CHESTERTOWN - According to Congressman Andy Harris, he's here to help the Eastern Shore by supporting Republican plans to cut the deficit using lower taxes.
Harris, the 1st District Republican, circulated a statement on Dec. 2 by email. According to Harris, the Democrats aren't serious in their efforts to raise revenue and retire debt; rather, “If we cut wasteful government spending and implement pro-economic growth policies, we will be able to balance the budget and re-invigorate the stalled economy.”
In the statement, he said, “As House Republicans continue to work toward a real solution for the impending fiscal cliff, it has become clear that the President and Senate Democrats sole goal is to raise taxes regardless of how it may hurt family-owned businesses.
“Our hard-working American families would be better served by a solution that promotes free markets and a limited, efficient government. ... House Republicans have proposed a plan to avoid the fiscal cliff-but the President has yet to tell the American people what spending cuts he's willing to make. It's time now for the President to show real leadership on this issue before it's too late.”
When it comes to the Jan. 1 Congressional tax increase and spending cut, the “fiscal cliff” has already become a tired term for the plan that Congress itself adopted in August 2011.
It was cobbled together to take care of Republican objections to raising the debt limit. At the time there was fear of a government default on debt payments if a Republican threat not to raise the debt limit was carried out.
In his email, Harris added, “To monitor the latest news on the fiscal cliff, be sure to visit my website often.”
The website has nothing about the “fiscal cliff.”
A check of harris.house.gov Tuesday afternoon showed four press releases dated Sept. 10; on Sept. 19, a “Statement on the 11th Anniversary of 9/11” and “Honored as Guardian of Small Business by NFIB;” and on Nov. 1, “Hurricane Sandy Recovery Update.”
His latest “weekly video” entry is Oct. 26.
The most recent material there has nothing to do with the “fiscal cliff” or details of the competing proposals. On Nov. 29, he testified before a Senate committee on Hurricane Sandy.
A broader search using Google for “Andy Harris fiscal cliff” turned up only a brief report on Dec. 3 protests outside Harris' Salisbury office.
Allison Kilkenny's blog on The Nation was based on an undated report by Kody Liebowitz on the WMDT-TV website. She wrote:
“In Maryland, activists protested Congressman Andy Harris.
“'Andy Harris has never done a vote for the Eastern Shore,' said Carl Widell, regional leader for Organizing For America Eastern Shore. 'He's never done a vote for the Chesapeake Bay. He's never done a vote for the middle class. He doesn't live here, he doesn't understand us [and] he doesn't really represent us very well.'”
Kilkenny wrote that “Harris' office responded with the tired 'raising taxes on the wealthy stifles job creation' soundbite. Corporations have been enjoying tax breaks and exploiting tax loopholes for decades, and they're still outsourcing labor and shutting down factories to ship operations overseas, so clearly tax cuts aren't inspiring them to keep hiring American.”
The Harris office's comment in Liebowitz' article was the same talking point as the Dec. 2 email circular: “If we cut wasteful spending and implement pro-economic growth policies, we will be able to balance the budget and reinvigorate our stalled economy.”
Hoping to avoid the cliff, chasm or declivity, the House Republican leadership sent a letter Dec. 3 with general proposals. According to Speaker John Boehner on his website, “House Republican leaders made a new offer to avert the fiscal cliff centered around a middle ground approach first presented to Congress last year by President Clinton's former White House chief of staff, Erskine Bowles. ... This is another attempt to jumpstart substantive, good faith negotiations toward a bipartisan solution that can be enacted soon, a stark contrast to the unserious proposal the White House put forward last week.”
However, Bowles responded shortly afterward that he wasn't endorsing the Republican plan. The White House rejected it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said it is a question of “simple math” in his Dec. 3 statement: “To protect millionaires, Speaker Boehner's offer would force middle class families to pay higher taxes. Raising taxes on the middle class is bad policy and flunks the test of balance. To protect the middle class while reducing the deficit, simple math dictates that tax rates must rise on the top two percent of taxpayers next year. ...
“Democrats are willing to compromise, but any agreement must protect the middle class. ... Republicans have made an offer, but now it is time for them to get serious about forging a balanced approach.”
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, filed a so-called “discharge petition” Tuesday. It will bring a tax cut bill the Senate passed in July to a floor vote.
A total of 192 Democrats are expected to sign off; the petition also needs 26 Republicans.
The bill in question would extend the Bush-era tax cuts only for the first $200,000 a year earned (or $250,000 for families). Earned income over those amounts would be taxed at a higher rate.
In a Dec. 3 statement on whitehouse.gov, spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said, “The Republican letter ... actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill. Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close or which Medicare savings they would achieve.
“While the President is willing to compromise to get a significant, balanced deal and believes that compromise is readily available to Congress, he is not willing to compromise on the principles of fairness and balance that include asking the wealthiest to pay higher rates.”