‘Cliff’ bill gets yes votes from SDJohnson, Thune and Noem all call it flawed but say it was worth supporting.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
All three members of the South Dakota congressional delegation supported the so-called “fiscal cliff” bill that passed Tuesday in the Senate and House.
But all three said the bill that passed the 112th Congress in its waning hours was flawed, and said much work remains to be done to place the country on a firm financial footing.
If it had not passed, $110 billion in spending cuts would have been mandated, and the Bush-era tax cuts would have expired, raising taxes on millions of Americans.
Still, a temporary 2 percent reduction in the payroll tax that pays for Social Security was allowed to expire, meaning 160 million workers will see smaller paychecks this year.
The bill passed 89-8 in the Senate around 2 a.m. Tuesday, with three senators not casting votes, and 257-167 in the House. Eight representatives sat the vote out.
Both South Dakota senators, Democrat Tim Johnson and Republican John Thune, voted for the bill.
In the House, Rep. Kristi Noem joined with 84 other Republicans and 172 Democrats to support the proposal, with the vote going final at 10:57 p.m.
Noem said she supported the bill as a way to help taxpayers.
“This vote protected 99 percent of South Dakotans from President Obama reaching into their pockets and taking more of their hard-earned money to subsidize his continued deficit spending,” she said in a release.
“As a member of the political party that does not control Washington, D.C., I’m here for damage control,” she continued. “I won’t stand by and allow this president to bring more uncertainty into this country by preventing farm families from passing on their family businesses and hard-working moms and dads from being able to put food on their tables.
“Now is the time for President Obama and Democrats in Congress to work with Republicans on spending reform so we can get serious about providing the leadership the American people so desperately need.”
Johnson said the bill was the best one that could be hammered out.
“Throughout the entire fiscal cliff debate, I have fought to ensure that there was no tax hike on the middle class,” he said in a statement. “The bill I voted for is not perfect, but it will keep tax rates the same for the vast majority of Americans.
“It was also important for me that the legislation asks millionaires and billionaires to pay the same rates they did during the Clinton administration. We can’t get our fiscal house in order on the backs of the elderly and students. The richest among us will now pay a little more to improve our fiscal situation.”
Thune said he supported the bill while realizing it was flawed.
“I voted for the fiscal cliff agreement because, while the deal is far from perfect, the alternative was to let taxes go up on every taxpayer on January 1st of this year,” he said in an email to The Daily Republic.
“While we have much work left to do, this bill addressed a number of things I have been working on over the last two years,” Thune wrote. “It maintained and makes permanent the income tax rates for the vast majority of South Dakota individuals and small businesses, extended the production tax credit, and permanently protects the vast majority of South Dakota family farms and small businesses from a large death tax increase.
“The legislation also brings the Obamacare budget-gimmick known as the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports program to an end once and for all. I hope the president and my Democrat colleagues are willing to roll up their sleeves to make the difficult decisions on reduced spending that are necessary in the weeks and months ahead.”
The Community Living Assistance Services and Support program, or CLASS Act, was intended to be the first federal long-term insurance program.
But the program had voluntary enrollment, and questions about its ability to remain solvent forced the government to stop implementing it in the fall. The bill passed Tuesday will dismiss CLASS once and for all.
The bill also extended the 2008 farm bill through Sept. 30. It expired at the end of September, and under existing law, a 63-year-old policy would have gone into effect this month that could have doubled the price of dairy products.
But that was averted when the farm bill section was tucked into the fiscal cliff bill, which passed on Tuesday, the day before this Congress permanently adjourns.
The 113th Congress will be seated today, as members who were elected in November take the oath of office.