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Minnesota lawmakers’ reactions to the fiscal cliff deal

The bill extends low tax rates for individuals making less than $400,000 a year.

Speaker of the House John Boehner walking with Rep. Dave Camp after a meeting with House Republicans about a "fiscal cliff" deal on Tuesday.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Congress passed a plan Tuesday to prevent tax increases for most Americans and delay, for two months, massive federal spending cuts, averting the so-called “fiscal cliff” that has been at the forefront of lawmaker’s attention for most of this fall.

The bill keeps current tax rates in place for income under $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples while letting taxes increase on income above that. The bill delays the $1.2 billion in defense and domestic spending cuts scheduled to kick in this year and contains a handful of other policies, including a short-term extension of federal farm policy that had expired in September (that component drew sharp criticism from Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson).

Here’s a breakdown of the plan.

In the Senate, Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken voted for the bill. Among Minnesotans in the House, John Kline was the only Republican to back the bill, and Peterson the only Democrat to oppose it.

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The bill passed 89-8 in the Senate and 257-162 in the House. The bill was controversial, and a non-starter in fact, for some the chamber’s Republicans, who opposed the package mostly because it didn’t include deep enough spending cuts. (Buzzfeed looks at how the GOP’s internal debate developed on Tuesday).

In part, the Minnesota delegation illustrates that. Republicans Michele Bachmann and Erik Paulsen both alluded to spending issues in statements explaining their votes against the package. Chip Cravaack said in December he couldn’t back a plan that raised taxes on income less than $1 million unless it came with corresponding cuts to spending elsewhere. Casting one of his final votes as a member of the House, he voted against the final fiscal cliff plan.

Kline voted for the bill but said he hopes the new Congress will work to enact “meaningful spending reductions and critical reforms that strengthen our nation’s entitlement programs for future generations.”

I’ll keep a running tally of the official statements from the Minnesota delegation as they come in today and tonight. 

Amy Klobuchar (Democrat; voted yes): “I voted for this compromise because the last thing we should be doing this New Year’s is sticking middle class families with a tax hike. I fought for and wanted a larger, more comprehensive plan that balanced revenues and spending cuts. I will continue to push for a broader plan to reduce our debt and give businesses and families the certainty they need.”

Al Franken (Democrat; voted yes): “I voted for this bill because it contains a number of very important provisions, including tax cuts for working and middle-income Minnesotans, an extension of unemployment insurance for so many Americans who are looking for work, and the production tax credits that mean so much to our state’s renewable energy producers. And it was crucial to me that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security beneficiaries were protected.

“There are some provisions I most certainly don’t like, particularly those in the extension of the Farm Bill: cuts in conservation and energy, and the gutting of the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program. But I’ll continue to work to pass a five-year Farm Bill this year so that Minnesota’s ag community has the support and certainty it needs.

“While I don’t think this package raises sufficient revenues toward paying down the debt or to make the investments in infrastructure, education, and research and development needed to grow our economy, I knew that no bill would have 100 percent of what I wanted, and I will continue to fight for the priorities that I believe will best serve Minnesota.”

Tim Walz (Democrat; voted yes): “While I’m disappointed that it isn’t the larger, ‘Go Big’ type deal I have been advocating for, this bill is a good first step and I’m pleased a compromise was finally reached to avert the fiscal cliff. I voted for this bill because it will protect middle class families from an income tax hike and it will protect our economy. Furthermore, this bill extends many vital tax incentives for businesses including the Wind Production Tax Credit, which will create jobs in southern Minnesota and continue to move our country towards energy independence. It also includes a ‘Doc Fix’ which ensures that Medicare providers won’t see a 27 percent cut to their reimbursements.  

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“While there are many good provisions within this bill, it is far from perfect. I’m deeply disappointed with the Farm Bill extension, which doesn’t include funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program. Rural America needs certainty.”

John Kline (Republican; voted yes): “While I am pleased tax relief for the middle class and small businesses is made permanent by this bipartisan legislation, the sobering reality is our nation remains in a debt crisis caused by reckless, runaway spending that is killing jobs and threatening the future of our children and grandchildren.

“It should have never come to this. In the House, we have been reasonable and responsible by passing legislation in August to stop the largest tax increase in American history, and in December to replace the disastrous ‘sequester’ to defense with common-sense spending cuts and reforms which would reduce the deficit. Yet the President never called for the Senate to act on those bills, instead allowing the Democrat-controlled chamber to lead our economy and all Americans over the fiscal cliff.”

Erik Paulsen (Republican; voted no): “The Senate deal fails to bring any meaningful solution to reign in government spending or reduce the budget deficit. At a time when Washington borrows 46-cents on every dollar it spends, we need a long term solution to cut spending and fundamentally reform our outdated tax code.

“It’s unconscionable that the Senate chose to give hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to industries like Hollywood and NASCAR, but chose not to stop the devastating new tax on the life-saving and life-improving medical device industry. The medical device tax, which took effect yesterday, will harm one of Minnesota’s true success stories and threaten its 35,000 high quality jobs.”

Betty McCollum (Democrat; voted yes): “I am voting to pass a bipartisan compromise that protects middle class taxpayers from a tax increase and at the same time keeps a promise to preserve Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. With this agreement, Republicans and Democrats are voting to increase tax rates on the wealthiest 2% of Americans, raising $620 billion in revenues to allow continued investments in education, renewable energy, and job creation.

“This bill extends help for the unemployed and much needed tax credits for students, parents, and alternative energy producers which I strongly support. Yet, in such a compromise bill there is always the excess and the unnecessary waste like millions in tax credits for NASCAR and motorsports raceways and rum producers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These are examples of special interest waste that should be eliminated in future tax reform legislation.”

Keith Ellison (Democrat, voted yes): “I voted for an imperfect bill in order to prevent millions of working and middle class families from paying more in taxes while they scrape by with less, to aid those who continue to struggle to find work, and to assist millions of families who need help raising children and paying for college.  The primary problem with this bill is it tees up an even more difficult fight in two months over letting the country pay its debts and replacing indiscriminate cuts to programs Americans rely on.  In the upcoming negotiations, we must continue to stand strong and oppose benefit cuts for families who rely on Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.  
“While this agreement has many flaws, it meets the basic principles I have fought for since I introduced the Deal for All resolution in July:  protecting seniors, the sick, and the vulnerable; ensuring that the wealthy contribute their fair share; and creating jobs for working Americans to help get our economy back on track.”

Michele Bachmann (Republican; voted no): “Washington politicians have engineered a last minute backroom deal that does not address America’s jobs and debt crisis. Rather than a deficit reduction plan, the Senate sent us a grow government plan. I cannot support a plan that has billions in tax increases with no meaningful cuts in spending. It’s time to solve problems rather than delay them. 

“The answer to a $16 trillion national debt and 23 million Americans struggling to find work is not raising taxes to prop up more big government spending. We simply cannot demand more money from hard working Americans without changing the way Washington spends money. Small business owners and entrepreneurs will now be faced with new tax increases that will stifle job creation and economic growth. Combined with the burdensome Obamacare tax increases that just went into effect, it’s a recipe for an anemic recovery in 2013.”

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Devin Henry can be reached at