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Local representatives debate cliff bill before passage
Hurt, Griffith decry debt; Warner seeks more revenue

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Americans will pay higher taxes — regardless of their income levels — after Congress enacts legislation to keep the nation from falling off the fiscal cliff, 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith predicted Tuesday.

A measure passed by the Senate early Tuesday and ratified House late that night by the House would raise taxes on family incomes exceeding $450,000 annually, according to The Associated Press.

But the measure does not extend a 2-percent payroll tax holiday that was set to expire Tuesday, said Griffith, R-Salem, who told the Bulletin before the House vote that he planned to vote no on the bill.

As a result, he said, “payroll taxes will go up slightly, but not huge,” for middle-income workers.

Also, there was “a whole slew of new taxes that came into effect (with the new year’s arrival) to pay for Obamacare” that middle-income Americans will have to pay, Griffith said, referring to presidential health care reform efforts.

The Republican-led House scrutinized the Democrat-led Senate legislation late Tuesday. Before the final vote Griffith said Republicans “couldn’t figure out how to fix it and get any kind of consensus,” on it, so it passed the House in the form approved by the Senate.

In a brief telephone interview with the Bulletin before Tuesday’s final vote, Griffith said he was concerned that the measure didn’t sufficiently address the budget deficit, adding that the bill would add an additional $30 billion in debt. For that reason combined with a lack of deeper spending cuts, he said he planned to vote against it.

“It’s just wrong to tell folks you’re going to raise revenues in part to solve the debt and deficit and then add to the debt and the deficit,” he said, adding that an extension of unemployment benefits would come without lawmakers knowing how to fund it.

“Increasing spending for programs and paying for a two-month delay of sequestration in part with new ‘revenues’ were items that I could not support,” Griffith said in a statement to the Bulletin after the vote. The measure passed by a vote of 257 to 167.

Fifth District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, praised the Senate for its efforts in an emailed statement to the Martinsville Bulletin.

“I am glad that the Senate has finally delivered its own proposal to avert this fiscal crisis by preventing many of the job-destroying tax hikes that were set to take effect,” Hurt wrote. “But at a time when we as a nation own a 16 trillion dollar debt and borrow 45 cents on every dollar we spend, this legislation does absolutely nothing to address the federal government’s spending problem — in fact it only adds to it.”

In a statement on his website, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said “the Senate has acted to avoid the immediate fiscal cliff, but this negotiated agreement does little to address our deficits and it does not raise enough revenue to put our country on a path to reduce our long-term debt.”

“In coming weeks,” he said, “we still must reach agreement on steps to generate more revenues, make additional spending cuts and strengthen and reform our entitlement programs so successful programs like Medicare and Social Security will still exist 30 years from now.”

Griffith said that despite the difficult road it took to get there, negotiations between the parties have led to some positive economic solutions.

“There are some real things in here. Some of it may be a little bit of posturing,” he said, but “there are things in there Republicans have wanted for years, and other things Democrats have wanted for years.”

“There are good things in this bill,” he said, crediting Vice President Joe Biden and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell for working together to find common ground. Though he emphasized again that he didn’t intend to vote for it, “I’m mindful of the hard work it took” to get there, he added.


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