Tax Conference Committee Statement

Sen. Bernie Sanders' prepared statement for the tax conference committee. Sanders is the ranking member of the Budget Committee.

Mr. Chairman, as you well know, this is not a real conference committee. It is a sham. According to media reports, much of this legislation has already been written behind closed doors which is consistent with the entire process for this bill from day one.

In legislation that will have a major impact on our economy there has not been one public hearing, no opportunity to hear from economists, governors, mayors or ordinary Americans who will be impacted by this legislation.  

This is legislation that was written for wealthy campaign contributors, for the billionaire class and by the billionaire class. In fact, it is my understanding that over 6,000 lobbyists have worked on this legislation behind closed doors.  

Mr. Chairman, every poll that I have seen shows that by overwhelming numbers the American people do not want this bill to be passed. They know that in the Senate bill, in the midst of massive wealth and income inequality, 62 percent of the tax benefits go to the top 1 percent and 42 percent of the benefits go to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.

In America today, the very rich are becoming much richer while the middle class continues to shrink, and your solution is to provide 62 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent.

The American people also understand that at the end of 10 years, 83 million middle class Americans will see their taxes go up under the Senate bill. They know that, with 13 million Americans losing their health insurance, health care premiums on the individual market will increase by 10 percent. And they also know, that despite years of Republicans telling us how concerned they are about deficits and the national debt, this legislation will increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion over 10 years.  

And, furthermore, the American people are outraged by what Speaker Paul Ryan is proposing. And that is that he wants to offset this $1.4 trillion deficit by making massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And that is where the Republican Party is today. Huge tax breaks for billionaires. And proposals to cut programs that are life and death for working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. 

Mr. Chairman, just a few examples of the absurdity of this legislation. 

The Senate bill provides a 90 percent tax deduction to Wall Street hedge fund managers who become residents of the Virgin Islands, while the House bill increases the taxes of working class graduate students by treating their tuition waivers as taxable income.

At a time when climate change is ravaging the planet, the Senate bill gives investors in the Keystone Pipeline a 23 percent tax deduction on their profits after this pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota.

The Senate bill provides Pfizer, one of the largest and most profitable drug companies in the country with a $24 billion tax break on their offshore profits, while the House bill tells cancer patients they can no longer receive a tax deduction on their out-of-pocket medical expenses.

The House bill gives the Koch brothers, who have contributed hundreds of millions into Republican candidates, a tax break on their dark money political contributions, while taking away the tax deduction teachers get for buying school supplies for low-income students who can’t afford pencils, notebooks and crayons. 

At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need to rebuild the disappearing middle class. We do not need to provide tax breaks to billionaires.