INDIANAPOLIS | Three months ago, well before the United States sailed over the fiscal cliff, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, told The Times he expected Congress would "at best, kick the can down the road" on taxes and spending.
He was proved right late Tuesday when the U.S. House approved legislation, despite Visclosky voting "no," that restores President George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all but the wealthiest Americans and puts off difficult decisions on budget cuts and the debt ceiling for several months -- likely setting up yet another showdown between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic President Barack Obama.
Visclosky, who has represented Northwest Indiana in Congress for 28 years, said he can't support tax and spending reforms that aren't balanced or comprehensive. He was one of only 16 Democrats to vote against House Bill 8.
"While I am heartened that most Americans will not see their tax rates increase, the plan adds $4 trillion to the national debt while leaving some of the most pressing tax and spending issues facing our country unresolved," Visclosky said. "The American people deserve more than a Congress that continually kicks the can down the road and fails to provide true certainty to all Americans."
Also voting "no" was U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indianapolis, a Munster native who represents Newton and Jasper counties. Rokita, like Visclosky, said the nation must "get serious" about its debt problem.
"While Congress and the White House have steered the nation around a fiscal pothole ... we are still hurtling toward the real fiscal cliff," Rokita said. "I will not consign our children to a debtors' prison just to block President Obama's tax hikes."
Only two of Indiana's nine House members voted for the measure: U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis; and U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger.
Donnelly, who becomes a member of the U.S. Senate on Thursday, said even though he believes the legislation was "far from perfect," he voted for it because it reduces taxes for 98 percent of families and 97 percent of small businesses.
"Too many in Washington have allowed their own political interests to trump their ultimate responsibility to work together to do what is best for our country," Donnelly said. "Moving forward, I strongly believe that we need to set politics aside and work together to reduce spending as we further put our fiscal house in order."
In the Senate, where the measure passed 89-8, both U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., and U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., voted yes.
Coats said that while he favors a comprehensive deficit reduction plan, the legislation approved Tuesday preserving most Bush-era tax cuts is "the lesser of two evils."
"Allowing our country to slip off the fiscal cliff and raise taxes on every American is unacceptable," Coats said. "American taxpayers should not have to pay the price for Washington’s dysfunction. "
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the state's largest business group, said it's ready to help lawmakers find federal spending to cut.
"We must rigorously reform entitlement and social welfare programs and look for real, lasting savings across all federal activities," said Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. "We can no longer borrow and spend as if there were no consequences, because the day of reckoning fast approaches."