WASHINGTON -- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted against beginning debate on a measure that would have the Senate declare the rich should share the pain of debt reduction Thursday, a day after arguing that it's the poor and middle class who need to do more.
"I hear how they're so caring for the poor and so forth," Hatch said in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, in reference to Democrats. "The poor need jobs! And they also need to share some of the responsibility."
Hatch's comments were aimed at a motion that passed 74 to 22 to start debating a non-binding resolution that says millionaires and billionaires should play a more meaningful role in reducing the nation's debt.
Just one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), voted against having the debate. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who had previously called the resolution "rather pathetic," nevertheless voted to move ahead on it.
But it was Hatch whose remarks Wednesday raised the idea that the wealthy are already doing too much, even as the nation's effective tax rates are at modern lows since the Bush administration slashed rates in 2001 and 2003. In his view, it seems, the middle class and poor should be picking up the slack.
"The top 1 percent of the so-called wealthy pay 38 percent of all income tax. The top 10 percent are paying 70 percent of all income tax," Hatch said. "The top 50 percent pay somewhere near 98 percent of all income taxes. 51 percent don't pay anything," Hatch said, suggesting the payroll taxes that the poor and middle classes pay towards Social Security yields them an especially generous benefit.
"Democrats say they [the 51 percent] pay payroll taxes. Well, everybody does that because that's Social Security. They pay about one-third of what they're going to take out over the years in social security," Hatch railed. "Obamacare -- a family of four earning over $80,000 a year -- gets subsidies. Think about that. That's what we call the poor?"
Hatch hedged that the the poorest of the poor shouldn't have to pay taxes. But he was clear that people who qualify for subsidies because they can't afford things like health care should dig deeper.
"Now, we don't want the really poor people who are in poverty to have to pay income taxes," he said. "But 51% of all households. And that's going up, by the way, because of our friend down in the White House and his allies."