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Manchin backs bipartisan bill to extend middle-class tax cuts, end breaks for the wealthiest Americans

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., delivered a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday encouraging Congress to pass a bipartisan tax reform bill that would extend tax cuts for the middle class.

The bipartisan legislation, Manchin said, will help more than 99 percent of all West Virginians, according to statistics compiled by the West Virginia Department of Revenue.

The bill, scheduled to be voted on in the Senate Wednesday, also would close tax loopholes, cut spending and reduce debt, Manchin said.

The proposed legislation backed by Manchin will extend George W. Bush's tax cuts for households whose annual income is less than $250,000, but not for more wealthy Americans.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has long supported revoking Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest and extending them for families making less than $250,000.

An alternative bill, backed by Republicans, would extend all the Bush tax cuts, including those benefiting the wealthiest Americans. That would cost about $400 billion, Manchin said.

In his recent book, "The Price of Civilization," Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs criticized the increasing concentration of wealth at the top of American society.

Sachs urged restoring higher tax rates on the wealthiest by terminating the Bush tax cuts for households with annual incomes above $250,000.

During his speech, Manchin also argued short-term legislation will not solve our financial problems and that he will continue to work toward broader, comprehensive reform.

"As you can see -- and as West Virginians know -- we urgently need to put our country's financial house back in order, and the people of West Virginia are tired of temporary solutions to our long-term problems," Manchin said.

"As I have said so many times, I will work with both sides of the aisle -- Democrats and Republicans -- on a comprehensive solution that lowers tax rates, broadens our revenue base, closes loopholes, cuts spending and reduces our debt."

Manchin believes neither of the proposed bills "will solve our long-term debt and fiscal problems. At the same time, with our debt problem getting worse every year, we must come together to take responsible and fair steps toward reducing our debt -- even if they are only temporary."

The Republican-backed legislation, which would extend all Bush tax cuts, also contains some negative provisions for average Americans, Manchin said.

"What people don't know," Manchin said, "is that even though it would extend tax cuts for the wealthiest, it would actually get rid of some tax reductions for middle- and low-income Americans, like the expanded child tax credit. That is tremendously unfair."

Manchin expressed his continued concern about the nation's deficit, which is now approaching $16 trillion.

"For the first time since the World War II era," Manchin said, "our debt exceeds the output of our economy. Even our generals say the greatest threat this nation faces is not a foreign power or a terrorist organization -- but the debt that we have created ourselves."

Manchin said that under the legislation he endorsed Tuesday, the wealthiest Americans will be paying the same rates they paid "during Bill Clinton's presidency -- the greatest era of prosperity I can remember in my life."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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