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Mr. President, I'd like to speak today about the critical situation in which millions of American families and small businesses find themselves.  On January first, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire.  Tax increases on struggling small businesses or on families who are just getting by would be devastating to them and to our economy. 

At the same time, we face another growing problem.  Our national debt is now approaching 14 trillion dollars.  And it's approaching that number quickly.  To address this problem, I joined 12 Democrats and 15 Republicans, including my New Hampshire colleague, Senator Gregg, in cosponsoring legislation to establish a national commission on fiscal responsibility and reform.  Although that legislation failed, earlier this week a similar debt reduction commission issued its report, and the findings are sobering.  We need to take dramatic action to reduce our debt.

But today, we confront an economy that is still recovering from a deep recession.  Now is not the time to raise taxes on middle-class Americans. 

Senator Baucus has proposed a plan that makes sense. It keeps taxes low on middle class Americans and makes some smart targeted tax cuts. For example, I'm a strong supporter of the the research and development tax credit.  When companies invest in developing new technology, they generate high-paying jobs and solutions that change our world for the better.  Investment in research and development plants seeds that will grow our economy for decades to come.  I believe we should make the R and D tax credit permanent. I'm pleased Senator Baucus' plan extends it for two years.

This plan also reauthorizes federal unemployment benefits, one of the best things we can do to help average Americans and stimulate our economy.  This money won't sit quietly in millionaires' savings accounts; it will get spent immediately in local grocery stores, pharmacies and other small businesses that need it most.  In fact, conservative economist Mark Zandi, a former advisor to Senator McCain, has cited unemployment insurance as one of the three most effective uses of federal funding.  According to his analysis, every dollar we invest today will create a dollar and sixty-one cents in economic growth. 

I think it would be great if we could just give everybody a tax cut and not worry about the consequences, but we don't have that luxury.  Tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent will cost America 700 billion dollars over the next decade. 

Let me be clear, I don't think we should heap another 700 billion dollars onto our national debt.  It isn't fair to our children and it isn't wise for the economy. 

But I think we need to move forward and provide certainty for taxpayers, and that takes compromise, so I am also willing to vote for Senator Schumer's plan to extend tax cuts for everyone except those who make over $1 million a year.

I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will come together and negotiate a package that is responsible with taxpayer dollars, stimulates our economy, and protects middle-class Americans.