With 'cliff' averted, budget cuts Congress' next task
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 03, 2013
1/03/13 at 7:18 AM
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Conservatives alarmed by the tax bill passed this week by Congress should take heart, say two Oklahoma congressmen on different sides of Tuesday's contentious vote in the House of Representatives.
The fight over spending, they said, is just beginning.
"I think this game is going to change dramatically and with almost breathtaking speed," 4th District U.S. Rep. Tom Cole said by phone on Wednesday.
"The goal is to solve the debt," said 5th District U.S. Rep. James Lankford, the only member of the Oklahoma delegation to vote against the deal. "The goal is not to see how many ways you can raise taxes."
Lankford, also speaking by telephone, said the bill was a "50-50" for him, with much to recommend it, and that he accepts his colleagues' decisions as "a principled vote."
Third District U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, whose district includes Osage County and most of Creek County, said the deal was good for his mostly rural constituency, on the whole. He noted the package included an extension of the farm bill through Sept. 30.
"This legislation is only one step in the process of solving Washington's spending problem," Lucas said in a written statement. "Now it's time for the president to work with Congress to address our $16 trillion dollar debt and find responsible, commonsense ways to cut spending and grow our economy."
Cole maintained, as he has for some time, that settling the revenue side of the equation - which this week's legislation effectively does - allows the discussion to focus on spending.
"There's no more revenue to be had, at least not until we have total tax reform and that will take a year," Cole said.
"It won't happen in the next 90 days. If we're going to solve the sequestration issue, if we're going to solve the continuing resolution, if we're going to solve the debt ceiling, then the president is going to have to come across with really major spending cuts and entitlement reforms."
As many have pointed out, this week's agreement does not so much avert the fiscal cliff as take a step back from it. Over the next few months, Congress faces a series of deadlines on spending cuts, government funding and national debt that are likely to prove contentious.
"(President Obama) is going to have to lead his party, or as many of them as he can get, and bring them to the table," Cole said. "He's never done that before. This isn't like Bill Clinton, who could always bring 40 or 50 votes with him."
Cole said neither Obama nor anyone in his administration, with the possible exception of Vice President Joe Biden, has demonstrated much ability at "legislative negotiations."
"I'm looking forward to the next encounters," Cole said, "because they're going to be on issues and on political ground much more favorable to Republicans."
Lankford said he heard from many in his district, which includes most of the Oklahoma City metro area, who were "frustrated by the direction of this bill."
"We kept trying to focus not on the fiscal cliff but on the deficit," Lankford said. "The fiscal cliff is a product of a sky-rocketing deficit. Our hope was that this moment would be used to help resolve some of our debt-deficit issues. It wasn't.
"The fiscal cliff was never a problem. The debt and deficit of our nation is the problem," Lankford said. "The fiscal cliff was just one moment of many moments we will need to get on top of this. We don't need higher tax brackets. We need lower deficits, and nothing in the fiscal cliff agreement lowers our deficit spending."
Cole named to Rules Committee
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., was appointed to the House Rules Committee Wednesday by House Speaker John Boehner.
The Rules Committee is part of the House leadership and works with the speaker and majority leader to schedule bills and set the terms of debate on the House floor. Every piece of legislation considered by the House must first pass through the Rules Committee.
Cole will continue to serve on the House Budget Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.
"It's a tremendous honor to be asked to serve on the House Rules Committee," Cole said. "Serving on the Rules Committee while also serving on the Appropriations Committee and Budget Committee will provide a unique opportunity to influence crucial legislation to reduce the national debt. Balancing the budget will be the focus of the 113th Congress, and enacting responsible spending cuts and entitlement reform will be my top priority."
How they voted
Late Tuesday, the U.S.
House approved the American
Taxpayer Relief Act of
2012, which is known as the
fiscal cliff bill. Passage was
257-167, and it came after the
Senate approved the bill 89-
8. Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe
and Tom Coburn voted for the
bill. Here is how Oklahoma’s
House members voted:
Dan Boren, D
Tom Cole, R
Frank Lucas, R
John Sullivan, R
James Lankford, R
Original Print Headline: Budget cuts Congress' next task
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Cole and Lankford: The two Oklahoma lawmakers were on opposite sides of the House's vote on "fiscal cliff" legislation, but both agree that the real work - on spending cuts - begins now.