WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta agree that driving off the fiscal cliff would not have been in the best interests of 99 percent of Americans, and so they voted for the last-minute deal.
Casey, D-Scranton, and Barletta, R-Hazleton, said Wednesday, on the eve of being sworn in to their second terms, that they favored averting widespread tax increases and putting an end – at least temporarily – to the lengthy political fighting in the nation's capital.
Last night was a time to be tactical, not political, Barletta, 56, said in his new office in the Cannon Building. We achieved the largest tax cuts in U.S. history and made them permanent. There was no way I could leave that on the table for 99 percent of the people.
Casey, 52, said the agreement was necessary for people of middle incomes, to protect unemployment benefits for people trying to get back on their feet and to not damage the economy.
I'm thrilled we could get an agreement so late in the process, Casey said. Thank goodness most Republicans did not follow (U.S. Rep. Eric) Cantor's path. Cantor, the Republican House majority leader, on Tuesday said he would not support the fiscal cliff compromise approved overwhelmingly in the Senate the night before.
Casey said 85 Republicans in the House voted for the bill, and 40 of the 45 GOP senators approved the package – a rare show of bipartisanship in a Congress known for gridlock.
Barletta said he and many Republicans are disappointed that spending cuts weren't in the bill; in fact, he said, spending increased. It was clear that the president and the Senate wanted no spending cuts in this deal, he said. Therefore, holding out for something we knew we couldn't get wouldn't have been practical.
Barletta said this is the first step and the next will be to cut spending. He said the GOP expects President Barack Obama to request raising the debt ceiling but that won't be an easy task. This is where we need to draw the line in the sand, said Barletta. He won't get my vote unless we have a budget that is approved by the House and the Senate and signed by the president.
But Casey said Congress can't default on the country's debt without having devastating effects on the global economy.
We have to work together to determine what will be cut and how, he said. We have to establish some basic guidelines that assure we don't hurt economic growth.
Barletta said a budget must come first.
How can we borrow more money to run the government when we don't have a budget telling us how much it will cost to run the government? Barletta said. If we do that, it won't be long before we will again be knocking on the doors of the American people to raise taxes.
Casey said Democrats and Republicans have to work together on spending cuts without lengthy debate. It's time to work together, he said.
Barletta likened the situation to a parent of a teenager who has maxed out a credit card and asks for help.
Sure, the parent will pay the bill, but I would want the credit card back, he said.
Barletta and Casey are expected to be sworn in to their second terms at noon today. Barletta will serve a two-year term in the House, and Casey begins his second six-year term in the Senate.
Barletta said the bill to provide federal aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy failed because it was bloated. The bill originally called for $27 million to be sent to the affected areas, he said, but it ballooned to $60 million. They built a lot of pork into the bill, Barletta said.