bill that we 
released last week--real relief for American families, and that is what 
our bill delivers.
  I don't need to tell anyone that the American people have had a rough 
few years. Stagnant wages and a lack of opportunities have left many 
American families stretched thin. A recent survey found that 50 
percent--50 percent--of people out there consider themselves to be 
living paycheck to paycheck. About one-third of those same people say 
that they are literally just $400 away from a financial crisis. Well, 
real help is on the way.
  Last night, Chairman Hatch released a revised bill that provides even 
more relief for middle-class families. I applaud Chairman Hatch for his 
work on this revised bill that includes Republican and Democratic 
amendments and reflects feedback we have received from the whole 
Republican conference.
  Our bill provides immediate, direct relief to hard-working Americans. 
Our bill doubles the standard deduction. That means, beginning in 
January, a family making $24,000 a year or less per year will not be 
paying any taxes, and families making more than $24,000 per year will 
be paying significantly less than what they are paying today.
  Our bill also doubles the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per 
child. We all know that raising children is expensive, and this 
provision provides a significant tax cut for families across the 
country.

[[Page S7227]]

  I wish to thank Senators Scott, Heller, Rubio, and Lee for their 
leadership on this issue. Their advocacy for expanding the child tax 
credit will result in substantial tax relief for working families, but 
that is just the beginning of what this tax bill is going to do for 
American families.
  We are not just going to ensure that Americans can keep more of their 
hard-earned money; we are also going to ensure that they can make more 
of it. Our bill is not just going to cut Americans' taxes, as important 
as that priority is to all of us; it is also going to give Americans 
access to the kinds of jobs, wages, and opportunities that will set 
them up for a secure future.
  So how does that work? Well, in order for individual Americans to 
thrive economically, we need American businesses to thrive. Thriving 
businesses create jobs. They provide opportunities, and they increase 
wages and invest in their workers. But our current Tax Code is not 
helping businesses thrive. It is doing the opposite. It is strangling 
both large and small businesses with high tax rates.
  Small businesses are incredibly important for new job creation, 
especially in places like my State of South Dakota. But right now the 
high tax rates that small businesses face can make it difficult for 
these businesses to even survive, much less thrive and expand their 
operations. Our bill will fix this.
  To start with, our bill implements a new deduction for businesses 
that will allow them to keep more of their money, which will allow them 
to reinvest in their operations, increase wages, and hire new workers. 
Our bill also reforms a number of current provisions in the Tax Code 
that frequently leave small businesses with very little cash on hand. 
Under our legislation, small businesses will be able to recover the 
capital that they have invested in things like inventory and machinery 
much more quickly--and in certain cases, immediately--which will free 
up capital they can use to expand and create jobs. Our legislation also 
includes provisions I helped develop that will simplify accounting 
rules for small businesses, which will also help reduce their tax 
burden, leaving more of their earnings to reinvest in their businesses 
and in their workers.
  In addition to cutting rates for small businesses, our bill also 
reduces our corporate tax rate. Our Nation's corporate tax rate is 
currently the highest in the industrialized world, which puts U.S. 
businesses at a major disadvantage next to their international 
competitors. By reducing the corporate tax rate, our bill will enable 
U.S. businesses to compete on a more level playing field with their 
competitors, which will in turn free up money that U.S. businesses 
could use to create jobs and increase wages.
  The White House Counsel of Economic Advisers estimates that reducing 
the corporate tax rate to 20 percent will increase average household 
income by $4,000 annually.
  Our bill also ends the outdated tax framework that is driving 
American companies to keep jobs and profits overseas. Our Nation 
currently operates under a so-called worldwide tax system, which means 
that American companies pay U.S. taxes on the profit they make here at 
home, as well as on part of the profit they make abroad once they bring 
that money back to the United States. The problem with this is that 
American companies are already paying taxes to foreign governments on 
the money they make abroad. Then, when they bring that money back home, 
they can end up having to pay taxes again on part of those profits--and 
at the highest tax rate in the industrialized world. So it is no 
surprise that this discourages businesses from bringing their profits 
back to the United States to invest in their domestic operations, in 
new jobs, and in increased wages.
  Between 1983 and 2003, when the U.S. tax rate was much more 
competitive with those of other countries, there were 29 corporate 
inversions where U.S. companies moved abroad. Between 2003 and 2014, 
when other countries were dropping their corporate tax rates and 
shifting to territorial tax systems, there were 47 such inversions. 
Well, our bill addresses this drag on our economy by moving from our 
outdated worldwide tax system to a territorial tax system.
  By shifting to a territorial tax system--a move I should note that 
has been supported by Members of both parties--we eliminate the double 
taxation that encourages companies to send their investments and their 
operations overseas. Combine that with the reduction in our high 
corporate tax rate, and our bill provides a strong incentive for U.S. 
companies to invest their profits at home in American jobs and in 
American workers instead of abroad. All in all, the Tax Foundation 
estimates that in addition to increasing wages, our bill will create 
nearly 1 million new jobs for American workers.
  The legislation we unveiled last week is the product of years of work 
here in the Senate--work, frankly, by Members of both political 
parties. I hope, in the end, my Democratic colleagues will advance this 
bill, which is partly the result of their labors.
  This is the kind of chance we all dreamed of when we came to 
Washington--a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a real 
difference in the lives of ordinary Americans, to substantially improve 
their lives today and give them access to a brighter, more secure, and 
more prosperous future.
  I look forward to debating this bill over the next few weeks. We are 
going to a markup today, tomorrow, and Friday in the Senate Finance 
Committee, where amendments will be offered. They will be debated, they 
will be voted on, and then, of course, the bill will come to the floor 
of the U.S. Senate where there will be an open amendment process, where 
individual Senators will have opportunities to offer amendments, to 
debate those amendments, and to vote on those amendments. But when all 
of that is said and done, I hope we can send a bill to the President's 
desk that will bring much needed relief to those Americans who are 
living paycheck to paycheck--to those Americans who are struggling to 
make ends meet, to raise their children, and to provide for a more 
secure retirement--by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned 
dollars in their pockets, by making their paychecks bigger, and by 
creating access to better jobs, higher paying jobs, and higher wages. 
That improves all Americans' standard of living, all Americans' quality 
of life. That is what this bill will do.
  We need to get it across the finish line. There is a lot of work 
ahead of us, but I am looking forward to the day when we can get this 
signed into law and give the American people access to a brighter and a 
more prosperous future for them and their families.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Cotton). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The Democratic leader is recognized.


                          Republican Tax Plan

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, the Republican tax plan, even before 
yesterday, would exacerbate income inequality at a time when it is 
already spiraling out of control, helping the rich get richer and big 
corporations get bigger while the middle class is left stuck in 
neutral. Many millions of middle-class families would wind up paying 
higher taxes at the end of the day--13 million in 2019 and 20 million 
in 2027--under the Senate plan.
  That is the wrong approach for our economy. It betrays the American 
worker and the American family, who deserve tax relief, because it 
concentrates more of our country's wealth at the very top--just what 
the American people don't want, but so many of those who fund the 
Republican Party do. For most of my colleagues and most of the American 
people, that is reason enough to oppose the bill, and the American 
people do, by large numbers.
  But yesterday Republicans made two last-minute changes to their bill 
that make it even worse. First, Republicans decided to throw the mother 
of all monkey wrenches into the bill: repealing the individual mandate. 
My friend the majority leader called this provision ``helpful'' to the 
bill because it raises revenue. I would remind him and all of my 
Republican colleagues that

[[Page S7228]]

the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would lead to 13 
million fewer Americans with health insurance. So we are taking 13 
million people off of health insurance to give tax cuts to the wealthy.
  Also, according to CBO, it would lead to a 10-percent increase in 
premiums. Each year, they would be 10 percent higher than they 
otherwise would be. So the Republican bill says: Raise the premiums on 
average Americans' healthcare by 10 percent so we can give the wealthy 
a tax cut.
  This is the same thing they did in the healthcare bill until the 
public outrage forced them to back off, and, of course, it lost. Now 
they are doing it again because the Republican belief is to reduce the 
healthcare safety net for middle-class Americans so they can give more 
tax cuts to the wealthiest and most powerful amongst us.
  If Republicans had their way, younger, healthier people would flee 
the market, making the risk pool older and sicker. If you are 50 to 64, 
this is very bad news for you. That is why the AARP is against this 
bill and yesterday denounced the new change.
  I would remind my Republican colleagues that the provision raises 
$400 billion in revenues because it throws Americans off insurance, and 
$179 billion alone is saved because people wouldn't sign up for 
Medicaid. So the Republican bill takes $400 billion out of help for 
healthcare and gives it to the wealthy and the powerful for even more 
tax breaks. Does any American support that? A handful maybe, but it 
seems a lot of people in this Chamber might.
  So when the Republicans say this provision in their bill is helpful, 
they don't mean it is helpful to Americans. It may help Republicans in 
the Senate give a larger tax break to the rich, but it hurts millions 
of Americans seeking affordable health insurance. Many will lose 
insurance. Many more will pay an increase in their premiums, while our 
colleagues have always promised to make premiums lower.
  One other point. I have heard some on the other side say they would 
be willing to pass the bipartisan Alexander-Murray health compromise as 
sort of a salve after they repeal the individual mandate. I am here to 
tell my colleagues that won't work. You don't attempt to blow up the 
healthcare system and then say: We are going to make a few tweaks to 
make it better. We are not falling for that, and my Republicans friends 
shouldn't, either. They are completely contradictory ideas. Alexander-
Murray is meant to stabilize markets and lower premiums; the Republican 
plan destabilizes markets and raises premiums in a way that Alexander-
Murray could never repair.

  Furthermore, Alexander-Murray would not survive under the rules of 
reconciliation. Too many of its provisions are under the HELP 
Committee, not the Finance Committee, so anyone who thinks they can 
justify the changes the majority leader has said he will put in the 
bill by saying: OK. We will then pass Murray-Alexander, is wrong on the 
substance and wrong on the politics because it will not pass.
  When Alexander-Murray was negotiated, it was in good faith by the 
chairman and ranking member of the HELP Committee as a compromised 
healthcare bill. Republicans cannot expect to pass their own separate 
ideological healthcare provision and then turn around and ask Democrats 
to vote to pass Murray-Alexander. Again, you can't create major injury 
to the healthcare system and hurt millions, and then say: Please give 
us a bandaid. That is not what is going to happen. That is not the 
right thing to do.
  Any Republican Senator who thinks they can pass the individual 
mandate and then turn around and get Murray-Alexander passed is dead 
wrong. It is clear the dark tradeoff at the center of the Republican 
policy agenda is back--cutting healthcare in order to fund tax 
giveaways to the very wealthy and very powerful. Democrats will not go 
for it. So that is one reason this provision is a bad one.
  The second change the Republicans made to their tax bill was to have 
many of their tax provisions for individuals expire while corporate tax 
breaks remained permanent. With this new proposal, Republicans have put 
themselves between a rock and a hard place. The provisions that help 
individuals--and not enough middle-class folks were helped--expire by 
2025. The corporate tax cuts to the wealthiest of corporations above 
all are permanent.
  Why did our colleagues do this? For one, they favor the big 
corporate, powerful interests over the middle class, but the second is, 
they had a huge deficit problem. They had to figure out where to reduce 
the deficit, and so they took it out on the crumbs they gave to the 
middle class in the earlier years in this bill.
  One of two things will happen. Some of our Republican colleagues are 
saying, ``Don't worry. We will extend the middle-class tax cuts after 
2025,'' but that will create a huge deficit. So I say to my 
colleagues--particularly the deficit hawks--you can't have it both 
ways. You cannot say we are going to protect the middle class after 
2025, and we are going to reduce the deficit. This bill is a deficit 
budget buster. We all know what will happen. We all know the deficit 
will skyrocket after 2025. We can't allow the sort of tricks that are 
put into this bill to dissuade us from the fact that this bill 
dramatically will increase the deficit.
  There are two problems with this tax bill. One is inside the confines 
of the bill, and one is with the public after the bill passes--should 
it pass, which I think it will not. Inside the bill, as I mentioned, 
Republicans are stuck between raising taxes on millions of middle-class 
families or busting the deficit. There is no choice. You can't have it 
both ways. The bill is a dramatic exposition of being between a rock 
and a hard place. There are two choices the bill gives people: raise 
taxes on the middle class or dramatically increase the deficit.
  Outside the bill, with the public, Republicans have a dilemma as 
well. If they don't pass the bill, they look feckless and unable to 
govern--and that is what is motivating most of my colleagues--but if 
they pass the bill, there is going to be public outrage, and they are 
going to pay a real price in 2018. They know it.
  Outside the bill, the Republicans have two bad choices too. Outside 
the confines of the bill, in broad-brush strokes, our Republican 
colleagues can fail to pass the bill and look unable to govern or they 
can pass the bill--dramatically unpopular--and pay a price at the 
polls. These are not enviable choices. They are a Gordian knot that my 
Republican friends will not be able to slip out of. If they pull on one 
part of the knot, they tighten another part of it.
  The reason my colleagues are caught in this lose-lose situation is, 
they have elected time and time again to eschew bipartisanship. Passing 
legislation of this magnitude with the votes of one party is divisive 
and demanding. A small number--say the Freedom Caucus--can demand 
almost all the tax breaks go to the very wealthy or they will not vote 
for the bill. That gives the rest of the Republicans a difficult 
choice: hurt the middle class or blow a hole in the deficit.
  On the other hand, if our Republican colleagues had worked with us, 
that Freedom Caucus would have no say. They wouldn't have the votes to 
kill the bill because there would be lots of Democratic support.
  Passing legislation of this magnitude, with votes of only one party 
is divisive and demanding. It has meant Republicans have produced 
legislation that appeals to only a small number of Americans, and, 
probably in their heart of hearts, even a minority of Republicans. We 
are a fiercely divided country. Legislation that is crafted to appease 
the extremes of only one political party is never going to be broadly 
popular with the American people and, frankly, will not work.
  That is why we should pursue bipartisan legislation, both parties 
accepting the credit of success and the blame of failure. The American 
people are clamoring for us to work together in such a fashion, and 
working together doesn't mean a bill crafted behind closed doors under 
reconciliation, which basically says to Democrats: Take a hike. We 
don't need you.
  I say to my Republican friends, there is a way out of this mess, and 
it is simple: reject your Faustian bargains and come to work with 
Democrats on a real bipartisan reform bill. You will not have to choose 
between blowing up the deficit and hurting the middle class. You will 
not have to choose between unpopular legislation and legislative

[[Page S7229]]

failure. Just like Alexander-Murray proved, we can produce legislation 
on the thorniest of issues that will receive bipartisan support and 
improve the conditions of working and middle-class Americans.
  Why don't we give this a try on tax reform as well--because the 
choices you are giving yourself now, you will regret.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. COTTON. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sullivan). Without objection, it is so 
ordered.


                               Tax Reform

  Mr. COTTON. Mr. President, I say to the Presiding Officer, I am glad 
you are here to replace me as the Presiding Officer of the Senate. I 
spent the last hour of the Senate presiding, and for those of you in 
the Gallery who don't know these things, I will pull back the curtain a 
little bit. It is called Presiding Officer duty, not Presiding Officer 
privilege or honor, because it is reserved for the young Senators who 
are new to the Senate, such as Senator Sullivan and me. It also means 
that we actually have to listen to our colleagues' speeches, which 
doesn't happen very often around here anymore.
  This morning I had the privilege of listening to the Democratic 
leader's speech about our tax bill and the fact that we are going to 
repeal the hated mandate of ObamaCare as part of this tax bill, and I 
just can't let stand what he said without correcting the record.
  First, the Senator from New York said that we are ``injecting 
healthcare into the tax bill.'' Injecting healthcare into the tax bill? 
I would remind him and all the other Democrats who have been denouncing 
this decision on the Senate Finance Committee that the individual 
mandate is a tax according not to me, not to Republicans, but to the 
Obama administration. That is what they argued in 2012 to the Supreme 
Court, even though they contended throughout the debate on ObamaCare in 
2009 and 2010 that it wasn't a tax. In 2012, they argued to the Supreme 
Court that the ObamaCare mandate is a tax, and the Supreme Court upheld 
it as a tax.
  I am willing to bet that the Democratic leader issued a statement in 
the summer of 2012 applauding that decision which held that the 
individual mandate is a tax. After all, it is collected on your 1040. 
It is collected by the IRS. It doesn't get more ``taxy'' than that.
  My second point is on the claim that 13 million Americans will lose 
their insurance--lose their insurance--if we repeal the mandate. Well, 
two-thirds of the American people want us to repeal the mandate, so 
they must be up to something. Secondly, let's think about what the 
mandate repeal does. It doesn't cut a single dime out of Medicaid, it 
doesn't cut a single dime out of insurance subsidies for people on the 
exchanges, and it doesn't change a single regulation of Obamacare. All 
it says is that the IRS cannot fine you for being unable to afford the 
insurance that ObamaCare made unaffordable in the first place. That is 
right. Today, if you cannot afford your insurance because ObamaCare 
made it unaffordable, the IRS will fine you and your family up to 
$2,000 a year, and that number goes up every year. Let me tell you, 
more than five out of six households who pay that fine make less than 
the median income in this country. That is right. That is a direct tax 
on working families and poor people because they can't afford the 
insurance that ObamaCare made unaffordable. In Arkansas, there are over 
55,000 families who already have to deal with the insecurity and 
financial hardship of not having health insurance and who then have to 
pay a fine to the IRS. That is why two-thirds of the American people 
have wanted us to repeal the individual mandate of ObamaCare since the 
very day that law was passed, and that is why we are about to finally 
repeal that mandate.
  In the meantime, it is going to pay for more tax relief for working-
class families. We are going to bring rates down for all of our 
families, preserve more popular or widely used deductions or credits 
that help people make ends meet, such as the home mortgage interest 
deduction credit. It will help them be a little more generous to their 
church or local charities through the charitable deduction. It will 
help them offset the cost of some of their property or State and local 
income taxes--all because we are going to repeal the hated ObamaCare 
mandate.
  I know the Democrats are in high dudgeon these days. Turn on C-SPAN, 
if you have nothing better to do, and watch the Senate Finance 
Committee, and they will say: Oh, we are injecting healthcare into the 
tax bill. Oh, 13 million people are going to lose their insurance.
  What we are doing is repealing the most hated tax of ObamaCare and 
giving the American people the freedom to choose insurance that is 
right for them without being threatened by a fine from the IRS if that 
insurance doesn't meet some Washington bureaucrat's definition of what 
is suitable. That is why two-thirds of the American people support the 
repeal of the individual mandate, and that is why, when we repeal it, 
the American people are going to have a big victory, notwithstanding 
what the Democratic leader or any other Democratic Senator has said.
  Mr. President, I yield my time.
  Have fun during Presiding Officer duty.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. REED. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

                          ____________________