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January 2, 2013

UPDATE: Most Indiana House members oppose fiscal cliff deal

While the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation late Tuesday night to avert automatic “fiscal cliff” tax hikes and spending cuts by a 257-167 margin, the Indiana delegation largely said “no” to the plan.

The only Hoosier rep to buck the party line was Democrat Pete Visclosky, who voted against the compromise deal. Republicans Larry Bucshon, Mike Pence (Indiana’s governor-elect), Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young all voted “no” to the package, aimed at preventing broad spending cuts to military and domestic programs and automatic tax hikes on nearly all Americans.

Democrats Andre Carson and Joe Donnelly (the U.S. senator-elect) voted yes. Retiring Republican Dan Burton did not vote.

Among the Illinois delegation in the House, Wabash Valley Republicans Tim Johnson (19th District) and John Shimkus (15th District) also voted in favor of the agreement.

The bipartisan Senate legislation, which passed that chamber overwhelmingly by a vote of 89-8, also delays by two months the implementation of the automatic sequester spending cuts, setting up debates over alternative reductions in government spending.

Bucshon referenced President Obama’s re-election campaign in explaining his “no” vote, saying in a statement, “The president ran on a platform of more taxes, more spending and more government and he won. Unfortunately, the American people will have to pay the price with larger deficits, increased government power and intrusion in their lives, and slower growth.”

He also said: “While I want to keep tax rates as low as possible for all Americans, the fiscal cliff deal passed by the United States Senate fails to address our most pressing problem — reducing out-of-control spending. This plan has $41 dollars in tax increases for every $1 in spending cuts. It is not balanced in any way and will not improve our economy or reduce the deficit.”

Overall in the House, 151 Republicans voted against the Senate bill, while 85 supported it. Those voting “yes” included House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Among Hoosiers, Rokita took a hard line in his opposition. “I opposed this bill because we have a spending problem, and the deal sent over by the Senate makes it worse,” Rokita said in a statement. “I will not consign our children to a debtors’ prison just to block President Obama’s tax hikes.”

Donnelly, who will fill outgoing Sen. Richard Lugar’s seat this month, acknowledged the bill’s flaws in explaining his “yes” vote in the House. In a statement, Donnelly said, “I voted for the bipartisan, Senate-passed compromise because it preserves low tax rates for 98 percent of families and 97 percent of small businesses. It is far from perfect, as I would have preferred to keep low rates for everyone for one year while our economy continues to recover, but the American people deserve a Congress that is willing to compromise to get things done.”

The legislation extends current tax rates for Americans, except individuals earning more than $400,000 in annual income and couples earning above $450,000 annually, and makes permanent capital gain, estate tax and inflation-rate indexing for the Alternative Minimum Tax. It also preserves the $1,000 child tax credit and marriage-penalty relief. Those steps were cited as the positives that prompted Shimkus to join 84 fellow Republicans who voted for the bill.

“Maintaining the current tax rates is important for both families and the economy,” Shimkus said in a statement.

The automatic tax increases and spending cuts are a consequence of congressional gridlock on budget resolutions. The agreement passes the detailed deliberations on spending from the 112th Congress to the 113th, which takes over Thursday.

Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or

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