Inhofe says deal 'victory for conservatives'
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
1/01/13 at 12:51 PM
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said early Tuesday that the deal struck late Monday to avert the so-called fiscal cliff "should be seen as a victory for conservatives."
His colleague, Sen. Tom Coburn, did not go that far, saying Congress and the president "have a lot of work to do."
Inhofe and Coburn both voted for the measure, which passed the Senate 89-8 and awaits consideration in the House of Representatives. Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole told National Public Radio Tuesday morning that he expects the bill to be passed by the House.
“While this bill is far from perfect, it does prevent massive tax increases while making tax cuts permanent for 99 percent of Americans," said Coburn. "Congress and the president, however, have a lot of work to do to address our long-term spending problem. Our debt – which is 120 percent of our economy if you count federal, state and local debt – is still the greatest threat to our national security. We will never address that threat until Congress and the president acknowledge that the only way to save entitlement programs is to change them.”
Inhofe agreed the deal is not ideal, but said “Senate Democrats have caved to making permanent the Bush tax cuts for 99 percent of Americans. The deal will cement the tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 a year or $450,000 for families, and permanently fix the Alternative Minimum Tax."
Inhofe said Republicans also got the better of the deal on inheritance taxes.
Inhofe downplayed concerns that the bill does not do enough to curb spending. He said the two-month reprieve for automatic cuts that will go into effect at midnight tonight unless the House of Representatives follows the Senate's lead will allow for more thoughtful attention to that aspect of deficit reduction.
"One of my greatest concerns about the fiscal cliff has been the devastating cuts that would happen to our military due to defense sequestration," Inhofe said. "This deal avoids those cuts for two months to allow for a better solution. While I would like to have sequestration addressed, I am hopeful the deal’s two-month delay will help us better prioritize deep spending cuts while protecting our military and national security."
Some observers say delaying a decision on spending cuts for two months so that they are pushed up against the deadline for raising the nation's debt limit will give conservatives more leverage. Inhofe seemed to agree.
"I look forward to negotiating more spending cuts when we deal with the debt limit increase," he said. "Even though President Obama wanted that included in this deal, we are wisely waiting to address that separately so that we can have better spending cuts."
Inhofe said he was pleased the bill also includes a one-year extension of the current farm bill and a so-called "Doc Fix" that heads off cuts in reimbursements paid to doctors for treating Medicare patients.
"This deal should be seen as a victory for conservatives as it achieves for the first time in decades a bipartisan agreement for permanent tax cuts for a majority of Americans," said Inhofe. "These tax cuts will help to restore certainty and encourage economic growth."
Sen. Jim Inhofe speaks in Owasso back in August. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World File