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Joseph Lieberman on Tax Reform

Democratic Jr Senator (CT, retiring 2012), ran for V.P. with Gore, ran for president 2004


New tax cuts to 95% of taxpayers

Q: Which of the tax cuts enacted in 2001 would you change, if any?

A: Here’s what I’ll do: Repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy; maintain the tax cuts for the middle class, including the increase in the child tax credit and elimination of the marriage penalty; cut taxes for 98 percent of taxpayers; restore the dividend tax that Bush repealed; reform the estate tax that Bush repealed; eliminate wasteful corporate loopholes and subsidies that Bush has protected.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “Taxes” , Jan 25, 2004

Tax the richest 2% to pay for a tax cut to the other 98%

I have come out for genuine tax reform, not only to protect the middle-class tax cuts that middle-class families did get in the last three years, but to pass a tax cut for 98% of the income tax payers and to pay for it by raising taxes on the [other] 2%. That may make some of the higher-income people unhappy, but it’s the right thing to do for the middle class and for our economy.
Source: Democratic 2004 Primary Debate at St. Anselm College , Jan 22, 2004

Fresh Start on tax cuts for 98% of all taxpayers

In a new 30-second TV ad, Lieberman says that the campaign should be about “expanded access to health care, tax cuts for 98% of taxpayers and deficit reduction to protect Social Security. That would be a fresh start,” Lieberman says.

The ad is the 3rd of his campaign. As in the others, Lieberman talks directly into the camera while sitting in a diner. Lieberman’s earlier ads touted his reputation for moral certitude, criticized Republicans’ tax proposals and assailed Bush’s postwar policies in Iraq.

Source: Liz Sidoti, Associated Press in Washington Post , Nov 14, 2003

Tax fairness & tax relief for the middle class, not the rich

Q: What will you do with the Bush tax cuts?

A: Unlike some of my Democratic opponents I would not repeal all of the Bush tax cuts. I would keep the ones that help the middle class and those trying to get into it including the child care tax credit and the reduction in the marital tax penalty. But I would repeal the tax cuts on higher income Americans. I am the only candidate who is proposing tax reform and tax fairness and that means a new tax cut for 98% of income tax payers, which is most of the middle class that really needs help today. Unlike Bush, I would favor these tax cuts by putting a surtax on the highest income Americans. That would be real tax fairness and tax relief for the middle class.

Source: Concord Monitor / WashingtonPost.com on-line Q&A , Nov 3, 2003

Repeal Bush tax cuts on highest income Americans

Q: No new taxes under a Lieberman administration?

LIEBERMAN: No, [no such promise]. And immediately as president, I would attempt to repeal the Bush tax cuts on the highest income Americans, they don’t need it. It sent us in a deficit that will cost the middle class, and our children and grandchildren, all sorts of money in the future.

Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan , Sep 25, 2003

Gore’s tax credits acknowledge existing needs

CHENEY [to Lieberman]: Especially in the area of taxation, we want to make certain that the American people have the ability to keep more of what they earn and then they get to decide how to spend it. Gore’s proposal, basically, doesn’t do that. It, in effect, lays out some 29 separate tax credits. And if you live your life the way they want you to live your life, if you do in fact behave in a certain way, then you qualify for a tax credit and at that point you get some relief.

LIEBERMAN: This is an important difference between us. We’re focusing our tax cuts on the middle class, in the areas where they tell us they need it. One of those many tax credits for the middle class that Dick just referred to, includes a $500 tax credit for stay-at-home moms, just as a way of saying we understand that you are performing a service for our society, we want you to have that tax credit.

Source: Vice-presidential debate , Oct 5, 2000

Exciting tax credits for health, elder care, & retirement

Source: Vice-presidential debate , Oct 5, 2000

Tax cuts for working families, not the wealthy

This is a question of priorities. Our opponents want to use America’s hard-earned surplus to give a tax break to those who need it least at the expense of all our other needs. Under their plan, the middle class gets a little... and the wealthy get a lot. Their tax plan operates under that old theory that the best way to feed the birds is to give more oats to the horse. We see the surplus through a different set of eyes the eyes of working middle-class families.
Source: Speech to the Democrat Convention , Aug 16, 2000

Cut capital gains tax; it has helped economy

Because I have always believed that tax policy can influence economic behavior and I was troubled by the lack of capital investment in our economy during the late 1980s and early 1990s, I supported a cut in the capital gains tax. I co-sponsored the capital gains tax cut which finally passed in 1997. I believe the record shows it has helped to keep the American economy growing.
Source: Excerpt from “In Praise of Public Life”, p.132-3 , May 2, 2000

$792B tax cut is premature and unrealistic

Sounding an alarm about the harmful impact a major tax cut could have on the US economy at this time, Lieberman [opposes] the $792 billion tax cut.. Lieberman, a long-time supporter of reducing taxes, said this tax cut is premature, premised on unrealistic budgetary assumptions, and could take the government back into lasting deficits. As a result, Lieberman will offer an amendment to strike all of the language in the Republican tax bill and postpone any tax cut until at least next year.
Source: Press Release, “Postponing Tax Cuts” , Jul 28, 1999

Voted YES on increasing tax rate for people earning over $1 million.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To put children ahead of millionaires and billionaires by restoring the pre-2001 top income tax rate for people earning over $1 million, and use this revenue to invest in LIHEAP; IDEA; Head Start; Child Care; nutrition; school construction and deficit reduction.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. SANDERS: The wealthiest people in the country have not had it so good since the 1920s. Their incomes are soaring, while at the same time the middle class is shrinking, and we have by far the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. The time is now to begin changing our national priorities and moving this country in a different direction.

This amendment restores the top income tax bracket for households earning more than $1 million a year, it raises $32.5 billion over 3 years, and invests that in our kids, including $10 billion for special education. OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. KYL: The problem is we are spending the same dollar 3 or 4 times, it appears. The Sanders amendment is paid for by raising taxes another $32.5 billion, ostensibly from the rich; that is to say, by raising taxes on people who make over $1 million a year. Here is the problem with that. The budget on the floor already assumes the expiration of the current tax rates; that is to say, the rates on the highest level go from 35% to 39.6%, and that money is spent. If you took all the top-rate income, you would come up with $25 billion a year, not even enough to meet what is here, and that money has already been spent. The reality is somewhere or other, somehow, more taxes would have to be raised. I don't think the American people want to do that, particularly in the current environment. LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 43-55

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4218 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S064 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted NO on allowing AMT reduction without budget offset.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:To exempt from pay-as-you-go enforcement modifications to the individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) that prevent millions of additional taxpayers from having to pay the AMT.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. GRASSLEY: The Senate voted to make sure that middle-class America didn't pay the AMT, and we did it without an offset, by a vote of [about 95%]. So here we are again with an opportunity to say to middle-class America that we are not going to tax the people who were not supposed to be hit by the AMT. This amendment gives us an opportunity to get over that hurdle that is in this budget resolution that, under pay-go, you would have to have an offset for the AMT. Unless my amendment is adopted, the 25 million families who will be hit by the AMT increase will get a tax increase of over $2,000 apiece. They deserve a guarantee of relief.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. CONRAD: If you want to blow a hole in the budget as big as all outdoors, here is your opportunity--a trillion dollars not paid for, a trillion dollars that we are going to go out and borrow from the Chinese and Japanese. That makes absolutely no sense. I urge my colleagues to vote no.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 47-51

Reference: Bill S.Amdt.4276 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S078 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted NO on raising the Death Tax exemption to $5M from $1M.

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY:To protect small businesses, family ranches and farms from the Death Tax by providing a $5 million exemption, a low rate for smaller estates and a maximum rate no higher than 35%.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. KYL: This amendment is a reprise of what we did last year in offering to reform the estate tax, sometimes referred to as the death tax. Now, in the budget itself, there is a provision to allow the death tax to be changed from the current law to a top rate of 45% and an exempted amount of $3.5 million, and there are some other features. My amendment would reduce that top rate to no higher than 35% so that if you had more than one rate, at least the top rate could not exceed 35%, and both of the two spouses would have a $5 million exempted amount before the estate tax would kick in. Now, the reason for my amendment is: current law [is] getting up to a high rate of 55% and an exempted amount of either $2 million or $1 million, probably $1 million--a continued unfair burden on primarily America's small businesses and farms.

OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. CONRAD: This amendment would virtually eliminate the estate tax. Let me say why. Let me first say there is no death tax in the country. Of course, if you poll people and you ask them: Do you want to eliminate the death tax? they will say sure. But you are not going to pay any tax when you die unless you have $2 million. There is no death tax in America. There is a tax on estates. At today's level of $2 million, that affects only 0.5% of estates. When the exemption reaches $3.5 million in 2009, 0.2% of estates will be taxed. If the amendment is agreed to, we would be borrowing money in the name of 99.8% of the American people, borrowing primarily from China & Japan, to give it to the Warren Buffets, the Paris Hiltons, & others of enormous wealth in this country.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 50-50

Reference: Kyl Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.4191 to S.Con.Res.70 ; vote number 08-S050 on Feb 13, 2008

Voted NO on repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Amendment would accommodate the full repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax, preventing 23 million families and individuals from being subject to the AMT in 2007, and millions of families and individuals in subsequent years.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This amendment repeals the AMT. Except for the telephone tax, the alternative minimum tax is the phoniest tax we have ever passed. The AMT, in 1969, was meant to hit 155 taxpayers who used legal means to avoid taxation, under the theory that everybody ought to pay some income tax.

This very year, more than 2,000 people who are very wealthy are not paying any income tax or alternative minimum income tax. So it is not even working and hitting the people it is supposed to hit. Right now, this year, 2007, the year we are in, there are 23 million families that are going to be hit by this tax. It is a phony revenue machine, over 5 years, $467 billion dollars. We are going to have to have a point of order this year to keep these 23 million taxpayers from paying this tax. We might as well do away with it right now, once and for all, and be honest about it.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

The reality of the budget resolution is this may not have anything to do with eliminating the alternative minimum tax. The one thing it will do is reduce the revenue of the Government over the next 5 years by $533 billion, plunging us right back into deficit. Look, we can deal with the AMT. We have dealt with it in the underlying budget resolution for the next 2 years. There will be no increase in the number of people affected by the AMT for the next 2 years under the budget resolution, and that is paid for. Unfortunately, this amendment is not paid for. It would plunge us back into deficit. I urge my colleagues to vote no.

Reference: Grassley Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.471 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-108 on Mar 23, 2007

Voted NO on raising estate tax exemption to $5 million.

An amendment to raise the death tax exemption to $5 million; reducing the maximum death tax rate to 35%; and to promote economic growth by extending the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

It is disappointing to many family businesses and farm owners to set the death tax rate at what I believe is a confiscatory 45% and set the exemption at only $3.5 million, which most of us believe is too low. This leaves more than 22,000 families subject to the estate tax each year.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

You can extend all the tax breaks that have been described in this amendment if you pay for them. The problem with the amendment is that over $70 billion is not paid for. It goes on the deficit, which will drive the budget right out of balance. We will be going right back into the deficit ditch. Let us resist this amendment. People could support it if it was paid for, but it is not. However well intended the amendment is, it spends $72.5 billion with no offset. This amendment blows the budget. This amendment takes us from a balance in 2012 right back into deficit. My colleagues can extend those tax cuts if they pay for them, if they offset them. This amendment does not pay for them; it does not offset them; it takes us back into deficit. It ought to be defeated.

Reference: Kyl Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.507 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-083 on Mar 21, 2007

Voted NO on permanently repealing the `death tax`.

A cloture motion ends debate and forces a vote on the issue. In this case, voting YES implies support for permanently repealing the death tax. Voting against cloture would allow further amendments. A cloture motion requires a 3/5th majority to pass. This cloture motion failed, and there was therefore no vote on repealing the death tax.
Reference: Death Tax Repeal Permanency Act; Bill HR 8 ; vote number 2006-164 on Jun 8, 2006

Voted YES on $47B for military by repealing capital gains tax cut.

To strengthen America's military, to repeal the extension of tax rates for capital gains and dividends, to reduce the deficit, and for other purposes. Specifically, a YES vote would appropriate $47 billion to the military and would pay for it by repealing the extension of tax cuts for capital gains and dividends to 2010 back to 2008. The funds wuold be used as follows:
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill S Amdt 2737 to HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-008 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted NO on retaining reduced taxes on capital gains & dividends.

Vote to reduce federal spending by $56.1 billion over five years by retaining a reduced tax rate on capital gains and dividends, as well as.
Status: Bill passed Bill passed, 66-31
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill HR 4297 ; vote number 2006-010 on Feb 2, 2006

Voted NO on extending the tax cuts on capital gains and dividends.

This large piece of legislation (418 pages) includes numerous provisions, generally related to extending the tax cuts initiated by President Bush. This vote was on final passage of the bill. The specific provisions include:
  1. Extension Of Expiring Provisions: for business expenses, retirement savings contributions, higher education expenses, new markets tax credit, and deducting state and local sales taxes.
  2. Provisions Relating To Charitable Donations, and Reforming Charitable Organizations
  3. Improved Accountability of Donor Advised Funds
  4. Improvements in Efficiency and Safeguards in IRS Collection
Reference: Tax Relief Act of 2005; Bill S. 2020 ; vote number 2005-347 on Nov 18, 2005

Voted NO on $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years.

H.R. 2 Conference Report; Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. Vote to adopt the conference report on the bill that would make available $350 billion in tax breaks over 11 years. It would provide $20 billion in state aid that consists of $10 billion for Medicaid and $10 billion to be used at states' judgment. The agreement contains a new top tax rate of 15 percent on capital gains and dividends through 2007 (5 percent for lower-income taxpayers in 2007 and no tax in 2008). Income tax cuts enacted in 2001 and planned to take effect in 2006 would be accelerated. The child tax credit would be raised to $1,000 through 2004. The standard deduction for married couples would be double that for a single filer through 2004. Tax breaks for businesses would include expanding the deduction that small businesses could take on investments to $100,000 through 2005.
Reference: Bill HR.2 ; vote number 2003-196 on May 23, 2003

Voted YES on reducing marriage penalty instead of cutting top tax rates.

Vote to expand the standard deduction and 15% income tax bracket for couples. The elimination of the "marriage penalty" tax would be offset by reducing the marginal tax rate reductions for the top two rate bracket
Reference: Bill HR 1836 ; vote number 2001-112 on May 17, 2001

Voted YES on increasing tax deductions for college tuition.

Vote to increase the tax deduction for college tuition costs from $5,000 to $12,000 and increase the tax credit on student loan interest from $500 to $1,000. The expense would be offset by limiting the cut in the top estate tax rate to 53%.
Reference: Bill HR 1836 ; vote number 2001-114 on May 17, 2001

Voted NO on eliminating the 'marriage penalty'.

Vote on a bill that would reduce taxes on married couples by increasing their standard deduction to twice that of single taxpayers and raise the income limits on both the 15 percent and 28 percent tax brackets for married couples to twice that of singles
Reference: Bill HR.4810 ; vote number 2000-215 on Jul 18, 2000

Voted NO on phasing out the estate tax ("death tax").

Vote on a bill that would eventually eliminate the tax imposed on estates and gifts by 2010 at an estimated cost of $75 billion annually when fully phased in.
Reference: Bill HR 8 ; vote number 2000-197 on Jul 14, 2000

Voted NO on across-the-board spending cut.

The Nickles (R-OK) Amdendment would express the sense of the Senate that Congress should adopt an across-the-board cut in all discretionary funding, to prevent the plundering of the Social Security Trust Fund
Status: Amdt. Agreed to Y)54; N)46
Reference: Nickles Amdt #1889; Bill S. 1650 ; vote number 1999-313 on Oct 6, 1999

Voted NO on requiring super-majority for raising taxes.

Senator Kyl (R-AZ) offered an amendment to the 1999 budget resolution to express the sense of the Senate on support for a Constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority to pass tax increases.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)50; N)48; NV)2
Reference: Kyl Amdt #2221; Bill S Con Res 86 ; vote number 1998-71 on Apr 2, 1998

Rated 15% by NTU, indicating a "Big Spender" on tax votes.

Lieberman scores 15% by NTU on tax-lowering policies

Every year National Taxpayers Union (NTU) rates U.S. Representatives and Senators on their actual votes—every vote that significantly affects taxes, spending, debt, and regulatory burdens on consumers and taxpayers. NTU assigned weights to the votes, reflecting the importance of each vote’s effect. NTU has no partisan axe to grind. All Members of Congress are treated the same regardless of political affiliation. Our only constituency is the overburdened American taxpayer. Grades are given impartially, based on the Taxpayer Score. The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a Member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers. The Taxpayer Score can range between zero and 100. We do not expect anyone to score a 100, nor has any legislator ever scored a perfect 100 in the multi-year history of the comprehensive NTU scoring system. A high score does not mean that the Member of Congress was opposed to all spending or all programs. High-scoring Members have indicated that they would vote for many programs if the amount of spending were lower. A Member who wants to increase spending on some programs can achieve a high score if he or she votes for offsetting cuts in other programs. A zero score would indicate that the Member of Congress approved every spending proposal and opposed every pro-taxpayer reform.

Source: NTU website 03n-NTU on Dec 31, 2003

Rated 80% by the CTJ, indicating support of progressive taxation.

Lieberman scores 80% by the CTJ on taxationissues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 CTJ scores as follows:

About CTJ (from their website, www.ctj.org):

Citizens for Tax Justice, founded in 1979, is not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact upon our nation. CTJ's mission is to give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws. Against the armies of special interest lobbyists for corporations and the wealthy, CTJ fights for:

Source: CTJ website 06n-CTJ on Dec 31, 2006

Other candidates on Tax Reform: Joseph Lieberman on other issues:
CT Gubernatorial:
Dan Malloy
CT Senatorial:
Richard Blumenthal

CT politicians

Retiring as of Jan. 2013:
AZ:Kyl(R)
CT:Lieberman(D)
HI:Akaka(D)
ND:Conrad(D)
NE:Nelson(D)
NM:Bingaman(D)
TX:Hutchison(R)
VA:Webb(D)
WI:Kohl(D)


Senate elections Nov. 2012:
AZ:Flake(R) vs.Hackbarth(R)
CA:Feinstein(D) vs.Emken(R) vs.Taitz(R)
CT:Bysiewicz(R) vs.Murphy(R) vs.Shays(R)
DE:Carper(D) vs.O`Donnell(R)
FL:Nelson(D) vs.LeMieux(R) vs.Connie Mack(R)
HI:Hirono(D) vs.Case(D)
IN:Lugar(R) vs.Mourdock(R) vs.Donnelly(D)
MA:Brown(R) vs.E.Warren(D)
MD:Cardin(D) vs.Wargotz(R) vs.Capps(R)
ME:Snowe(D) vs.D`Amboise(R)
MI:Stabenow(D) vs.Hekman(R) vs.Konetchy(R) vs.Hoekstra(R)
MN:Klobuchar(D) vs.Arwood(R) vs.Hernandez(R) vs.Severson(R)
MO:McCaskill(D) vs.Akin(R) vs.Steelman(R)
MS:Wicker(D)
MT:Tester(D) vs.Rehberg(R)
ND:Heitkamp(D) vs.Berg(R)

NE:Nelson(D) vs.Kerrey(D) vs.Flynn(R) vs.Stenberg(R) vs.Bruning(R)
NJ:Menendez(D) vs.Diakos(R) vs.Booker(D)
NM:Bingaman(D) vs.Balderas(D) vs.Sanchez(R) vs.Wilson(R) vs.Martin Heinrich(D)
NV:Heller(R) vs.Berkley(D)
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Page last updated: Feb 23, 2012