By CARL SMITH
Although Congress avoided significant tax increases and budget cuts associated with self-imposed sequestration measures, Mississippi’s representatives say Tuesday’s agreement does not solve America’s most pressing problem: runaway spending.
The U.S. temporarily avoided going over the “fiscal cliff” when House and Senate members reached a bipartisan tax agreement. The measure also delays budget cuts to numerous domestic and military agencies for two months.
“While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday. “There’s more work to do to reduce our deficits, and I’m willing to do it. But (Tuesday’s) agreement ensures that, going forward, we will continue to reduce the deficit through a combination of new spending cuts and new revenues from the wealthiest Americans.”
Mississippi’s three Republican House members — U.S. Reps. Gregg Harper, Alan Nunnelee and Steven Palazzo — all voted against the measure, while U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, voted in favor of the agreement.
Harper said Wednesday his vote was an obvious “No” because the bill does not tackle the real problems associated with the ever-increasing national debt, entitlement reforms and private sector job creation.
“We have to address mandatory and entitlement spending,” he said. “We have to start spending what we bring in, not continuing to go over and above.”
“There is a way to increase revenue through getting people back to work. We have to create an environment to help business owners and grow the economy,” Harper added. “(Democrats’ economic strategies) are centered on the growth of government, not the economy. We have to be about helping people stand on their own two feet. The solution of making people more dependent on government is not good for our society and country as a whole.”
Nunnelee echoed Harper’s sentiments following the bill’s passage, telling the Associated Press that out-of-control spending is the reason the country is $16 trillion in debt.
“Allowing more revenue today and promising to look at cutting spending down the road is the oldest trick in the Washington book,” Nunnelee told the AP. “Somehow, the day to cut spending never comes. I cannot support a deal that adds to our spending-driven debt crisis.”
Palazzo told the AP the bill “sets the stage for the next crisis by only taking care of two months of sequestration. This may be a deal, but it’s no solution.”
“I think the bill ... was the result of an honest effort to come together to find a solution to our fiscal cliff problems. But along the way, some lost sight of the goal: real spending cuts, meaningful tax reform and a pro-growth agenda that will help get our struggling economy back on its feet,” he said in a statement. “Congress has grown so accustomed to kicking the can down the road, that government doesn’t know how to operate any other way.”
While Mississippi’s House Republicans all voted against the measure, the state’s Republican Senate leaders OK’d the “fiscal cliff” bill prior to House approval.
“It’s not perfect, and there is still work left to do,” U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker said in a statement Tuesday. “Congress and the president must reduce the federal deficit. Indiscriminate cuts to defense have been prevented for only a few months. Today’s vote is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.”
“As imperfect as it is, this plan will ensure that the income taxes for most families in Mississippi will not shoot upward this year,” U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said in a release Tuesday. “There is much more work to be done to responsibly implement spending cuts and other measures to reduce the federal deficit and national debt.”
Harper said the battle for true governmental reform will be tough in the future, but he is hopeful many Americans will look at recent struggles as formative years.
“These last four years have been difficult times for many, but we have an opportunity in a few years from now to look back and say these times made us better,” he said. “We can say they made us re-evaluate our lives and showed us how to move forward. We can solve these problems, but solving them does not mean raising taxes.”