News Column

Va. House Members Vote Against 'Cliff' Deal

Jan. 2, 2013

Andrew Cain

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor may get the headlines for splitting with House Speaker John A. Boehner, but he had plenty of company in Virginia in voting against the bill to avert the "fiscal cliff."

In fact, the Virginia delegation was nearly unanimous in rejecting the legislation. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-11th, was the only one of Virginia's 11 representatives to back the bill -- and he called it a "hold your nose" vote.

The Virginia tally signified how the compromise upset lawmakers at both edges of the political spectrum. Conservatives said it did too little to cut spending. Liberals said it added to the deficit and placed too great a burden on the most vulnerable members of society.

The Virginia delegation voted thumbs down on the deal despite lawmakers' oft-expressed concerns about the threat of "sequestration", the looming deep automatic cuts to defense and other federal spending that would hurt Virginia disproportionately. The legislation's passage gives Congress two more months to sort out sequestration.

"This is not a perfect package, but it is something that gets us by until we can tackle the larger issues in the next Congress," Connolly said in a speech on the floor of the House. "I pray God that the next Congress is more willing to compromise than this one."

On Tuesday afternoon Cantor appeared to play down indications of a split with Boehner after the Virginian emerged from one meeting of the House Republican caucus and told reporters that he could not support the bill that had passed the U.S. Senate.

Cantor and Boehner later strode into another House caucus meeting together and Cantor said on Twitter that "Speaker Boehner and I are working with House Leadership and our conference to find best path forward."

Ultimately, Boehner voted in favor of the bill and Cantor voted against it, two days before Boehner faces a new vote for speaker as the new Congress convenes Thursday.

Virginians voting against the bill were Reps. Robert J. Wittman, R-1st, Scott Rigell, R-2nd, Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-3rd, J. Randy Forbes, R-4th, Robert Hurt, R-5th, Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th, Cantor, R-7th, Jim Moran, D-8th, Morgan Griffith, R-9th, and Frank R. Wolf, R-10th.

Scott and Moran were two of the 16 House Democrats to vote against the deal.

The split vote in the House Republican leadership went beyond Boehner and Cantor.

Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, two of the three authors of the "Young Guns" book about a new generation of GOP leaders, voted against the bill. The third member of that trio -- Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Budget Committee chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee -- backed the deal.

Scott, whose district winds from Richmond to Hampton Roads, said in a statement that the deal is irresponsible.

"The Simpson-Bowles Commission set a $4 trillion, 10-year deficit reduction goal, which would be enough to get our fiscal house in order," Scott said. "Considering that deficit reduction goal, I voted against this bill because it cut taxes and will add a staggering $3.9 trillion to our deficit with no indication of how it will be paid for."

Explaining his vote against the bill, Rigell, a Republican from Hampton Roads, said in a statement:

"While the bill that came to the floor does generate additional revenue, it fails to reduce spending. In fact it increases spending. The president called for a balanced approach to our fiscal crisis, which, in principle, I fully support. But the bill we received from the Senate was not balanced. Instead, it reflects the seductive philosophy that pervades this town: 'The fight is always around the corner.' "

Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th, said that while the Senate bill "provides permanent tax relief" to most Americans, "this legislation does absolutely nothing to address the federal government's spending problem -- in fact it only adds to it."

Sen.-elect Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat who takes office this week, praised the deal as a cooperative act to "protect the middle class" and to avert a short-term fiscal crisis.

"This bill is far from perfect, and it's time Congress stops kicking the can down the road on a long-term solution to our fiscal problems," Kaine said.

"But it's an encouraging sign that Congress can put partisanship aside for the good of our economy and the American people. Much work remains to be done and I look forward to tackling our ongoing budget issues after I'm sworn in on Thursday."

Source: (c)2013 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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