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Wash. delegation splits on ‘cliff’ vote; GOP yes, Smith and McDermott lone Democrats against

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Jan. 2, 2013 at 11:05 am |
January 2, 2013 4:19 pm

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Camas was among the 85 Republicans who voted last night to pass the so-called fiscal-cliff bill, saying it falls short of fixing budget problems but was needed to avert income tax hikes on individuals earning less than $400,000 a year.

In Washington state’s delegation, only Democratic Reps. Adam Smith of Bellevue Jim McDermott of Seattle and voted against the deal that avoids hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and automatic spending cuts but increases deficits by $4.5 trillion over a decade. The vote roll call is here.

Herrera Beutler put out a statement explaining her action, which mirrored that of the other Washington Republicans. Reps. Dave Reichert of Auburn, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane and Doc Hastings of Pasco also voted in favor.

Herrera Beutler typically opposes actions that raise taxes but reasoned in this case the taxes already went up when Bush-era tax cuts expired on New Year’s Day. Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist had offered much the same analysis in saying Tuesday that the cliff deal did not technically violate his no-tax pledge that some GOP lawmakers have signed.

Among elements of the bill that Herrera Beutler cited as good things was the federal sales tax deduction.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., also cited that deduction after her New Year’s Day vote in the Senate, saying it is worth on average about $500 for taxpayers in Washington. The deduction is continued for 2012 a 2013 for taxpayers in a half-dozen states that do not have income taxes.

Cantwell says it would affect about 850,000 filers in Washington that itemize their federal returns.

Herrera Beutler represents Southwest Washington in the 3rd district, which until noon Thursday includes Olympia. Redistricting moved most of Thurston County out of the 3rd and 9th districts when it created the new 10th district, which U.S. Rep.-elect Denny Heck of Olympia will be sworn into on Thursday. The 10th covers most of Thurston County and radiates west to Shelton and north to University Place and Puyallup.

Rep. Smith is in the 9th, which includes Lacey and east Thurston County until Thursday but is moved by redistricting north to wrap around south Lake Washington and include Bellevue.

In her statement, Herrera Beutler also cited help for homeowners who are underwater on mortgages and said it ensures Medicare recipients can see their doctors. The latter is a reference to stopping the automatic cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors, which had been based on a Republican budget-control measure from the late 1990s that set a sustainable growth formula for rates.

Herrera Beutler’s full statement is here:

“I had hoped Congress and the President would produce a solution that protected families and small businesses from higher taxes, overhauled our tax system to make it simpler and fairer, and significantly reduced our $16 trillion national debt. Instead, 2012 came to a frustrating end, and at 12:01am on January 1, the lower tax rates Americans were paying expired.
“So we were put in a position where higher taxes hit every working American – an outcome that was absolutely unacceptable to me. Southwest Washington families and individuals cannot afford to send more of their hard-earned money to Washington, DC. The agreement Congress passed was not a long-term solution, and it did not accomplish everything that Southwest Washington deserves. However, the agreement I voted for does protect 99.5% of folks in our region from devastating tax hikes. It also extends tax relief for underwater homeowners and allows residents to deduct their sales tax, and will ensure Medicare patients can keep seeing their doctors. It makes important provisions permanent for Southwest Washington families like the marriage penalty relief and the child deduction tax credit.
“Now that the President has achieved his goal to make certain Americans pay higher taxes, I hope he will work with Congress on solutions that actually help our economy and provide more opportunities for hardworking folks. The most urgent action we must take is to tackle the debt that threatens our nation’s future.
“This compromise is a first step, and we must take a bigger second step that puts an end to out-of-control federal spending. The compromise keeps the sequester in place, which is a bipartisan agreement to find more than $1 trillion in savings from every level of government. I will fight to make sure we keep this commitment to reducing federal spending, and will seek other ways to further tackle our debt as soon as possible.”
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