This week’s federal budget deal revealed divides in the Indiana congressional delegation that went beyond political parties.
Both Republican senators voted for the fiscal cliff measure, but five of six Republican representatives opposed it. Retiring Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th, did not vote.
Two of three Hoosier Democrats in the House supported the bill, with Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-1st, voting against the legislation.
IPFW political scientist Michael Wolf said Wednesday that Visclosky “fits with the profile” of liberal Democrats unhappy that President Obama agreed to raise the income threshold for a tax increase.
On the other hand, many fiscally conservative senators, including Indiana’s, “likely swallowed their medicine to show an overwhelming vote to pressure House Republicans to vote this way,” Wolf said in an email.
But most House Republicans, who answer to many fewer voters than senators do, opposed the bill anyway.
Even supporters were less than pleased with the outcome, which extends tax cuts on incomes of less than $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples while delaying $1.2 trillion in scheduled spending cuts.
“It is far from perfect, as I would have preferred to keep low (tax) rates for everyone for one year while our economy continues to recover, but the American people deserve a Congress that is willing to compromise to get things done,” Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, said in a statement issued late Tuesday.
Donnelly will be sworn in today to replace 36-year incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
Lugar, who lost in his party’s primary election, and Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., voted in favor of the fiscal plan, which passed the Senate by an 89-8 vote and the House by a 257-167 count. It was the 13,067th and last vote of Lugar’s career, spokesman Andy Fisher pointed out.
Wolf noted that Tuesday’s vote tallies in the House and Senate were similar to those for a divisive spending plan four years ago – the Troubled Asset Relief Program, also known as the Wall Street bailout.
“This stopgap measure is simply the lesser of two evils,” Coats said in a statement about the 2013 budget deal. “Allowing our country to slip off the fiscal cliff and raise taxes on every American is unacceptable. American taxpayers should not have to pay the price for Washington’s dysfunction.”
Coats repeated his call for cutting federal spending, revising the tax code and restructuring Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, did the same thing when he announced Tuesday that he would vote against the budget deal.
“It’s time for Washington to get serious and reform our nation’s entitlements and tax structure, not just simply raise taxes that will hurt small-business owners and their employees,” Stutzman said in a statement.
Stutzman and Coats have advocated legislation that would reduce the number of personal income tax brackets, establish a flat corporate tax rate of 25 percent or less (the rates currently climb to 35 percent), subsidize the purchase of private health insurance as an alternative to Medicare, and turn Medicaid into a block-grant program for states to administer.
IPFW’s Wolf said the expiration of the 2 percent Social Security payroll tax holiday should shore up the Social Security Administration’s financial outlook, something that Republicans have been demanding.
“Suddenly you have a significant increase in what the Social Security Trust Fund will be taking in. … It’s a noteworthy change that nobody’s talking about,” Wolf said.
Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, who will be inaugurated Jan. 14 as governor, opposed the budget agreement. He said in a statement, “I cannot support more taxes, more spending and one more illusory promise of spending reforms in the future.”