Utah’s congressmen unhappy with fiscal cliff deal

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jan 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-02 19:48:15-05

SALT LAKE CITY - None of Utah's five national congressmen expressed happiness over the fiscal cliff deal, and only longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch voted in favor of the legislation.

The bill maintains tax cuts on individuals making less than $400,000 and couples making less than $450,000, but puts off discussion of spending cuts to help reduce our nation's deficit for another two months.

The legislation passed the Senate early Tuesday morning with an overwhelming 89-8 majority and passed the House of Representatives with a 257-167 majority. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

Rep. Jim Matheson was one of 16 Democratic representatives who opposed the bill. He says that without a plan to curb spending, he couldn't support the bill.

"Without a serious mechanism to curb spending and put our country on a fiscally sustainable path, I could not support this bill," Matheson said in a statement Tuesday.

Of the 16 House Democrats who voted against the deal, 9 are considered liberals who didn't think the legislation protected entitlements enough. Matheson was one of only 7 conservative Democrats who opposed the bill.

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch was the only Utah congressman to vote in favor of the bill. He said that while it's far from perfect, it sets lower tax rates for most Americans.

"...given the stakes for the people of Utah and the nation, I reluctantly supported it because it sets in stone lower tax rates for roughly 99 percent of American taxpayers," Hatch said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tim Chambless, a University of Utah professor of political science who works with the Hinckley Institute of Politics, says that Hatch is the only Utah congressmen with no plans to run for office again.

"While they want to do the best for their country, the best for their state they're also thinking about the next election," Chambless said.

Chambless said that Congress' decision to put off the fiscal cliff deal until the last moment isn't something totally unexpected, but it makes many Americans angry. And this delay wasn't Congress' first strike.

"Congress is made up of human beings. And human beings have a tendency when they're faced with extremely difficult decision making to procrastinate," he said. "Yesterday's vote was only the 219th vote approved as an Act of Congress in this two-year session of the 112th Congress. That is probably the least productive Congress that we've ever had in U.S. history."

While the deal averts the fiscal cliff, a 2 percent social security tax holiday ends this week, so all Americans will now have to pay 6.2 percent for income up to $110,000 instead of 4.2 percent.