Lawmakers defend yea, nay votes on fiscal cliff bill
HUNTINGTON -- Those representing West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky in Congress were divided on the fiscal cliff legislation that passed both the House and Senate this week.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 passed the Senate, 89-8, in the early hours of Jan. 1. The House convened later on the first day of the year and voted 257-167 in favor of the bill, just prior to 11 p.m.
Locally, the bill was supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. But several Republicans voted against it, including Rep. Shelly Moore Capito from West Virginia.
Capito, who said she will seek the Senate seat now held by Jay Rockefeller in 2014, released a statement that said the bill did not address the "nation's out-of-control spending and record deficit."
"There is nothing balanced about the bill passed by the Senate early this morning. The last-minute, haphazard process led to an unbalanced bill that includes no substantial reductions in spending and actually adds $3.9 trillion to our deficit," she said.
Capito also was critical of her fellow lawmakers for waiting until the last minute to get a deal done. Her fellow Republican, West Virginia Rep. David McKinley, joined her in voting against the bill.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also was critical of the bill. But he voted for it because it averted a major tax burden for most people.
"This is not the 'big fix' I want, but it's the best we can do at this late hour," Manchin said in a statement. "The fact is, this deal is the flawed product of a broken process that puts politics ahead of people. And it sets us up for more dangerous political gamesmanship in the months ahead.
"But the bottom line is this last-minute deal guarantees that the paychecks of middle class Americans won't take a big hit from higher taxes on New Year's Day, and it protects more than 99 percent of all West Virginians."
Rockefeller and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., also released statements Wednesday about the bill, which they both supported. Rahall said the legislation was important because it saved working and middle-class families from tax increases. But he said it's only a first step in turning around the country's financial problems.
"We should be making incremental progress toward cutting the deficit while protecting priorities like job creation," Rahall said. "We cannot wait indefinitely for an elusive grand bargain that addresses everything at once. Certainly, we should eliminate wasteful spending where we can, and I have voted for some painful spending cuts, including last year's Budget Control Act that cut spending by $1 trillion. But we also must look at costly tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that are simply unaffordable and serve limited benefit for working-class families and small businesses."
Added Rockefeller: "This deal is by no means perfect, but it fully protects middle class tax cuts, reinstates Clinton-era tax rates for the very wealthy, and extends several tax credits that are crucial to low-income families throughout West Virginia. Through these strong actions, we can begin to close the historic income divide that has plagued our nation for decades."
Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican whose district includes Lawrence County, Ohio, voted for the bill. But he, too, was adamant that there is plenty of work to be done.
"Washington has a spending problem that threatens the prosperity of our children and grandchildren," Johnson said in a statement. "Now that an agreement has been reached to prevent going over the fiscal cliff and permanently cut taxes on 99 percent of the American people, the table has been cleared to tackle the out-of-control federal spending that has amassed a $16 trillion national debt head-on."
Both of Ohio's representatives in the U.S. Senate -- Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown -- voted for the bill.
In Kentucky, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has publicly opposed President Obama, helped craft and voted in favor of the bill. Sen. Rand Paul, also a Republican, opposed it.
Kentucky District 4 Rep. Thomas Massie and District 5 Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers, both Republicans, were split on the bill. Massie voted against, while Rogers voted for it.