The Suburbanite
  • Officials explain their votes on fiscal-cliff deal

  • In the end, Stark County’s three congressmen sided with the majority of their caucuses on the fiscal cliff vote. The two Republicans were among most House Republicans who voted against the agreement to prevent automatic tax increases. And the Democrat was with the majority of Democrats who voted for it.

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  • Stark County’s three congressmen sided with the majority of their caucuses on their 11th hour votes Tuesday on the controversial fiscal cliff deal, which nearly fell apart.
    The delegation’s two Republicans, Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Bob Gibbs of Lakeville voted against the bill. Democrat Tim Ryan of Niles voted for it.
    The House approved the deal 257 to 167 around 11 p.m. with support from a majority of Democrats but only a minority of Republicans. Renacci and Gibbs were among the 151 Republicans who refused to back the deal though House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester was one of the 85 Republicans who voted for it. Though the bill reverses the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on Tuesday, many Republicans were infuriated that the agreement did not significantly cut federal spending and allowed tax rates to rise on those earning more than $400,000 a year.
    Though he didn’t have the support of most Republicans, Boehner allowed the bill to come to a vote to prevent his caucus from being blamed for an immediate, significant increase in nearly every working American’s taxes, as the Bush tax cuts expired with the arrival of the New Year. Adding to the pressure, Senate Democrats said they would not consider an amended bill and if the deal died, negotiations would have to reset with the start of the new 113th Congress on Thursday.
    Renacci said he voted against the bill because it did nothing to address excessive federal spending, the growing deficit, the complicated tax code, the debt ceiling issue, funding the federal government through September and automatic across-the-board federal budget cuts.
    “At the end of the day, this legislation just didn’t fix the problem,” he said. “We have a spending addiction. I couldn’t in good conscience vote for a package that didn’t reform our broken tax code and didn’t set us on a course to a sustainable fiscal future. ... we’re still spending more than is coming in here. We’re still borrowing 40 cents on each dollar.”
    He said he liked that the deal made the Bush tax cuts permanent for those earning less than $400,000, kept the estate tax exemption at $5 million and prevents most Americans from being affected by the alternative minimum tax. But he said those could have been part of a package that reformed the federal tax system.
    Renacci said he might have supported the deal if it got increased revenue by reducing loopholes rather than increasing rates and had used the money from increased revenue to pay down the debt. Much of the revenue funds the five-year extension of tax credits, the patch to the alternative minimum tax, extended federal unemployment benefits and maintaining doctor Medicare reimbursement rates. Renacci also blasted the bill because he said it contains provisions giving tax credits to special interest groups like the film industry, NASCAR, electrical scooter companies, railroads and asparagus growers.
    Page 2 of 3 - Renacci said he would have voted against Boehner’s “Plan B” a couple of weeks ago that would allow taxes to increase for those earning more than $1 million because “my biggest issue with Plan B was the Senate said it was not taking it up.”
    Opposition by House Republicans last month scuttled “Plan B,” moving Boehner to the sidelines of the fiscal cliff negotiations as he could not assure his caucus could support anything he might negotiate with President Barack Obama. Senate leaders then took the lead in the talks.
    Gibbs, whose office would not say if he would have backed “Plan B,” said in a statement about the fiscal cliff deal, “this bill raised taxes on many Americans and job creators, and does not address the country’s most dire spending problem. ... this country’s deficit spending is unsustainable. Passing a bill without addressing it is downright irresponsible and will ultimately lead to less economic opportunities and more hardships. This legislation does nothing to balance the budget, and worse, it serves as a punishment to hardworking Americans who have developed successful businesses.”
    Gibbs said he favored keeping the Bush tax cuts for everyone and repealing the alternative minimum tax.
    While Ryan would have liked higher tax rates for those earning more than $200,000 not just those earning more than $400,000, he said because it prevents an income tax hike on 98 percent of Americans, “it’s something I can live with to get a deal. ... you’re not going to get everything you want.”
    He said if the tax cuts had been allowed to expire all at once, “it would have been a collapse. We would have a lot of families in Akron and Youngstown that would have taken a severe hit who would have had thousands of dollars taken out of their paychecks throughout the year.”
    Ryan said with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, time ran out to negotiate a bigger agreement to cut federal spending. He expects those discussions will continue as Capitol Hill leaders negotiate on preventing automatic across-the-board cuts and a possible debt default by March if Congress doesn’t raise the debt limit.
    Both Renacci and Ryan accepted that the deal allowed the Social Security 2 percent payroll tax cut, which was funded by the deficit, to expire.
    “That was temporary stimulus that took money out of the Social Security trust fund to try to stimulate the economy. It appears it didn’t work,” Renacci said. “At some point in time, we have to make sure we’re funding our Social Security trust fund properly.”
    Ryan said while he would have liked to have seen the tax break extended another year, its expiration was “a necessary evil” because it was meant to be an “emergency measure” to stimulate the economy. And a return to the old rate of 6.2 percent would “buttress the Social Security system.”
    Page 3 of 3 - SENATE TAKES LEAD
    The late night House vote came after the U.S. Senate approved the legislation 89 to 8 by a large bipartisan majority about ninety minutes after the ball dropped in Times Square. When it seemed on Saturday that an agreement to prevent the end of the Bush tax cuts on New Year’s Day and a possible recession was likely dead, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Vice President Joe Biden were able to hammer out a deal by late New Year’s Eve. Both of Ohio’s senators, Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, and Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, voted to approve it.
    Portman said in a statement that “I supported the fiscal cliff agreement because it stops huge tax increases from being imposed on the overwhelming majority of Ohio’s families and job creators.”
    Brown said in a statement the deal wasn’t perfect but it was a “down payment in reducing the deficit ... by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. Moving forward, I’ll be working to ensure that future deficit reduction efforts are based around shared sacrifice rather than balancing the budget on the backs of seniors, middle class families, and working Americans.”

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