How they voted, and whyRep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., voted against the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 while Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., voted to pass it. Here are their comments on the vote:
By Logan C. Adams
The Jamestown Sun
Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., voted against the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 while Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., voted to pass it. Here are their comments on the vote:
Rep. Rick Berg: No
“My frustration was I felt we needed to take a serious look at the fiscal challenges our country is facing right now. My frustration is that it didn’t move us in the direction we need to go. It added to the debt, and it increased spending.
“It’s kind of typical Washington, kicking the can down the road. We’ll have the same crisis within three months.
“One of the things that has been going in my mind is Washington is that, when there’s a tax increase, it takes effect immediately, and when there’s a spending reduction, it’s deferred indefinitely. We have a spending problem facing our country.
“We’re in the red over a trillion dollars every single year, so in 10 years our overall debt on this course will be 10 to 15 trillion dollars more than it is now, and it’s $16.4 trillion today. That’s why I voted against this. We need to move along that course. This should have been the first step on that course. We should be moving to balance our spending and revenue and this should have been the first step.”
(Berg spoke in an interview Wednesday evening after returning to Fargo. He left office this week and Rep.-elect Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., will take his seat today in the U.S. House of Representatives)
Sen. Kent Conrad: Yes
“New Year’s Eve, we were called to session and we were briefed by the vice president and other staff from the White House with respect to the deal that was before us. I told our colleagues on that night that I believed we had to support the proposal before us because to fail to do so would send us back into a recession.
“Most economists say the economy would shrink 4 percent in the first quarter, 2 percent in the second quarter; that a million more people would be unemployed; that 2 million people who are now on unemployment insurance would lose that and would have no safety net.
“So Mr. President, I saw no alternative but to support this agreement. At the same time, I told my colleagues ‘I hate this agreement. I hate it with every fiber of my being,’ because this is not the grand bargain that I hoped for, or worked for, or believed is so necessary to the future of the country.
“Mr. President, this is not by any standard a deficit-reduction plan. As necessary as it is, no one should be misled that this deals with our deficit and debt because it only makes our debt circumstance worse. …
“Because for this nation’s future, it is critically important — it is critically important —that the next Congress in its early days try to get back to doing the grand bargain, the big deal, something that would reduce our deficits and debt by at least $4 trillion over the next 10 years; to stabilize the debt and begin to bring it down.”
(Conrad delivered these remarks Wednesday in his final speech as a senator. The “president” he was addressing was Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who was serving as president of the Senate that day. Conrad retired from the Senate this week and Sen.-elect Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., will replace him)
Sen. John Hoeven: Yes
“By making these lower tax rates permanent, we create certainty for American families and businesses. That certainty will stimulate business investment to create more jobs and economic growth, which will produce more revenues to reduce our deficit and debt, without raising taxes.
“While I would have preferred, and worked hard toward, a more comprehensive fiscal cliff agreement that includes pro-growth tax reform, bipartisan entitlement reform and finding real savings to address the deficit and debt, what we passed today was an important first step that will spare the vast majority of the American people from an onerous income tax increase.
“Now, we need to work in a bipartisan way to achieve real savings to reduce our deficit and debt, as well as enact bipartisan entitlement reforms to preserve those programs for the long-term.”
(Hoeven’s remarks were published in a news release issued Tuesday)
Sun assistant editor Logan C. Adams can be reached at
701-952-8451 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org