Delaware Senator Tom Carper was one of only eight members of that body to oppose the “fiscal cliff” tax agreement supported by the White House and both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate, bucking his own party leadership, as well as his home-state Vice President Biden who negotiated the deal. As the House of Representatives takes up consideration of the legislation, we wanted to share Senator Carper’s full statement explaining his vote:
“Following our failure to craft a comprehensive deficit reduction plan in 2011, Congress put in place a set of tax increases and spending cuts in discretionary programs that, if enacted, would be painful and potentially damaging to our economy. The purpose of this so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ was to force our hand to come up with a grand bargain to get our nation’s fiscal house in order and make the tough decisions that we, as legislators, are expected to make.
Unfortunately, the deal the Senate passed this morning is not the grand bargain that I, and many of us, had hoped for, and that’s why I ultimately voted against it. While I commend the work of Vice President Biden and others in finding a way for us to avoid some of the bad elements of the fiscal cliff, there was a better way to solve this problem and we should’ve seized the opportunity to do so.
We’ve known for some time that there were two principle elements to any genuine budget plan. One, we had to reform entitlements in order to preserve programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for future generations. And, two, we had to significantly increase federal revenues. Over the last dozen years, they have dropped from roughly 20 percent of GDP, when we had four balanced budgets in a row, to less than 16 percent of GDP today.
In this deal, we did neither. When push came to shove, we walked away from entitlement and meaningful tax reform, at least for now. Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Obama, is fond of saying, ‘Never waste a good crisis.’ I’m afraid that we’ve just wasted a doozie at a time when our President’s bargaining power was at its zenith.
Instead of clearly demonstrating to American businesses that are sitting on enormous piles of cash that we can still govern, be fiscally responsible and provide certainty and predictability with respect to our tax code, we leave them saying, ‘Not again.’ Why? Because two months from now, we face the prospect of yet another debt ceiling crisis and more turmoil that will discourage a lot of American businesses from investing their cash in hiring new employees that will help our economy grow.
The American people want us to do the right thing and not the politically expedient or easy thing. Two times in the last 18 months, President Obama and Speaker Boehner have negotiated in an effort to reach a grand bargain that puts this country on a fiscally sustainable path. Unfortunately, two times, Republicans have chosen not to back their Speaker because of their refusal to consider tax increases on anyone, including those who can most afford it.
My hope is that this intransigence will someday be overcome, and that the next time there’s a serious effort to put together a budget deal, both sides will stay at the table and seize the opportunity to make the hard choices we know have to be made.”