May 22,2014

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Ryan Carey: 202-224-4515

Wyden Statement Welcoming Open, Bipartisan Amendment Process on Tax Extenders Bill and Urging Swift Passage

As delivered

I wish to speak for a few minutes about the urgency of passing the tax extender bill and describe to our colleagues all the bipartisanship that has gone into this important effort.

This bill is truly urgent because America's employers file their taxes quarterly, which means they are paying higher taxes today without this tax extender package, which means less money for hiring and training workers, less money for buying new equipment, and less money for investing in innovation and growing jobs at home.    

For example, a restaurant owner who needs to replace a walk-in freezer to keep their business running is going to pay higher taxes because they can't, in effect, hold down the costs through the provision in the tax bill. That means they will be cutting shifts and cutting wages.   

This bill is just as urgent for millions of other American families; for example, a family with a college student who is registering for summer school this week and is going to lose a tuition tax break and homeowners whose place is now worth less than they paid for it. They finally caught a break recently from their lender, and without this legislation they will now face a real tax increase on phantom income. So that is why this bill is so timely, so urgent. 

I am going to spend a few minutes talking about the extraordinary bipartisan team effort that went into putting this legislation together, getting it through the Finance Committee, and sending it to the Senate floor. The process began almost immediately after Chairman Baucus went to China, when my staff and I began working with Senator Hatch and his staff, as well as other committee members on both sides of the aisle.      

We recognized that this would not be an easy bill to write, so Senator Hatch and I agreed to limit the focus of the legislation to tax extenders, the stop-and-go tax policies that we both think should end with comprehensive tax reform. After a lot of sweat equity put in by Democrats and Republicans on the committee, I introduced the EXPIRE Act, and that was the beginning of the bipartisan odyssey to make sure this bill was passed -- and passed quickly -- so as to deal with those urgent needs I described.        

Before the committee met for markup, Senators offered 93 amendments, including 36 from Republicans. My team and I worked with both sides of the committee to incorporate 13 amendments into a modified bill. Eleven of them had Republican sponsors or cosponsors.       

Then when the committee got together for markup, there were additional amendments -- seven more approved, including three from Republicans.

This bill is thoroughly bipartisan. The committee held to the agreement Senator Hatch and I struck to keep the focus on tax extender policies, and I want to make one thing very clear. Those bipartisan amendments -- the ones we have already included -- have made the legislation better. If you want the best proof, look at the amendment offered by our colleagues Senator Roberts and Senator Schumer, a Democrat and a Republican. It did important work to strengthen the tax credit for research and development. By the way, this bipartisan amendment built on another bipartisan idea, a first-rate idea from Senator Coons and Senator Enzi to improve the credit; in particular, to make it more attractive for the small businesses, those businesses across the country starting in a garage. It would allow innovative startups to use the R&D credit to help pay their employees' wages.       

This is smart policy -- not Democratic policy or Republican policy -- because it encourages American innovation, the engine of economic progress, and makes that engine stronger than it is today. It is going to make it easier for young companies to hire new workers, and it is exactly the kind of bipartisanship that the country is making it clear it is hungry for.      

There are other bipartisan examples I could cite that all prove the same point, but I wish to wrap up by saying now the Senate has the chance, using exactly that procedure, to make the bill even stronger. It was made clear last week by the majority leader, by myself, and others that we are open to amendments that build on what went on in the committee. By the way, there are lots of them.      

I was here on Friday until late week and through the weekend talking to colleagues, an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. It would be one thing if there weren't a lot of germane issues, relevant issues, to choose from. That is not the case. There are dozens of amendments from Senators on both sides of the aisle that directly relate to the topic in question -- these stop-and-go provisions that have expired -- and if we don't move to renew them, our economy is going to get hurt in ways I have described.      

Our goal all along on the Senate floor has been to replicate exactly the kind of bipartisanship that went on in the Finance Committee. I absolutely believe that is still possible.       

As soon as the vote was cast last week, I spent the weekend looking for a bipartisan pathway. We had encouraging calls over the weekend indicating that both sides of the aisle wanted to work together to make progress. We had additional conversations about this through the week. Some Senators were concerned they wouldn't have a chance to offer any amendments whether they focused on tax extenders or not. But as I said then, and I repeat now, I am open to hearing from colleagues on both sides of the aisle about their amendments. I can keep repeating it again and again, but I hope the point is getting through.

If I had brought a billboard to the floor, as sometimes people do, the billboard would say: "BRING ON THE AMENDMENTS" in big capital letters.

I will wrap up by saying I know the bill is not the legislation that every Senator wants, and -- if I had my first choice -- we would be working on comprehensive tax reform rather than the extenders, but it hasn't been possible to do that. Today the Senate needs to focus on the urgent business at hand; that is, making sure our people don't get punished.

If the Senate doesn't act on this bill, we would be punishing veterans coming home looking for jobs, we would punish innovators, we would be punishing small businesses, punishing those homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages, and punishing students with the mountains of debt.

I close by saying any colleague who is for that let me know because I don't know of a single Senator, not one, who thinks that is a good idea -- when our economy is so fragile -- to weigh it down with a tax hike. There aren't any Senators who are telling me they want to subject American families and business to yet more uncertainty about their tax bill.

So our legislation, our bipartisan legislation, would keep that from happening. It is absolutely essential that the Senate come together in a bipartisan way, build on exactly what we did in the Senate Finance Committee, and get this legislation across the goal line.