Hatch Calls on Democratic Leadership to Allow Amendments on EXPIRE Act
In Speech on Senate Floor, Utah Senator Says, “My hope is that the floor debate on this extenders package will resemble the debate we had in the Finance Committee. That means a fair and transparent process and an opportunity for Senators to offer amendments.”
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) called on Senate leadership to allow amendments to be considered for the EXPIRE Act, which was passed by the Finance Committee in a bipartisan fashion.
“While I’m satisfied with the way the Finance Committee handled the tax extenders package, the vast majority of Senators do not serve on the Finance Committee. That being the case, most Senators have not had a chance to fully debate these tax provisions or offer amendments of their own. They deserve that opportunity,” said Hatch.
Below is the text of Hatch’s full speech delivered on the Senate floor today:
Mr. President, today, the Senate will begin consideration of the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency Act, otherwise known as the EXPIRE Act.
This legislation has, so far, moved forward in a cooperative, bipartisan fashion. I hope that spirit will continue here on the floor.
It seems that the new norm for tax policy around here is conducting this ritual where tax provisions expire, we wait until the following year to decide which ones to extend, and then we finally enact them into law for one retroactive year and one prospective year.
When that happens, half of the benefit is more of a windfall rather than an incentive. And, needless to say, this process causes great uncertainty when businesses and individuals try to manage their taxes and budgets.
I’m not casting blame on anyone for this flawed methodology. Indeed, both parties share responsibility for how the tax extenders process has devolved over the years.
The American people deserve better.
I share the view of many on both sides of the aisle – including both chairmen of the tax-writing committees – that comprehensive tax reform will be necessary to ensure long-term growth and prosperity in our economy. When it comes to tax policy, that type of reform should be our ultimate goal. Hopefully, if we can reform our nation’s tax code, this process of extending certain provisions over and over again will come to an end.
However, I’m not naïve. Fundamental tax reform is unlikely to take place in the immediate future.
That being the case, Congress needs to work to address the tax relief provisions that expired last year or will expire by the end of this year. And, we need to do so in a timely fashion.
The EXPIRE Act should serve as starting point for temporarily resolving the expired and expiring tax provisions.
The Senate Finance Committee voted to report the EXPIRE Act on April 3, 2014. It passed through the committee by voice vote.
Not every member supported the final bill. But, the committee process was, from the outset, constructive and inclusive and allowed for the full participation of both Democrats and Republicans.
I have to commend Chairman Wyden, who conducted a fair and open debate on tax extenders during the Finance Committee markup. His approach was a prime example of how the Finance Committee is supposed to operate, and, in my view, it should serve as a model for how all Senate committees should consider legislation in their various jurisdictions.
The process reminds me of a historical analogy with respect to the Chairman’s home state of Oregon.
Everyone knows about the Oregon Trail.
Thousands of pioneers started in Independence, Missouri and traveled to Independence, Oregon. They used covered wagons.
In fact, the covered wagon is part of Oregon’s state seal. The pioneers followed the ruts that previous wagons had cut.
Like those pioneers, the Chairman has taken this tax extenders wagon, following the bi-partisan, inclusive ruts of the legislative trails charted by previous chairmen of the Finance Committee.
I hope we can stay on this trail now that the bill is on the floor.
In the end, of the 55 or so tax extenders considered by the Finance Committee, only two were not extended. Personally, I would have preferred seeing a smaller number of extended provisions, continuing the process we started in 2012 of reducing the number of tax extenders.
But, in the end, the final product represented the consensus views of the committee and I have been glad to work with Chairman Wyden throughout this process.
As I said during the markup on the EXPIRE Act, as the committee has considered this extenders package, Chairman Wyden and I have worn two hats. We have represented the interests of our respective states and we’ve also been brokers of the diverse interests of all the members on the committee.
That has meant compromise. And compromise has meant some outcomes that were likely not optimal from at least one of our perspectives.
Now, with the bill coming to the floor, we are wearing a third hat – representing the interests of our respective caucuses.
Needless to say, this can be difficult. But, it’s what we have to do.
When you dive into the list of these expired tax provisions, you can easily see that this package touches upon many facets of our economy, from housing to energy, and from startups to larger corporations that are important to many industries and every state.
I was glad to see the research and development tax credit, which is so important to businesses in Utah, included in the bill that was reported out of the Finance Committee. And, I know there are other provisions included in this package that are important to other states.
My hope is that the floor debate on this extenders package will resemble the debate we had in the Finance Committee. That means a fair and transparent process and an opportunity for Senators to offer amendments.
The Senate is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world. Sadly, it’s difficult to call it that these days, unless you’re being sarcastic.
A number of my colleagues – led, of course, by our distinguished Minority Leader – have come to the floor in recent months to talk about the degradation of Senate rules and procedure that has taken place under the current majority. And, they’ve done so with good reason.
On bill after bill, the process is the same.
The Majority Leader brings a bill to the floor, files cloture, accuses the Republicans of filibustering, fills the amendment tree, and blocks consideration of any and all amendments.
Of course, those steps are usually preceded by a short-circuited committee process wherein committee consideration of the bill is either significantly abbreviated or by-passed entirely.
This is not how the Senate is supposed to operate. And, with this bill, we have a chance to do things differently.
As I’ve mentioned, the EXPIRE Act has already had full and fair consideration in the Finance Committee. The bill was drafted in consultation with all the members of the committee. And, when we held a markup, all Senators were allowed to offer amendments and receive votes on those amendments.
Why not continue that process here on the floor?
While I’m satisfied with the way the Finance Committee handled the tax extenders package, the vast majority of Senators do not serve on the Finance Committee. That being the case, most Senators have not had a chance to fully debate these tax provisions or offer amendments of their own.
They deserve that opportunity.
I’d expect that a number of my colleagues – particularly on the Republican side – have amendments that would improve the bill by helping to grow our economy and to create jobs.
I have a number of amendments I’d like to offer myself. And, over the next few days, I’ll be here on the floor to talk about them.
So, Mr. President, let’s have a floor debate that’s worthy of the Senate.
Let’s allow members of both parties to offer amendments and have votes on those amendments.
And, let’s show the American people that Senators know how to work together to solve problems for American businesses and for our citizens.
Too often, the Senate devolves into yet another partisan sideshow, where politics are placed above progress. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Once again, I am pleased that I’ve had this opportunity to work with my colleague, Chairman Wyden, to move the EXPIRE Act forward. He’s done a very good job.
My only hope is that, now that the bill is on the floor, the Senate Democratic Leadership will follow his example and allow for a full and fair debate of this legislation.
I yield the floor.