Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Tuesday enlisted 18 Democratic senators in challenging Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to get behind a $13 billion relief package for seniors and disabled veterans, in order to “help them pay for their increased cost of living.”
As Social Security payouts could fail to rise with inflation for only the second straight year since 1975, the 19 senators – which included Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) – wrote a letter imploring the chamber’s GOP chief to put senior citizens and veterans ahead of millionaires, as they put it.
“We hope that you will agree with us that it is far more important to provide $250 in emergency relief to senior citizens and disabled veterans than it is to provide an average tax break of over $100,000 a year to taxpayers earning more than $1 million a year,” the senators said in the letter, which was e-mailed to Raw Story.
The snarky reference is to the GOP’s proposal – backed universally by Congressional Republicans – to extend the high-end Bush tax cuts on individual income above $200,000 (family income above $250,000) starting January, when they are scheduled to expire.
President Barack Obama and Democrats have seized upon this proposal to argue that Republicans are representing wealthy interests by championing the top-bracket tax cuts at a cost of roughly $700,000 – and doing so while complaining about the deficit.
“We should note that the estimated $13 billion cost of emergency relief this year to our seniors is only a fraction of the $70 billion in average annual tax breaks over the next decade that would go to the wealthiest two percent of Americans if all of these tax breaks are extended,” the letter read.
Republicans, however, claim that providing additional tax breaks for the rich would spur investment and help jumpstart the economy. Congressional Budget Office estimates say top-tier tax cuts would provide only a limited boost to the economy while notably harming the nation’s long-term budget outlook.
Apart from Sanders and Reid, the signatories to the letter include Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Begich (D-AK), Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (D-SD). It can be read in full here.
This article has been updated to report that two new Senators, Dick Durbin and Tim Johnson, have signed the letter. The information came in a late press release from Reid’s office.