VIDEO & REMARKS: Menendez Calls for Extension of Unemployment Insurance Without Harming Millions of Children

VIDEO & REMARKS: Menendez Calls for Extension of Unemployment Insurance Without Harming Millions of Children

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today spoke on the Senate floor in favor of extending unemployment insurance for 1.3 million Americans still looking for work and against an amendment which would harm millions of children.

Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.

"I rise today - M. President -- for every American family who has played by the rules and now needs our help. To say "no" to extending unemployment benefits is to have failed the family-values test. This isn't an ideological battle in a greater political war, it's about real people and real people's lives. Let's not lose sight of that simple fact. Political ideology does not trump faith and families values. It does not trump reason or compassion or the acceptance that we are all in this together.

"Having said that, I'm encouraged that there's bipartisan support for repealing the military pension cuts. I'm committed to ensuring that our brave men, women and their families receive all the care and resources they deserve both during their service and throughout their lives. Our servicemen and women fight for our freedom and security in the most difficult situations. Therefore, our nation owes them the same level of commitment, and we remain indebted to them for their service.

"And I heard the Senator from New Hampshire declare her support for offsetting the cost by fixing 'an egregious problem in the tax code.' After years of being stymied by GOP opposition to closing any tax loopholes, to shutting down any abusive tax practices, I would like to look for savings in the tax code to achieve a bipartisan goal.

"But unfortunately, instead of proposing to shut down abuses in the code like the huge amounts of money stripped out of the U.S. and piling up in tax havens, instead of ending the wasteful subsidies for hugely profitable oil companies, or perhaps the myriad tax shelters used by millionaires to avoid paying their fair share -- my colleague, Senator Ayotte, decided instead to propose legislation that would have a devastating impact on about 5.5 million children, 4 million of whom are U.S. citizens and all of whom are deserving of our support.

"Instead of working with Democrats, many of whom have spent a great deal of time studying and pointing out waste, fraud and abuse in the tax code to find a bipartisan solution, she instead presents a proposal that would go much further than she claims and hammer two million working and taxpaying families.

"The Ayotte amendment would require taxpayers to have a Social Security number in order to claim the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for their children, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of these American children are US citizens. The CTC was enacted to help families financially care for their children, and the refundable portion was introduced because children in working families deserve the same support provided by benefits in the tax code as everybody else.

"Now, I agree with the senator from New Hampshire that the anecdotal stories that she included in her remarks amount to fraud, and it should be stopped. But let's be clear -- the stories that she told, of claiming credits for children in another country, of a thousand tax returns linked to 8 addresses, these actions ARE ALREADY ILLEGAL.

"In fact, the Senator from New Hampshire cites reports by IRS investigators, who did their job shutting down illegal activity. The IRS doesn't need her amendment to go after this fraud -- they need resources, more investigators, better training and equipment. They need Republicans to stop cutting their funds so they can better do their job. But to use these instances of fraud to go after the American children -- those who don't have social security numbers -- that's not confronting fraud, it's disadvantaging children, the majority of whom are American citizens.

"If one computer science company is prosecuted for tax evasion, we don't bar ALL computer science companies from ever taking the R&D tax credit again. That wouldn't make any sense, just like hammering 5.5 million children because of fraud perpetrated by unscrupulous actors doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

"I believe this amendment creates a clear cut case of priorities. Surely, nobody here would argue that outside of this instance, there is no other part of the tax code that allows waste, fraud or abuse. We could sit down and find dozens of wasteful loopholes, fraudulent tax practices, and abusive tax shelters that could be shut down in order to pay for restoring the cuts to military pensions. If my Republican colleagues chose to support these efforts the bill would sail through the Senate.

"So, I say to my friends who are putting up obstacles to extending unemployment benefits, stop and think -- think about the people who are hurting. Think about their lives, their hopes, their struggles. Think about what their conversations are like around the kitchen table at night.

"Every night, in New Jersey and all over the country, thousands of families who have played by the rules and are looking for work are sitting around the table asking heart-wrenching questions: How will we afford the mortgage if we lose the one lifeline we have until we find a job. What if we have a health emergency; how will we pay our credit card bills? How can we not be moved by those kitchen-table conversations? How are we not putting aside ideology and looking into our hearts for the obvious answer -- a simple 3 month extension of unemployment benefits for those who need our help.

"It's a no-brainer at a time when so many need help now and don't care about politics, who don't want or deserve to be pawns in a political battle over the role or size of government. They just want help from the people who represent them.

"This isn't a time for political games. It's a time for action. We can argue deficits. We can argue debt management. We can argue politics, but not now, because now - at this moment -- it's about the American people, their lives, their hopes, their dreams for a better life for themselves and their families. And it's about the kind of nation we are and the values we hold dear.

"Extending unemployment benefits isn't just the right thing to do morally, it also makes good economic sense. Study after study has shown that unemployment benefits are one of the most effective ways to help our economy grow. So much so that every dollar spent on benefits produces at least $1.50 in GDP.

"And that's because people receiving benefits spend the money, immediately stimulating the economy in the form of consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of our GDP. Leaving 1.3 million Americans in the cold without assistance would end up costing our economy 240,000 jobs.

"Some on the other side say helping people who've been out of work is a crutch. I have never, ever met a person in my state who said they wanted to be on unemployment. I have never met anyone who said, I'm so glad I'm not going to work every day and instead supporting my family on a few hundred bucks a week. The American worker is not lazy and they don't want handouts. But with the job market still recovering, there simply aren't enough jobs available for them to find.

"Let's not tell those who need our help now that there's nothing we can do. Let's end the obstructionism and pass this bill."


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