The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 3, 2013

W.Va.’s delegation divided over fiscal cliff deal

— Applying the brakes just before the nation could veer off the fiscal cliff in an 11th hour deal left West Virginia’s congressional delegation and political parties clearly divided.

No one viewed the package as perfect, but those who voted for it in both the House and Senate saw it as the right thing to do, at least for the time being.

Allowing the nation to slip over the cliff would have been “irresponsible,” Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said.

“We should be making incremental progress toward cutting the deficit while protecting priorities like job creation,” he said.

“We cannot wait indefinitely for an elusive grand bargain that addresses everything at once. Certainly, we should eliminate wasteful spending where we can and I have voted for some painful spending cuts, including last year’s Budget Control Act that cut spending by $1 trillion. But we must also look at costly tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that are simply unaffordable and serve limited benefit for working-class families and small businesses.”

Rahall said the best approach to bringing the budget into order is by growing the economy and this can be done in part by investing in infrastructure and expanding access to workforce development training, affordable education and health care.

“This deal is by no means perfect, but it fully protects the middle class tax cuts, reinstates the Clinton-era tax rates for the very wealthy, and extends several tax credits that are crucial to low-income families throughout West Virginia,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also D-W.Va., said.

“Through these strong actions, we can begin to close the historic divide that has plagued our nation for decades.”

Rockefeller said the arrangement maintains jobless benefits for those looking for work, and, at least for now, puts safeguards around Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., emphasized the Senate proposal wasn’t “the big fix,” but in reality, “the flawed product of a broken process that puts politics ahead of people.”

“And it sets us up for more dangerous political gamesmanship in the months ahead,” Manchin said.

Manchin said the last-minute deal guarantees that the paychecks of middle class Americans won’t get torpedoed with higher taxes.

“And make no mistake — hard-working American taxpayers shouldn’t bring home less pay from their jobs, just because Congress didn’t do its job,” he added.

Among those voting against the proposal, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., termed it a “last-minute, haphazard process” with no meaningful cuts in spending and one that actually hikes the deficit by $43.9 trillion.

“If Congress is going to ask more from taxpayers, it must also ask more from Washington in the form of belt tightening across the federal government,” Capito said.

“Failing to enact meaningful reforms and spending cuts would truly be unforgivable to future generations.”

Capito said West Virginians are weary of the squabbling on Capitol Hill and failure to get things accomplished.

“The last-minute deals and constant back-and-forth create great uncertainty for families, for small businesses and for the global economy,” she said. “It has to stop.”

State Republican Chairman Conrad Lucas applauded Capito and Rep. Dave McKinley, also R-W.Va., for opposing the bill, calling them “friends of the kind of folks we have in West Virginia.”

“Our people here know that family budgets have to balance,” Lucas said.

“So should the federal government’s budget. Our Republican representatives want Washington to tighten its belt and stop wasting our tax dollars.”

On the other hand, he said, the Democrats in the delegation sided with President Obama in support of steeper taxes and trillions in new debt and spending, “just as they did with Obamacare.”

“It takes courage to cut government spending and none of these career politicians seem to have it,” Lucas added.

Derek Scarbro, the executive director of the West Virginia Democratic Party, congratulated the state’s two senators and Rahall for supporting the Senate bill that maintains tax rates for more than 99 percent of state residents.

“It’s disappointing that Reps. Capito and McKinley (both Republicans) chose to keep playing partisan politics by voting against the compromise,” Scarbro added.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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