December 18, 2015

Manchin unhappy with tax cut measure | Charleston Gazette-Mail

As Congress prepares to vote on a $1.1 trillion spending bill, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Thursday stressed his opposition to a tax cut measure valued at more than $600 billion.

During a speech on the Senate floor, Manchin said, “Mr. President, I rise today to applaud my colleagues for being in the Christmas spirit. I have never seen so many gifts and presents given out in one bill.”

Manchin, along with Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Angus King, I-Maine — all former governors — expressed opposition to the tax-extenders package, citing concerns about adding to the nation’s debt.

Manchin stressed that the Senate was not simply voting on the trillion-dollar omnibus spending bill, which includes providing funding for veterans and the military, middle-class families and other federal programs, and would fund the government through September 2016.

Following his floor speech, Manchin reiterated that he supports the omnibus bill. The problem, he said, is that Senate leadership might combine voting for the omnibus bill with a $680 billion tax-extender package.

The tax-extender bill, which includes providing permanent extensions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and temporary two-year incentives to rum production and entertainment producers, involved negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

“We gave Christmas presents to millionaire race car drivers and motorcycle riders, film, television and theater producers and even race horse owners,” Manchin said.

He said that, although he supports the omnibus bill, he will be forced to vote against it if the tax cut bill is included in the final vote.

With legislation like the proposed tax-extender bill, Manchin said lawmakers are going to make it difficult for future generations. By 2040 or 2050, he estimated, there will be enough money in the government to pay for social programs and the military.

“There won’t be anything in terms of research, expansion and infrastructure,” he stressed in a conference call with reporters.

“Somebody, sooner or later, has to say enough is enough,” he added, noting the tax-extender bill would add more than $2 trillion to the nation’s debt over the next 20 years. “This throws caution to the wind.”

Beyond his general opposition to the overall tax-extender bill, Manchin said there are specific elements he does support, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a refundable tax credit for those who make low to moderate income, and the Child Tax Credit, which provides families credits to help cover the cost of raising children.

“We have a lot of those things that everyone could agree on,” Manchin said of the tax-extender bill. Ultimately, though, the inclusion of the special-interest tax credits is what he said has forced him to maintain his opposition to the bill.

One aspect that Manchin championed while the lawmakers created the extender bill was what has been called the Miners Protection Act.

Manchin, along with Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., introduced the act in July, with hopes of providing security to miners by ensuring the federal government and coal operators honor their obligations to pay lifetime pensions and health benefits to retired miners and their families.

The act, which did not make it past the Committee on Finance, would have transferred funds from the Abandoned Mine Land fund to the United Mine Workers of America Pension Plan.

While Manchin fought for the inclusion of the Miners Protection Act in the tax-extender bill, it ultimately was not included.

“We could have chosen to keep the promise that President Truman made to our patriotic coal miners back in 1946 and protected their pension and health care guarantees, or we could choose to give $680 billion in tax breaks to special-interest groups, millionaires and billionaires,” Manchin said during his floor speech. “Mr. President, we chose poorly.”

On Wednesday, Cecil Roberts, president of the UMWA International, expressed his disappointment with the decision to not address the pension plan.

“We are extremely disappointed that, as it was agreeing to a $1.1 trillion spending bill and another $650 billion in tax breaks for a variety of corporate interests, Congress could not find a way to live up to our nation’s promise to preserve retirement security for tens of thousands of retired coal miners, their dependents and widows,” Roberts said.

“We can only ask why? What is it about these senior citizens Congress doesn’t like?” Roberts said. “They spent decades putting their lives and health on the line every day, providing the raw material our nation used to become the strongest, most powerful nation on earth. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice, either being killed in our nation’s mines or contracting black lung disease and dying a slow, choking, painful death.”

Roberts thanked Manchin, Capito and Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., for their efforts in advancing the pension legislation and promised to continue to fight to advance similar legislation in the future.

With a 318-109 vote, the House of Representatives on Thursday passed the $622 billion tax-extender package and was expected to vote on the omnibus spending bill later in the day or possibly today.

The Senate is expected to hold votes on both bills today.

By:  Joel Ebert