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Mr. President, this is a historic day, as the Senate begins consideration of tax reform that will help boost America’s economy, create more jobs, and leave more money in people’s paychecks.

The House and Senate passage last month of the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget resolution marked an important first step toward tax relief for American families and job-creators that will jumpstart economic growth. The resolution gave the Senate Finance Committee the head-room to come up with comprehensive tax reform and instructed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to save $1 billion.

Finance Committee Chairman Hatch and Energy Committee Chairwoman Murkowski both deserve praise for developing legislative recommendations that comport with the budget resolution’s reconciliation instructions, and I thank them for their efforts.

Yesterday, the Senate Budget Committee took the next step by combining the legislative recommendations from the Finance and Energy and Natural Resources Committees and reporting the combined bill to the full Senate for consideration. This put our nation one step closer to real tax reform while advancing American energy security.

It is past time for us to act.  A lot of things have changed since the last major tax reform in 1986, and unfortunately, our tax code hasn’t kept pace with those changes.  It is an outdated mess that is hurting American workers and holding our economy back. That is why we need tax reform that will make our system simpler and fairer and allow people to keep more of what they earn.

The bill before us will do that. It will help grow the economy, create jobs, and ensure that hardworking Americans aren’t missing available tax relief.

This bill also will provide relief to small, family-owned businesses. We want to make sure that small businesses, which currently employ the majority of the private sector in Wyoming and are the backbone of our communities, have the opportunity to grow and provide more jobs.

If you care about jobs, if you care about American companies staying here and being able to compete globally, then you should also care about reforming our business tax system. America has the fourth highest corporate tax rate in the world. We need to encourage companies to bring back their overseas money to increase the number of jobs here in the United States. Lowering our uncommonly high and uncompetitive business tax rate would be one of the quickest ways to solve the problem. It’s time we make America a more inviting place to invest, do business, and create jobs.

We heard a lot of rhetoric yesterday in our committee meeting to report this bill, and I expect we will be hearing a lot more of the same arguments over the next couple of days.  So I want to address some of the claims made by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle yesterday.

Several members complained that there have been zero hearings on this reconciliation legislation and that this has been a rushed process – nothing could be farther from the truth.

The entire FY 2018 budget reconciliation process has been open, transparent, and subject to regular order, starting with the passage of the Senate budget resolution. The Senate Budget Committee marked up the budget over two days and accepted amendments from both sides of the aisle to make the resolution stronger.  In fact, for the first time ever, the minority was given a copy of the Chairman’s Mark five days prior to the start of our markup.  According to many of my colleagues, it was one of the most transparent budget resolution markups in history

The budget resolution, complete with the reconciliation instructions being used this week, was then debated on the floor in an open process that allowed every Senator the opportunity to offer and vote on amendments to improve the resolution before its final passage.

This set in motion the instructed committees’ process for producing recommendations.

Over the last six years, the Senate Finance Committee has held 70 hearings on how the tax code can be improved and streamlined to work better for all Americans.

Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee held a four-day markup before finally approving tax reform legislation designed to modernize our tax code. The markup lasted 23 hours and 34 minutes over the course of those four days. Of the more than 350 amendments filed, 69 were considered in committee. An additional 35 amendments, offered by both Democrats and Republicans, were included in the final bill reported out of committee.

On November 2nd, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to receive testimony on the potential for oil and gas exploration and development in the so-called “1002 [Ten-Oh-Two] Area” of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. 

And on November 15th, after adopting a bipartisan amendment, the Committee approved with bipartisan support legislation authorizing responsible development in the Ten-Oh-Two area and meeting the $1 billion reconciliation deficit reduction target.  Let me explain what we are talking about here, Mr. President: ANWR is 19.3 million acres – about the size of South Carolina.  The Ten-Oh-Two Area is 1.57 million acres – about the size of Delaware.  And the area within Ten-Oh-Two that we are talking about for development, just 2,000 acres, is smaller than the Fargo, North Dakota airport.

When the Budget Committee met yesterday, consistent with our responsibility under the Congressional Budget Act, we were only allowed to combine the recommendations of these two committees and reported the combined bill to the full Senate.  As provided by law, no amendments were allowed because under the Budget Act, our committee is prohibited from substantively changing either committee’s approved recommendations.  Now that this bill is on the floor, however, it will be subject to an open amendment process. For reconciliation bills like this, the amount of amendments that can be offered is unlimited.

Several members yesterday accused us of no longer caring about overspending and the debt. Again – this is completely false.  Better tax policy will boost the value of everything we produce, and this will mean more revenue for the federal government.

The cost of this bill that you will hear my colleagues on the other side of the aisle argue assumes the bill has little effect on the economy.  That assumption is based on the sluggish growth we’ve had recently: in 2016, annual GDP growth was 1.6%.    But Mr. President, our historical average growth is 3.2%, and under this President’s efforts and the hope he’s brought to working Americans, our economy has grown at more than 3% the last two quarters.  If we only get to 2.4% growth in the private sector, this bill will be paid for.  And if we reach 3.2% growth, part of the debt will be paid down from the extra revenue that will be generated!

This reconciliation bill will make concrete reforms to the broken U.S. tax code and put the American economy back on a growth track. This tax plan is an investment in hardworking Americans – one that will produce more jobs, higher wages and a stronger and more competitive American economy.

I look forward to working my colleagues to help pass this bill that will not only benefit hardworking Americans, but will make our economy and country stronger.

Thank you, Mr. President, I yield the floor.