Progressive Senators Were Split On Supporting Debt Deal

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Sen. Harkin was one of the senators who voted against the fiscal cliff deal, and took to the floor to denounce it Monday night. Which is nice and all, but for once, I'd like to see one of these progressive senators pull the procedural emergency brake and, you know, actually stop these things. There are several of them who get all kinds of favorable press (mostly because we're so starved for anything resembling a progressive hero), but they never actually stop the things we wish they would.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) railed against the last-minute fiscal cliff deal, defending middle-class families and slamming Congress for being "tied in knots."

"I'm disappointed to say that in my opinion, this legislation that we're about to vote on falls short," Harkin said. "First, it doesn't address the number-one priority: creating good middle-class jobs now. Unemployment remains way too high. This bill should include direct assistance on job creation measures."

Harkin also criticized those who want to "redefine the middle class as those making $400,00 a year when, in fact, that represents the top one percent of income earners in America.""The idea that people earning $300,000 to $400,000 a year could not pay the taxes they paid in the 1990's, when the economy was booming, is just plain absurd," Harkin said. "But that's what we're being told, that people who make $300,000 or $400,000 a year simply cannot pay the same taxes that they would have been paying in the Clinton years."Harkin was one of eight senators to vote against the deal. Others included Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery and Sabrina Siddiqui reported earlier on details of the deal:

Under the deal brokered by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Congress would permanently extend the Bush income tax cuts at $400,000 and below, keep the estate tax threshold at $5 million and extend unemployment benefits for one year.It would also temporarily delay the sequester -- i.e., billions of dollars in across-the-board spending cuts -- for another two months. The cost of continuing current spending levels will be paid for through an even mix of tax revenue increases and later spending cuts. Half of those cuts will come from defense spending; half will come from nondefense spending.

This deal is being railroaded through, with a heaping helping of created crisis in a lame duck session (just as I predicted). If only the Tea Party had stopped the train!

Believe me, I understand the plight of the long-term unemployed, and I don't say that lightly. But we're going to get screwed in many other ways when this deal goes through that I'd rather we went over the cliff. It's not an ideal situation (hell, it was designed that way!) and it played on difficult emotions. Sen. Jeff Merkley, who really is a good guy, voted for the deal, saying:

“My measuring stick for this fiscal cliff deal, like every bill I consider, is how it will impact working families throughout Oregon. And while I have deep misgivings about the next steps, I have concluded that this deal is worth supporting.

“Without this bill, every family in Oregon would have seen its tax bills go up and our economy would have gone back into a recession. Without this bill, 30,000 unemployed Oregonians would have been cut off at the knees, without money to pay for food or rent as they look for work. And importantly, this bill protects the Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits our seniors depend on.

“Although it does not do as much as I want, this bill does ensure that the wealthy will be contributing more as we work to bring our deficits under control. I far prefer that choice to further cuts to education, law enforcement, and investments in the infrastructure our economy depends on.


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