Thompson, Kelly vote yes to concur with ‘cliff’ deal

The country still faces a fiscal cliff, but it isn’t looming quite so large.

A bill approved by both the House and the Senate on Tuesday pushes back for two months the situation that caused all of the predictions of economic disaster. The new deadline is March 1.

According to those who represent Warren County, the “Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012” is necessary. Both of Pennsylvania’s senators and the representative for the Fifth Congressional District, which includes all of Warren County, voted in favor of the bill. None hailed the measure as a long-term fix to the nation’s budgetary problems, indicating that more deficit-reduction work is needed.

“While far from perfect, the proposal protects 99 percent of taxpayers from scheduled rate increase and provides the certainty necessary for families to plan and businesses to grow by making this tax relief permanent,” Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-5th) wrote in a Tuesday press release. “Without passage of this agreement, each and every one of my constituents would have received a tax increase.”

While it was “far from perfect,” it was necessary.

“I was very pleased to vote for the bill. This bill was a real victory,” Thompson said Wednesday. “This bill that we voted on was really about taxes.”

“You rarely get ‘perfect’ out of any public policy,” he said. “Any time we can permanently retain a lower tax rate for 99 percent of Americans, that’s a pretty good night.”

He would have liked to have seen action to address the tax cuts that will automatically end – the sequestration cuts – in two months. And he would have liked to have seen funding come from sources other than health care and the military.

“You take a half a trillion in cuts to our military over 10 years, it will return us to a time when we were a soft target for terrorists,” Thompson said.

“We got a one-year dock fix, avoiding what amounts to about 27 percent to Medicare Part B reimbursement,” he said. That would have hurt doctors and hospitals.

However, there were “take-aways from other health-care providers. I did work to try to help prevent that from occurring,” Thompson said. “Unfortunately, with what was negotiated… they did include some of those pay-fors that I was opposed to.”

Thompson would not be surprised if the sequestration issue comes down to the wire again in two months.

“I’ve voted for two bipartisan bills that would have addressed sequestration cuts,” Thompson said. “I think we’re going to continue to push for it. Unfortunately, in my experience with the Senate Democratic leadership, it has taken last-minute action when they come up against a deadline.”

One of the items not addressed in the bill was a Social Security payroll tax. As a result of the lack of action on the subject, the rate for wage earners automatically goes back up from 4.2 percent to its former level of 6.2 percent.

Sen. Robert Casey also used the “far from perfect” language.

“While this deal is far from perfect, the Senate took the appropriate steps to protect the middle class and keep in place common sense measures – like the earned income tax credit and unemployment insurance – that will help keep the economy on track,” Casey wrote after the Senate vote Tuesday.

“While we may have avoided some of the immediate catastrophic consequences of the fiscal cliff, there is much more work to be done,” Casey said. “Moving forward, Republicans and Democrats need to come together to reduce the deficit in smart and responsible ways that protect working families and continue to create jobs.”

Sen. Pat Toomey voted for the measure, but had little to say about its merits.

“I still hope we can avert the worst consequences of the fiscal cliff and protect as many Americans as possible from a massive tax increase,” Toomey said. “Unfortunately, the most recent proposal from the Democrats calls for new tax increases to pay for more government spending. We need less spending, not more, in Washington.”

Congressman Mike Kelly, who represented part of Warren County during his first term in office until redistricting changed his constituency to begin this year, used familiar language in describing the measure.

“This evening I voted to make permanent tax rates that conservatives crafted years ago for more than 99.3 percent of Americans, including a permanent patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax, and to keep many good items in the tax code like the child tax credit,” he said. “We are finally providing some certainty to the economy with regards to taxes which is why, in the end, I voted affirmatively for the agreement. I acknowledge that this bill is far from perfect. That being said, our attention must immediately turn to doing the real spending and tax reform that needs to be done to restore the fiscal health of this country. In the days and weeks to come, I am confident the House will aggressively pursue the long-needed spending reform that our constituents rightfully expect and demand.”