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Schumer Floor Remarks on the GOP Tax Plan and NLRB General Counsel Nominee Peter Robb

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor outlining the negative effects the GOP tax plan would have on Americans as well as his opposition to Peter Robb as General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Below are his remarks:  

over the past decade, the American economy has generated enormous wealth for wealth-holders, but painfully less work and less pay, fewer good-paying jobs, for workers. Average folks are having a harder time keeping up with ever-rising costs as the rich get richer and corporate stocks soar.

Our economy would surely benefit from the kind of tax reform that gives small businesses and working Americans a break while asking the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share. And fair share doesn’t mean they are doing something illegal, it simply means as wealth goes up and so much money agglomerates to the top, that for the good of society the wealthiest should pay more.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party has decided to pursue a partisan tax bill that would spin our economy even further out of whack, lavishing tax giveaways on the rich and Corporate America, while raising taxes on millions of middle-class families over ten years.

A New York Times analysis found that next year, the House Republican tax plan would cause taxes to go up on one-third of all middle-class families. Those are families who made, I believe, between $56,000 and $150,000. One out of three - right in that middle-class, upper middle-class group – is going to pay more in taxes. While those at the highest end get huge breaks. By 2026, taxes would go up on nearly half of all middle-class families.

I want to salute somebody I almost never agree with, Senator Cruz. Yesterday he had the courage of his convictions to say “no middle-class person should pay more, even in New York and California.” But that’s not the case with this bill. Large numbers of people throughout the country pay more. Large numbers of middle-class people, and people struggling to the middle class, pay more.

So when Speaker Ryan says that under the House plan, “everyone enjoys a tax cut all across the board,” as he did yesterday, he’s fibbing. Speaker Ryan, explain to us how you can say with a straight face “everyone enjoys a tax cut all across the board.” Every independent analysis and the more honest Republicans say that some middle-class people, a good number of middle-class people, get a tax increase.

So Speaker Ryan, take it back. Start telling the truth about your bill, we know you are under pressure but you have always been an honorable man. This tax bill is tying you into a pretzel when it comes to telling the truth about it.

Look at what is done here. The personal exemption, which so benefits large families, is gone. Yes, the standard deduction doubles, but if you have 4, 5, 6 children, you start paying more even before they whack your state and local deductibility, or your college loan deducibility, or your healthcare deductibility.

Stunningly, the deduction for catastrophically high medical expenses is also gone, meaning that among the hardest-hit under the plan would be some of the most vulnerable taxpayers. 8 million Americans deduct their out-of-pocket medical expenses because they’re over 10% of their income. They plan their finances around this deduction. These are families in which someone has a chronic condition, maybe it’s an elderly parent who has Alzheimer’s, maybe it’s a family with a young kid with cancer.

I met a lady at the airport yesterday, her name was Bridget, I don’t know who she was. She came over to me pleading, sadness in her eyes. She said “my son needs a drug, it’s very expensive, if I can’t deduct the expenses I don’t know what I am going to do. I won’t be able to afford the drug.” How can our Republican colleagues be so heartless and cruel? Yes, I know you want to reduce taxes on corporations, but why do you have to do it at Bridget’s expense? Why do you have to do it at Bridget’s expense?

And, of course, the House bill takes an ax to state and local deductibility, a bedrock middle-class tax deduction that affects nearly every state, but hits high-tax states like Virginia the hardest.

Any House Republican who watched the returns in the Virginia elections last night must be shaken by the overwhelming Democratic turnout in suburban areas. And according to pollsters the number one issue was healthcare, where this deduction goes. But overall suburban Virginia said ‘no’ to the Republican way. These suburban families will be hit hardest by the elimination of the state and local deduction in states like Virginia, but also in Washington and New Jersey and New York and California and Illinois and Minnesota and Colorado.

Just last night, we learned from reporting that the Senate tax bill will go even further than the House regarding SALT – full repeal. There are some from my state in New York who are saying ‘well we have a compromise,’ but a) the compromise still eliminates three-quarters of the deduction, and b) that compromise is going bye-bye. The Senate is going to get rid of it and you can be sure it won’t come back in a conference committee. So I say to my House colleagues, particularly those from suburban districts: stop the elimination of the state and local deduction now before it is too late. And if it happens and you vote ‘yes’ on this bill, you will be to blame.

There is no way to duck and cover behind the SALT compromise any longer, because the Senate tax writers have made it clear that they want to repeal SALT entirely, and because of the stricter Senate budget rules, the Senate language is likely to win out over the House language. Make no mistake: a full repeal of the state and local deduction is coming down the pike, one way or another. Voting to advance the GOP tax bill is a vote to fully repeal state and local deductibility.

And I say to my Republican friends from suburban districts with a high percentage of people who use the state and local deduction, if you think the results in Virginia and New Jersey were terrible for you, wait until you’ve passed a bill that raises taxes on large swaths of middle-class families in your districts.

Mr. President, the debate over the state and local deduction is illustrative of the central problem my Republican friends have with their tax bill. Every time you pull in one direction and change something to solve a problem, you have to push in another direction, and you end up creating a new one. It’s like pushing on a balloon. Just this morning, Speaker Ryan said that the phase-out of middle-class deductions would never happen, they’re only there to game the Senate rules. Well, if there’s no phase-out, the real cost of the bill will be much higher.

I say to my Senate friends, who have talked about ‘let’s not make the deficit go out of control,’ that Ryan is saying that we are going to let the deficit go out of control and game the Senate rules because the phase-out of middle-class deductions won’t happen. If there is no real phase-out, the real cost of the bill will be much higher, a tough pill to swallow for anyone in this Senate on the Republican side who who believes in deficit reduction; who believes that $1.5 trillion, their rule is about as high as you can go.

And all of this is because our Republican colleagues are rushing this bill through. Something like this takes care, it takes hearings, it takes discussion, it takes experts, it takes affected groups all weighing in. It takes a while. That is how it is supposed to work, how the Founding Fathers wanted it to work. That’s how we did it with the last major, successful tax reform bill in 1986. I was there, I know. To rush a bill of this magnitude through the Congress in the span of a few weeks, with only one party doing the work, is reckless, irresponsible, and will lead to a very bad result. It’s why the Republicans are going to have such problems.

So I repeat my plea to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, take a step back and consider doing tax reform the right way: bipartisan, through the committees, input from both sides. We’ve shown, as in healthcare, my friend from New Hampshire who is on the floor was one of the leaders in that, that when we try, we can work together. Earlier this year, we came to a good budget deal. Senators Alexander and Murray put together a fair, reasonable compromise on healthcare.

We can do it again on tax reform, we Democrats want to do real reform. But our Republican friends must abandon this partisan, secretive, reckless process, that will lead to no good for them and the country, and come to the table with Democrats.

One final point on the matter. Republicans repeatedly promise that the $1.5 trillion reduction in the corporate tax rate proposed by the Ryan-McConnell Tax Plan will lead to the average American family to receive a $4,000 raise. 

Yet corporate profits are already at record highs and wages are relatively stagnant, so color us skeptical that showering corporations with new tax breaks that will result in them having even more money, will result in higher wages for workers. What it will create, far more likely, instead of is another round of stock buybacks and dividends which benefit corporate CEO’s and the wealthy by and large.

You don’t have to take it from me. Take it from David Marberger, executive Vice President and CFO at Con Agra – a major Fortune 500 company - who told shareholders this fall QUOTE: “In terms of if there is corporate tax reduction and there's more cash, we bounce back to our capital allocation.” More stock buybacks.

Republicans think a corporate tax cut without guardrails will boost wages. We disagree, and later this morning, Democrats will urge our Republican colleagues to put their money where their mouth is and prove us wrong.

We will be offering an amendment that would snap-back taxes to the old corporate rate if corporations fail to actually boost their workers’ wages. It’s that simple. Put your money where your mouth is. The only thing you’re hanging your hat on in this bill, which hurts so many middle-class people, is ‘well, everyone will get a big wage increase because we are reducing the corporate rate.’ We challenge you, accept our amendment. If wages don’t go up, the corporate decrease in taxes is repealed. We’re simply telling Republicans don’t write checks to corporations that their employees can’t cash.

If Republicans fail to support this amendment, they’ll confirm their tax bill is a farce – they really don’t believe it - when it comes to boosting wages for working Americans.

Finally, a word on the pending nomination to the NLRB, Mr. Robb.

The NLRB protects workers’ rights to form or join unions, bargain collectively with their employers, and act concertedly for mutual aid or protection. It is not clear to me from reviewing Mr. Robb’s background that he believes in the mission of the agency.

In his experience as a labor and employment lawyer, he has defended companies against workers’ unfair labor practice allegations, age and sex discrimination charges, class action age claims, and wage claims. Mr. Robb’s law firm website brags about his efforts to delay and defeat a union organizing drive at Millstone Power Station in Connecticut. He was the lead counsel on the Reagan-era case which decertified the air traffic controllers union. That resulted in President Reagan firing 11,000 air-traffic controllers and then barring them from federal service.

The General Counsel for the NLRB sets the priority cases and determines when to bring charges against employers. It’s a crucial role, and Peter Robb’s record shows that he is not up to the job, that he will not defend workers in an agency that was designed to defend workers.

I will be voting no, and I urge my colleagues to oppose his nomination.