Steve Stivers

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington

Both U.S. congressmen now representing Athens County voted in favor of H.R. 8, the 11th hour legislation designed to stop the nation from tumbling over the so-called fiscal cliff.

Both U.S. senators representing Ohio also favored the deal.

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, was still representing the northern portion of Athens County as part of Ohio's 18th Congressional District when the vote was taken by the 112th Congress. He voted against the bill.

With the 113th Congress now taking over, Athens County is no longer in the 18th and is no longer represented by Gibbs.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, representing Ohio's 15th Congressional District that contains the majority of Athens County in the new Congress, voted in favor of the compromise legislation.

"There was both good and bad in the bill, but in the end I decided to support the legislation because it provided certainty with permanent tax rates," Stivers said in a statement released Wednesday.

"I have made reducing spending a priority my first two years in Congress, and now moving forward pledge to the constituents of Ohio's 15th Congressional District to continue the fight to stop run-away-government spending and begin to balance our budgets," he concluded.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, who represents Ohio's 6th Congressional District, which includes the two southeastern-most townships of Athens County in the new Congress, framed his vote as protecting tax cuts for the middle class.

"Washington has a spending problem that threatens the prosperity of our children and grandchildren," Johnson asserted. "Now that an agreement has been reached to prevent going over the fiscal cliff and permanently cut taxes on 99 percent of the American people, the table has been cleared to tackle the out-of-control federal spending that has amassed a $16 trillion national debt head-on."

Johnson turned his attention then to work he said still needs to be done to get the country's budget on track.

"As we start a new year, it is critically important for the president and Senate to work together with the House on the big issues that are driving our debt and stifling job creation," Johnson said. "We must strengthen and preserve Medicare, overhaul Medicaid and completely reform our tax code. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to solve our fiscal challenges now so that they may have the same access to the American Dream that our generation has been blessed with."

In his statement, Gibbs said he voted against the bill because it did not include spending cuts.

"There certainly are some components of the bill with which I agree, including provisions for which I have voted to support throughout the past two years. I always supported extending the 2012 tax rates for all income levels, as well as repealing the death tax and the Alternative minimum tax," Gibbs said. "However, in the end, this bill raised taxes on many Americans and job creators, and does not address the country’s most dire spending problem. We must find a balanced solution that addresses the crux of this economic crisis, which is the federal government’s abhorrent and reckless spending."

The House of Representatives voted 257-167 late Tuesday to pass the U.S. Senate-approved compromise deal, forged by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The deal does the following, according to Associated Press reports: It "extends decade-old tax cuts on incomes up to $400,000 for individuals, $450,000 for couples. Earnings above those amounts would be taxed at a rate of 39.6 percent, up from the current 35 percent. It extends Clinton-era caps on itemized deductions and the phase-out of the personal exemption for individuals making more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $300,000…

Taxes on capital gains and dividend income exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families would increase from 15 percent to 20 percent, according to the AP.

(The deal) permanently addresses the alternative minimum tax and indexes it for inflation to prevent nearly 30 million middle- and upper-middle income taxpayers from being hit with higher tax bills averaging almost $3,000, the AP reported. The tax was originally designed to ensure that the wealthy did not avoid owing taxes by using loopholes.

The AP also reported that the compromise…

• extends jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for one year.

• extends for five years Obama-sought expansions of the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and an up-to-$2,500 tax credit for college tuition.

• also extends for one year accelerated "bonus" depreciation of business investments in new property and equipment, a tax credit for research and development costs and a tax credit for renewable energy such as wind-generated electricity.

• blocks a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors for one year. The cut is the product of an obsolete 1997 budget formula.

• allows a 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax first enacted two years ago to lapse, which restores the payroll tax to 6.2 percent.

• delays for two months $109 billion worth of across-the-board spending cuts set to start striking the Pentagon and domestic agencies this week."

This final aspect, known as "sequester," is expected to be dealt with during a debate tied to the debt ceiling, on which a deal was also put off, in the coming months.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat representing Ohio, agreed that the deal was not ideal but had the makings of some initial steps toward ultimate goals.

"While this deal isn't perfect, it represents an important down payment in reducing the deficit and getting America's fiscal house in order," he said after the Senate passed the plan. "It also prevents dangerous cuts to Social Security and reduces the deficit by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. Moving forward, I'll be working to ensure that future deficit reduction efforts are based around shared sacrifice rather than balancing the budget on the backs of seniors, middle-class families, and working Americans."

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican holding Ohio's second Senate seat, also voted in favor of the deal.

"I supported the fiscal cliff agreement because it stops huge tax increases from being imposed on the overwhelming majority of Ohio's families and job creators," Portman said in his statement. "I am also pleased that the $1.2 trillion sequester put in place by the Budget Control Act will not be unwound.

"Although I will keep fighting to reallocate the across-the-board cuts in our defense programs, with the debt at record levels, Washington cannot let the spending cuts lapse… Now that the fiscal cliff has been averted, Congress and the Obama Administration must move forward on pro-growth tax reform and reform of the important but unsustainable entitlement programs," Portman said.

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