No East TN congressmen support approved 'fiscal cliff' plan

9:05 AM, Jan 2, 2013   |    comments
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No East Tennessee congressmen voted in favor of the Senate's "fiscal cliff" bill passed late Tuesday night.

After the bill passed shortly before 11:00 p.m., Congressmen Phil Roe, M.D. (TN-01) and Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03), both Republicans, issued statements concerning why they decided not to support the bill.

Roe said he couldn't vote in favor of the plan because it didn't sufficiently address spending cuts and the nation's more than $16 trillion debt.

"Washington cannot continue to tax, borrow and spend. When these negotiations began, the president promised a balanced approach, and that's not what this legislation is," said Roe. "We must get our deficit under control, and the only way to do that is to cut spending."

Fleischmann held the same sentiment as Roe. The 3rd District Congressman said the approved "fiscal cliff" plan would only compound budget battles in weeks to come.

"As I have long said, we have a spending problem not a revenue problem," said Fleischmann. "The bill sent back to the House not only allowed taxes to increase but increased spending by $330 billion. It was simply something I could not support."

None of Tennessee's Republican congressmen supported the Senate's "fiscal plan" bill. Rep. Jim Cooper (D) of Nashville didn't support the bill as well.

Critics of the plan's two-month delay of major spending cuts argued that it only would create more problems for U.S. lawmakers when they have to tackle the $16.394 trillion debt ceiling. Fleischmann said he's disappointed that the House approved the Senate's bill.

"Unfortunately the Senate waited until the final days of the year to look at any solutions," said Fleischmann. "What they produced does nothing more than kick the can down the road on the most serious issue facing our nation."

Only one Tennessee U.S. House Representative, Steve Cohen (D.) of Memphis, voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Harold Rogers (KY-05) was the only Kentucky Republican to vote in favor of the bill as well.

The approved "fiscal cliff" will raise tax rates for individuals making over $400,000 a year and for couples making $450,000 a year. The plan will retain the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for people with lower incomes. It also extends unemployment insurance.

The deal, however, doesn't address the temporary payroll tax holiday, which expired Tuesday, Jan. 1. This tax will rise by two percentage points, which puts it back to its 2010 level. Despite movement made in D.C. Tuesday, U.S. lawmakers have to handle lots of issues in 2013.

The new Congress faces similar challenges as the one in 2011. President Obama and a divided Congress first clashed in spring 2011 over a near-government shutdown. Tensions were also high during that summer as lawmakers across the aisle fought over raising the national debt limit.

Similar tensions could arise in mid-February 2013 when Congress must approve an increase in the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. The national debt ceiling determines the country's borrowing authority. Roe said that lawmakers only dealt with one facet of the fiscal cliff in Tuesday's vote.

"Now that we have dealt with the tax side of the fiscal cliff, we must focus on real spending reductions in the upcoming debates on the remaining sequestration cuts and the debt ceiling," said Rep. Roe.

In late March 2013, the current federal funding will also run out, and the country will face yet another potential government shutdown if gridlock continues on Capitol Hill.

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