U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, says the Senate deal on the fiscal cliff is far from perfect, but he will vote for it because it “protects a lot of people from tax increases” and “removes Obama’s narrative” that the GOP only seeks to protect the wealthy.
Womack, a second term Congressman representing Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District, is expected to preside over what is likely to be a more than two-hour debate Tuesday night (Jan. 1) on the U.S. House floor. A "straight" vote is expected to follow the debate, according to Womack.
The U.S. Senate approved Monday a fiscal cliff avoiding plan in an 89 to 8 vote, with U.S. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and John Boozman, R-Ark., voting for the deal.
Provisions of the Senate-approved deal include the following provisions.
• The top tax rate on household income above $450,000 rise from 35% to 39.6%. The new top rate is the rate prior to tax reductions approved in 2001 and 2003.
• Taxes paid on large inheritances – over $5 million per individual – rise from 35% to 40%.
• Unemployment benefits are extended another 12 months for an estimated 2 million Americans.
• A planned 27% reduction in payments to Medicare doctors is removed.
• Approval of a five-year extension of several tax credits primarily available for low- and middle-income earners – for example, the child tax credit and college tuition tax credits.
• Several tax credits for businesses – R&D credit, production credits, etc. – are extended through 2013.
During a quick phone interview with The City Wire, Womack said the Senate deal has “more in it that I like than I don’t like,” and it “saves a lot of people from tax increases they can ill afford right now.”
Womack supports the provision that eliminates the Social Security payroll tax reduction, saying it was “bad policy to shortchange the Social Security trust fund.” If approved by the House the payroll tax will return to the pre-2003 rate. For those earning around $30,000 a year, the payroll tax change will reduce income by about $50 per month.
Hardline fiscal conservatives won’t like a vote for the Senate deal, Womack admitted, but stressed that “serious deficit reduction strategies” will be in play once the fiscal cliff drama ends.
“The President has been able to beat up the GOP over this narrative that we are about protecting the wealthy. ... If this is approved, he (Obama) is no longer going to be able to use that as leverage against us. He will now have to come to the table on spending,” Womack explained.
Womack also said the Senate deal extends key farm bill provisions that not only protect Arkansas farmers, but will help keep food costs from rising.
He also said pushing forward the sequester deadline “will allow us to possibly avoid the drastic cuts” to the Defense budget that are supported by the White House.