Illinois' congressional delegation mostly supports 'fiscal cliff' compromise

2013-01-03T04:01:00Z 2013-01-04T08:18:39Z Illinois' congressional delegation mostly supports 'fiscal cliff' compromiseBy KURT ERICKSON - H&R Springfield Bureau Chief Herald-Review.com

SPRINGFIELD — U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson was among seven Illinois congressmen who cast their final vote in Congress on Tuesday.

And, according to a spokesman, the Republican from Champaign wasn’t happy about the 11th-hour legislation designed to help avert tax hikes as part of the so-called fiscal cliff.

Johnson felt the measure, which emerged from the Senate after the House was unable to strike a deal with President Obama as the clock ticked down on a Dec. 31 deadline, fell short on a number of points, said spokesman Phil Bloomer.

“It doesn’t touch any of our spending problems,” Bloomer said.

But, Bloomer said, “He gritted his teeth and voted ‘aye.’ ”

Illinois’ delegation voted 14-4 in favor of the measure, which passed the House on a 257-167 vote Tuesday.

Along with Johnson, who is leaving Congress after serving a Central Illinois district since 2001, other downstate representatives voting “yes” included Republicans John Shimkus of Collinsville, Aaron Schock of Peoria and Adam Kinzinger of Manteno.

Democrat Jerry Costello of Belleville, who also is retiring, voted “yes.”

One-term Republican U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling of Colona voted “no” in his final vote representing the Quad-Cities region.

The deal calls for tax increases for individuals with incomes above $400,000 and married couples who earn more than $450,000. Estates above $5 million also would be taxed at a higher rate. And jobless benefits that had been set to expire would be extended for another year.

But, Republicans who voted “yes” did so with reservations.

“While the American Taxpayer Relief Act provides permanent tax relief for millions of families and small businesses, it fails to include necessary spending cuts,” Kinzinger said. “The House acted numerous times, well before the Jan. 1 deadline, to offer a balanced approach. I’m disappointed that the Senate and White House ignored these talks until the 11th hour.”

Shimkus said he voted in favor of the legislation because it extended most of the tax rates that he first voted for under President George W. Bush.

“This package will make the Bush tax cuts permanent for those under the income levels set in the agreement. Maintaining the current tax rates is important for both families and the economy,” Shimkus said.

Republicans said they hope to iron out some kind of agreement with the president in the coming months.

“A debate is still to come regarding more spending cuts, particularly since this agreement does not raise the debt ceiling as the president had initially wanted,” Shimkus stated. “I still believe we can have entitlement reform in the months to come.”

Schock, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax writing committee in the House, called it unfair that much of the debate focused on boosting taxes on wealthier citizens.

“Now that we have permanently cemented middle-class tax relief, Congress and the White House must address the larger issues of out-of-control spending and reversing the historic record debt and yearly deficits under President Obama,” Schock said.

kurt.erickson@lee.net|782-4043

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