By RONNIE ELLIS
For at least the third time in as many years a national fiscal crisis was averted at the last minute by a deal cobbled together by Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Louisville, and Vice President Joe Biden.
The deal stopped automatic tax increases which would’ve taken place on Wednesday for 98 percent of the country’s taxpayers, raising taxes on those who make more than $400,000 a year, $450,000 for couples, and extending unemployment benefits for a year.
It is estimated to bring in about $620 billion in new federal revenues over 10 years. It puts off for two months draconian cuts in defense and domestic spending other than Social Security and Medicare, the so-called sequester, and it does not address increasing the nation’s debt limit to pay for spending already approved by Congress. Those deferred issues will likely foster yet another partisan fight in the next two months.
Payroll taxes, those dedicated for Social Security and Medicare, however will go back to levels of two years ago, an increase of roughly $1,000 a year for someone making $50,000 a year. Those taxes were temporarily cut 2 percent as part of the economic stimulus program.
The measure passed 89-8 in the Senate, with only five Republicans and three Democrats voting no. But it passed the Republican controlled House only with support from Democrats. The final tally was 256-167 with only 85 Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, voting for the bill.
Kentucky’s delegation split on the deal. Sen. Rand Paul and Congressmen Brent Guthrie, Thomas Massie, and Ed Whitfield, all Republicans, voted against the measure. McConnell, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers and Democratic Representatives Ben Chandler and John Yarmuth voted for it.
McConnell called the deal “an imperfect solution to prevent very real financial pain.” Nevertheless, he said, “We’ve done some good for the country.”
For the full story, see the print or e-edition of the Jan. 3 Glasgow Daily Times.