Lieberman and Collins Stand Up for Fiscal Responsibility

Yesterday the Senate voted on two highly polarized tax plans, with a Democratic version passing 51-48 while the Republican supported bill failing to pass 45-54. Neither were paid for—the Republican plan cost $405 billion and the Democratic plan cost $250 billion ($368 billion including excluded elements)—nor took any initiative on long-term deficit reduction. But bucking party affiliation were Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), who voted against both tax cut plans on the grounds of good tax policy and fiscal sustainability.

Collins criticized Congress for trying to score political points instead of coming up with a fiscally responsible solution that would have a chance of passing. Collins stated:

“Congress needs to undertake comprehensive tax reform to make our system fairer, simpler, and more pro-growth. Instead, today we are asked to consider two proposals—neither of which represents my view and neither of which is a serious tax policy. Instead, they are election-year political ploys designed not to move us forward, but only to score political points.

“Our nation’s tax code needs to be overhauled, from top to bottom. The tax plan offered by the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission – a commission the President himself created – offered a proposal a year and a half ago that should have been the foundation for a serious debate for such an overhaul."

Lieberman also voted against both plans, arguing that deficit reduction should be a priority of the Senate and that Congress cannot fail to act any longer. Said Lieberman:

"Today, I voted against both the Democratic and Republican tax proposals because they each fell far short of the comprehensive, bipartisan and balanced approach that is urgently needed to create jobs and restore economic growth. It is long past time to end the political posturing and begin the hard work of getting our deficit under control. To achieve that objective, it will require that all Americans make some sacrifices. It will require additional revenue and genuine entitlement reform. Fortunately, there is already a bi-partisan blueprint for action – the Bowles-Simpson plan – and I urge my colleagues to work together to forge an agreement along these lines. We have taken the political votes today, tomorrow we should begin work on a genuine plan to get our country out of this fiscal mess."

We are very encouraged by this move. Instead of simply kicking the can down the road, Senators Lieberman and Collins are standing up for fiscal responsibility. To be sure, going off the fiscal cliff by allowing all the tax cuts to expire and all the across-the-board spending cuts to take place isn’t a good idea—indeed it would put us into recession. But if we simply waive the fiscal cliff policies, we will doom ourselves to permanently higher debt and a permanently lower standard of living. We need to replace the fiscal cliff with a gradual and thoughtful deficit reduction plan that puts the debt and the economy on a sustainable path. We are proud to see that these two Senators recognize this reality.