Bipartisanship Avoids The Hurt Of Going Over The Fiscal Cliff

Published 2:24 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Like Wile E. Coyote foiled by his own machinations to catch The Roadrunner, we were hanging to the edge of the fiscal cliff by our fingernails in those last hours of 2012 turning into 2013.

We, the people, were about to plummet to the bottom, an ACME anvil certain to conk out any remaining conscious thought, beep-beep ringing in our ears as the lights went out.

The scenario was like a Looney Tunes cartoon plot.

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Fortunately, Congress-thanks largely to classic bipartisan deal-making by Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell-showed greater animation and more sense than to fall off the edge.

A majority of Congress, with bipartisan voting, pulled us up and back from the abyss.

The deal represented a sensible compromise and certainly the best that could be achieved, and win passage, in the circumstances. A tell-tale sign of its credibility is the fact it was criticized by both the far right and the far left-which generally indicates that each of the two competing political viewpoints got something they wanted and neither got everything.

Which is the essence of compromise, and so the art of politics, when politics works.

With the Bush-era tax cuts saved in place for everyone making up to $400,000, and households up to $450,000-which greatly resembled the $500,000 compromise promoted for months by our new U.S. Senator Tim Kaine-the GOP can take satisfaction in Bush tax cuts becoming permanent for most people, while President Obama will have cheered the preservation of middle class tax cuts, with the richest Americans paying more-which is what he campaigned on.

There was no sense in creating a fiscal crisis for a vulnerable national economy climbing out of the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, likely sending us back into the recession while further unbalancing an already teetering world economy, by stubbornly saying 'My way or the highway' and going over the fiscal cliff.

That game was not worth playing, the deck stacked with jokers packing fists for punchlines.

Disappointingly, our own congressman, Robert Hurt, represented the 5th District by voting against the Senate bill that carried the day. Had Rep. Hurt's vote prevailed, taxes would have been significantly raised on all of us and we would have gone over the fiscal cliff.

In a statement explaining his vote, Rep. Hurt said that his No vote was due to the lack of spending cuts in the legislation and recounts his previous support of House bills to preserve the tax relief provided in the Bush-era tax rates, including those for the richest two percent of Americans.

“The Senate proposal provides permanent tax relief to most Americans, and I believe that is a step in the right direction toward creating certainty for our families and small business owners,” Rep. Hurt said.

But he voted No, voting against achieving that goal on New Year's Day.

“The proposal also enacts permanent estate tax relief for our small businesses and family farmers who need certainty in our tax code,” Rep. Hurt said.

But he voted No, voting against achieving that goal on New Year's Day when we, the people, and our nation were hanging by our fingertips over the edge of the fiscal cliff.

“At a time when members of both parties agree that we need to cut spending, the Senate proposal makes virtually no spending cuts,” he said, explaining his No vote.

Sending this nation back into recession and sending the global economy who knows where was no way to address the spending issue. There is no wisdom in cutting off your head to spite the part in your hair.

Regardless of his votes on preserving tax cuts in the summer, in the bottom of the ninth inning, when it counted most, he voted No; had his choice prevailed we would have gone over the fiscal cliff. I cannot believe that anything like the majority of the people in the Fifth District wanted this country to go over the fiscal cliff.

The January 1, 2013 vote was a defining moment.

Rep. Hurt was not alone, to be fair, in voting No. Most of his fellow Republicans in the House were following the same curriculum, but that school of thought doesn't graduate. The risks to a still-vulnerable economy surfacing from the Great Recession were too great. Don't fall off a cliff if you don't have to and certainly do not take an entire nation, dragging much of the world in with it, if there is an alternative like the one offered by the Senate. Come away from the cliff and deal with spending another day.

We might as well have had Wile E. Coyote representing us in Congress on that one.

Spending does need to be addressed but the fiscal cliff spending cuts in social programs and defense would have slammed Virginia and the nation, while simultaneously raising taxes on everyone.


Senator Kaine, on the other hand, praised the House and Senate for acting “in a bipartisan and cooperative fashion to pass this important legislation to protect the middle class and avert a short-term fiscal crisis.”

Our new senator acknowledged that the bill “is far from perfect, and it's time Congress stops kicking the can down the road on a long-term solution to our fiscal problems. But it's an encouraging sign that Congress can put partisanship aside for the good of our economy and the American people.”

It is, in fact, just the kind of foundation upon which we must build to effectively and fairly enact long-term fiscal solutions that don't benefit Republicans or Democrats but, instead, are tools all of us can use.