WASHINGTON - House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer made the following statement today on the House Floor (as prepared for delivery):
"Mr. Speaker, over the last five and one-half years, this Republican Majority has repeatedly pushed tax legislation that is blatantly unfair and grossly irresponsible. But today, they outdo even themselves.
"Our nation is at war and our brave troops are under fire in the field.
"Our nation is facing record budget deficits, and the national debt – which now stands at $8.4 trillion – is exploding under this Republican Congress and Administration.
"Gas prices, health care costs, and college tuition are skyrocketing, even as real median household incomes decrease.
"Yet, despite all the challenges facing our people and our nation, today this Republican Majority insists that we give a huge tax break to the heirs of the wealthiest people in America.
"If ever there was a bill that demonstrated the Republican Party’s misguided priorities and the deep differences between our parties, this is the one.
"Democrats are continuing to fight to raise the federal minimum wage, which has not been increased since 1997 and which is at its lowest level (adjusted for inflation) in 50 years.
"6.6 million workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage – including 760,000 single mothers.
"However, Republicans refuse to allow an up-or-down vote on the minimum wage.
"As the Majority Leader (Mr. Boehner) told the press on Tuesday, (and I quote): 'I’m opposed to it and I think the vast majority of our conference is opposed to it.'
"Meanwhile, with this bill – which really ought to be called the 'Paris Hilton Tax Act of 2006' – the Republican Majority seeks to permanently increase the exemption for the estate tax and slash the tax rate on estates over that exemption.
"Let us be clear about the facts: Less than 1 percent of all estates in America will pay estate taxes in 2006 under this year’s exemption ($2 million for individuals, $4 million for couples).
"And, when that exemption increases in 2009 to $3.5 million ($7 million for couples), only 7,500 estates in America will be subject to the estate tax.
"So today, House Republicans are falling all over themselves to give the heirs of approximately 7,500 estates a tax cut – even as they ignore the needs of one hundred times more single mothers (760,000), who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage.
"This bill, however, is not only morally suspect, but also fiscally irresponsible.
"The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that this Republican bill will cost $762 billion over its first 10 years. And, none of it is paid for – not one dime.
"Mr. Speaker, this legislation constitutes nothing less than fiscal child abuse. The heirs of the wealthiest estates in America get a huge windfall; the children of everyone else will pay the bill."