Hours after midnight on Jan. 1, I joined 88 of my Senate colleagues in voting for legislation that stopped what would have been the largest tax increase in American history and made permanent lower tax rates for more than 99 percent of American taxpayers.
Was this legislation perfect? Far from it. It's not the legislation I would have written and includes much that I don't support. As is the case with legislation drafted in such a rushed manner, it is an imperfect solution to averting massive tax hikes that would have thrown our nation back into a recession, hurting millions of hard-working Americans.
I don't believe, however, higher taxes are the solution to our nation's problems. This legislation increased the top tax rate impacting many job creators, including many small businesses. It included more spending. It did nothing to get Congress to work on overhauling our broken tax code and nothing about our debt crisis.
As Utah's senior senator, I had a choice to make: Would I sacrifice the perfect for the good? For the millions of Utahns out there from middle-class families in Provo to job creators in Salt Lake my vote was to ensure that Uncle Sam didn't take more of your hard-earned money.
This legislation makes permanent lower tax rates enacted under President Bush for more than 99 percent of the American people. Democrats back in 2001 and 2003 stopped us from setting this critical tax relief in stone. With this bill, we've achieved that. After all, President Obama wanted to raise $1.6 trillion in revenue to keep spending, but we stopped that and gave the overwhelming majority of Americans the tax certainty they deserve.
Unfortunately, we have an intractable president who doesn't understand the severity of our spending crisis. He says he won't negotiate to raise the so-called debt ceiling. What he wants is to keep spending on the nation's credit card with no limit. I have a message for him: That's not going to happen. If he thinks I'm going to agree to more revenue so he doesn't have to cut spending, he's got another think coming.
If he wants the debt ceiling raised, then he better put the campaigning aside and start working to tackle our spending-fueled debt crisis. It's time the president understood that reforming Washington through significant structural entitlement and tax reform is the path to prosperity for our nation.
Our debt is closing in on $16.5 trillion. Our entitlement programs Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are on autopilot to bankruptcy. With more seniors coming on to Medicare each day, there just aren't enough taxpayers to support the program and those who rely on it.
Medicaid, a joint federal-state health care program for the poor, was dramatically expanded in the president's health law so that governors across America, including here in Utah, have said they won't be able to sustain it.
Our tax code is an albatross around the necks of middle-class families and our job creators. It's so broken that it puts the United States at a competitive disadvantage around the globe. Unfortunately, the president says all he wants is corporate tax reform. But that's not fair to everyone else.
The president's allies have said they want to do tax reform to address our debt crisis. That's just code for raising more taxes, so they don't have to get spending under control.
Many Utahns don't like the spending in this legislation. Neither do I. As I begin my last term in the Senate, I promise you I will not stop fighting to reduce federal spending once and for all.
Orrin Hatch is the senior U.S. senator from Utah.