S. Fla. Congressional Delegation Split On Fiscal Cliff Deal
WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The bill to avert some of the fiscal cliff finally passed the House of Representatives late Tuesday night and did so with a largely bipartisan vote, especially from the Florida Congressional delegation.
Voting in favor of the bill in the GOP-led House of Representatives were South Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson. From the Republican side, Congressman Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen both voted in favor of passing the bill.
Diaz Balart declined interview requests for why he crossed party lines, but issued a statement referring to the bill as an alternative to a New Year’s tax hangover.
“While the bill has its flaws, it immediately and permanently cut taxes on 98 percent of the American people and 97 percent of small businesses,” Diaz Balart said.
Opposing the bill from the South Florida Congressional delegation were Republican Congressman David Rivera, Connie Mack, and Allen West. Had the vote taken place Thursday under the new Congress, all three of the no votes may have changed as all three representatives will change in the 113th Congress.
In the Senate, Florida Senator Bill Nelson voted in favor of the deal, while Senator Marco Rubio was one of only eight Senators who voted against the bipartisan deal.
Joe Garcia, who will take Congressman Rivera’s seat on Thursday, had choice words for the politics surrounding the fiscal cliff vote.
“They have turned this into some kind of moral jihad. They chose the absolute worst of politics,” Representative-elect Garcia said, “as opposed to what is the essential element of the American government, which is compromise, the ability to work together.”
The specific deal has giveaways and takebacks that were negotiated by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Under the deal, Congress permanently extended the Bush income tax cuts at $400,000 and below, extended unemployment benefits, and kept the estate tax threshold at $5 million. The deal also extended the child tax credit, college tuition credit, and permanently fixes the Alternative Minimum Tax.
The bill also extended several individual and business tax cuts and credits for a couple of years. The bill also delayed the sequester, a combination of austerity measures targeting domestic spending and military spending, for two months.
The vote in the House also set the stage for a fight in 2016 between two potential presidential candidates on the GOP side. Congressman Paul Ryan voted in favor of passing the bill, but as mentioned above, Senator Rubio’s vote against it could endear him more to conservatives.
“We could say it’s going to be a test for the Tea party,” said University of Miami associate professor of political science George Gonzalez. “In the end, will they be able to rally their forces on this one issue?”
Gonzalez believed the vote could be a bellwether issue come re-election.
“The political ramifications are amplified depending on the strength or weakness of the economy going forward,” Professor Gonzalez siad.
Getting to the deal was no easy measure. According to Politico, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had a heated exchange as they left the White House lobby.
Speaker Boehner reportedly pointed at Reid and said, “Go *expletive* yourself.” Reid responded, “What are you talking about?” Boehner replied again, “Go *expletive* yourself.”
The deal struck between Biden and McConnell and approved by both houses of Congress does nothing to address the debt ceiling which was hit late Monday night. The Treasury Department will be able to take extreme measures to delay a full default for a few weeks.
But, the debt ceiling fight promises to be even more divisive than the fiscal cliff deal.
President Barack Obama has taken a two-pronged stance that he won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling and that if Republicans insist on spending cuts to increase the debt ceiling, that they be matched with an equal amount of tax revenue increases.
House Republicans have vowed to not increase the debt ceiling without equal spending cuts and no increases in tax revenues.