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May 11, 2011

The Deficit

[Page: S2818]  GPO's PDF 

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Mr. SCHUMER. Now, let me speak to the issue I came here to speak about, which is the deficit.

Speaker Boehner was in my hometown of New York City last night, and he talked about how important it is to get a handle on this deficit. On that issue, my colleagues on this side of the aisle and I certainly have no problem. Neither does President Obama. The President has proposed $4 trillion in cuts--a huge amount of cutting, $4 trillion--to close the deficit both on the spending side and the tax side. So anyone who thinks one side wants to cut the deficit and the other does not has not looked at the facts. But, obviously, we have to come together.

If each side sticks to its own position, nothing will happen. There should be one obvious place where Speaker Boehner and his colleagues can show some goodwill; that is, on these subsidies to big oil. No one can defend them--no one. Oil companies are making record profits. Gas prices are at an all-time or close to an all-time high, and we, the taxpayers, are continuing to subsidize the five big oil companies.

You could not write a more ridiculous scenario. Senator Menendez, along with Senators Brown and McCaskill, later today will introduce legislation that our side agrees with, which will say take all that money and put it to deficit reduction. There are some who would have preferred to put the money into encouraging independence from particularly foreign oil. But because the deficit is such a huge problem and because we might have a dispute with our friends on the other side as to where the money ought to go, everybody can agree it would be worthwhile to take a little bit of the burden off of the taxpayers, have the oil companies pay their fair share, and stop these ridiculous tax breaks and subsidies to the five big oil companies.

So I ask Speaker Boehner to show some good faith. Some on his side have already said these subsidies don't belong. They were created at a time when oil was $17 a barrel, when we worried about production here. Oil was hovering at just over $100 a barrel again yesterday. You don't have to worry about their desire to explore. They are looking every place they can. They don't have to have a subsidy to do it.

Some might argue: What about the small and middle-size companies? Many of us believe they too should not get the tax breaks. But this bill Senator Menendez will be introducing shortly doesn't even touch them--just the five big oil companies and just the tax breaks they now get. Why not? It is a perfect way to start this debate and show some good will.

Democrats have agreed to cuts--lots of cuts. People on the other side of the aisle can show some agreement on revenues. This area of revenues, which almost nobody can dispute, should not be there. So the time to repeal these giveaways is now. We would most prefer to do it in a bipartisan way. Speaker Boehner, and those on his side of the aisle, can show some good faith that they are not dug in and saying that only my way will lead to the kind of scenario that many tremble at, which is the debt ceiling not being approved.

We on this side of the aisle don't believe that should happen. Many on the other side have said they don't. The first good step that could be taken on the other side to show little give is to eliminate these big tax subsidies to big oil. I urge my colleagues to support it. I urge Speaker Boehner to pivot on his speech from yesterday and support this proposal. It would create a great deal of good will and put us in the direction of reducing the deficit that we all so much want to do.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

(Senate - May 10, 2011)

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