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U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Kentucky, said his opposition to a late-night compromise bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives to stave off billions in tax increases was driven by lawmakers’ refusal to address the country’s spending problem.
Guthrie, who represents the 2nd Congressional District which includes Hardin County, was one of many House Republicans who opposed the measure in a 257-167 vote. He said lawmakers chose a compromise that ignores the country’s fiscal troubles by failing to include an emphasis onspending cuts.
The deal, negotiated primarily through a bipartisan push from Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., fared better in the Senate, where the vote was 89-8. It needed only President Barack Obama’s signature as of Wednesday.
Guthrie applauded McConnell’s work on the tax changes but described the compromise as flawed because it “kicks the can down the road.”
“Sen. McConnell really did a good job negotiating about as good a tax package as you can considering the president’s stance,” Guthrie said Wednesday afternoon by phone.
He found some positive points in the bill, including the extension of tax cuts for the middle class.
“That’s good and it’s permanent,” Guthrie said, saying the bill stabilized the tax structure and removed the threat of a “tax cliff.”
But his chief sticking point was the allowance of new spending and a plan that does little to solve the federal government’s habitual long-term spending practices, he said.
Guthrie, a Republican from Warren County, said House GOP members who opposed the deal wanted amendments — including a package of spending cuts and reforms for defense spending — that would have forced its return to the Senate, which dismissed earlier in the day.
An amended bill, had it found enough support to pass the House, would have stalled because the Senate was unavailable for concurrence, Guthrie said. Ultimately, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, brought the bill to the floor for an up-and-down vote.
The bill raised the tax rate for incomes exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples but extends income tax cuts for the rest of the country. President Barack Obama had lobbied to raise rates on those households earning around $250,000 and above but could not find enough support from Congress.
The bill also raises taxes for households with top incomes pay on dividends, capital gains and inherited estates; maintains unemployment benefits; and took proposed cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors off the table.
The last minute deal-making staved off the automatic activation of billions in annual tax increases and billions more in cuts to domestic and defense spending, which earned the nickname, “the fiscal cliff.”
Throughout the process, Guthrie said Republicans have been unfairly labeled as obstructionists who refuse to compromise, but he argued the compromises proposed to them are unsavory because they push important decisions farther into the future. Instead, he said, his colleagues have been trying to force Congress to act sooner rather than later.
“The compromise has been to kick it down the road,” he said.
Guthrie also described Obama’s push for more tax increases as “frustrating.”
Following the deal, the president indicated spending cuts must be coupled with additional reforms to the tax code removing loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest individuals and corporations that are unavailable to the majority of Americans.
“The president is going to come back for more, but where is he going to take it from?” Guthrie said. “There are not enough wealthy Americans to offset a trillion-dollar deficit.”
More battles loom in 2013 as the bill delayed sequestration, the term used to describe the pro-posed across-the-board cuts, by a mere two months. Congress also will resume its debate about the extension of the country’s debt ceiling and its ability to borrow money.
During those discussions, Guthrie said, a process must be established for legislation to be hammered out through a committee, brought to the floor for discussion and sent to the next body for review once approved. He criticized the individualized approach taken in recent years, in which a handful of officials sit in a room and try to hash out deals in tense negotiations, excluding the rest of the nation’s lawmakers in the process.
Boehner and Obama held a series of one-on-one negotiations during late 2012 to find a compromise on the tax hikes and spending cuts, which failed to bring a resolution.
Guthrie also recognized growing concern from the nation about Congress’ inability to work together on crucial issues, which has earned the legislative branch a low approval rating.
“People have the right to be frustrated,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.
com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report