Inhofe, Coburn say deal avoids tax hikes for most
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
1/02/13 at 7:31 AM
Related stories: House OKs bill to avoid ‘cliff.’
Senate deal forged in flurry of final negotiations.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said the deal struck late Monday to avert the so-called fiscal cliff "should be seen as a victory for conservatives."
Some conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives did not agree, but were outvoted as House passed the Senate measure late Tuesday.
Inhofe and his Oklahoma Republican colleague, Sen. Tom Coburn, both voted for the deal in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, saying it preserved reduced tax rates for the vast majority of Americans while clearing the way for serious spending negotiations over the next two months.
"While this bill is far from perfect," Coburn said in a written statement issued before House Republican opposition to the agreement fully surfaced. "It does prevent massive tax increases while making tax cuts permanent for 99 percent of Americans.
"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 has problems, 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 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 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."
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Sen. Jim Inhofe (left) and Sen. Tom Coburn: The Oklahomans voted for the deal, with Inhofe calling it a victory for conservatives and Coburn saying it preserved reduced tax rates for most Americans