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Hatch only Utahn in D.C. to back fiscal cliff deal

Published January 1, 2013 10:53 pm

Politics • Lee, Matheson, Bishop, Chaffetz all vote no.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch was the only Utahn to back the last-minute deal to curtail tax increases for American taxpayers while the state's other members of Congress blasted the process and called it a bad bargain.

GOP Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz as well as Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson opposed the measure Tuesday night that was aimed at keeping tax rates the same for American families who make less than $450,000 a year. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had voted against the bill earlier in the day.

Hatch, who has said he won't seek election again, said he wasn't happy with the ultimate bill but he backed it because it would mean most Americans won't see a tax increase.

"This isn't legislation I would have written and it is far from perfect," Hatch said early Tuesday. "But given the stakes for the people of Utah and the nation, I reluctantly supported it because it sets in stone lower tax rates for roughly 99 percent of American taxpayers."

His Utah colleagues disagreed.

"Senators were only given the actual text of the 157-page bill without any official projections of its costs at 1:36 a.m., just six minutes before the vote," said Lee, who was one of eight senators to oppose the package. "Everything about this bill was a failure: what Congress did, how Congress did it, and what Congress failed to do."

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the legislation would increase the deficit by nearly $4 trillion over the next decade.

Matheson was one of 16 Democrats to oppose the bill, which he said wasn't the right solution and just punts the tough decision again.

"To address the fiscal cliff, legislation must include a strong framework for real deficit reduction," Matheson said. "Sadly, this bill falls short. Without a serious mechanism to curb spending and put our country on a fiscally sustainable path, I could not support this bill."

Bishop praised parts of the bill — the avoidance of tax hikes and preservation of most estate tax exemptions — but decried the lack of "real spending cuts" and looming reductions in the military budget.

"They just kicked it down the road for two months and I have no confidence that the administration or the Senate are serious about coming back and really solving this military funding problem."

Chaffetz, too, said he voted against the bill because it did not contain any substantial cuts in spending.

"I want solutions; not more Band-Aids," Chaffetz said. "We have to cut spending. I can't vote for a package that increases federal spending."

tburr@sltrib.com