LAWRENCEVILLE -- With action in Washington late New Year's Day, the fiscal cliff crisis was averted. Or was it?
The holiday vote will mean most Americans will only feel a little pain when they get their paycheck this year, but the solution set for the so-called fiscal cliff has as much mixed reaction here as it did in Washington.
Gwinnett's delegation in Washington was divided, with Republican U.S. Reps. Rob Woodall and Paul Broun joining the rest of the state's House GOP members in voting no. Democrat U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, as well as Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss voted in favor of the proposal, which makes permanent Bush-era tax cuts, except for those who make $450,000 or more.
"I voted to pass the American Taxpayer Relief Act because avoiding the fiscal cliff removes a massive barrier to continued growth of the American economy. The bill protects the middle class providing permanent tax relief, while restoring equity in the tax code by requiring that the wealthy pay their fair share," said Johnson, whose district includes portions of southern Gwinnett.
The tax cuts, Woodall said, were the only positive outcome from a last-minute deal to stave off Jan. 1 deadlines. He wanted more spending cuts to be paired with the plan.
"No matter what happened last night, it was going to be a failure," Woodall said Wednesday, adding that Congress should have been working for months to tackle the issues. "The president has succeeded in making our tax code a welfare redistribution program. ... That is not what the tax code is supposed to be used for."
Woodall said people in his 7th district -- which shifts in 2013 to encompass much of central Gwinnett and Forsyth -- are not all about "no" but more for looking for solutions, he said, which gave him the opportunity to try to be a part of a compromise. But he said many Republicans were afraid the Senate would not act if the House made amendments to its bill.
Still, he was encouraged by the process.
"Everything that you saw throughout the process, it was rarely indicative of partisan wrangling," he said, adding that many in the party had differing opinions, mostly because their constituents back home had different concerns.
To Atlanta Tea Party Patriots' Julianne Thompson, of Suwanee, that split vote in the GOP showed her that too many politicians were willing to abandon party principles.
"This vote separated the wheat from the shaft. It is time for Republican leadership that will stand-up for our principles," she said, thanking the GOP House delegation while expressing disappointment for the votes of Isakson and Chambliss.
This is what Isakson had to say about the vote: "This 11th-hour negotiation is no way to run a country, but I voted for this agreement because it protects 99 percent of Americans from a tax increase, permanently protects tens of thousands of farmers and family businesses from having to pay the estate tax upon the death of a loved one, and permanently fixes the alternative minimum tax to protect some 30 million households a year from having to pay it. I am also pleased that this agreement reinstates the pay freeze for members of Congress. Now, it is time for the president to get serious about spending cuts and entitlement reforms, and I look forward to enacting significant measures in the coming weeks that will reduce our debt."
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, whose district lines move today to encompass eastern Gwinnett and Barrow counties, said the bill made a mockery out of the country's spending debate.
"My fear is that in a very short period of time we'll be right back here having this same debate; who to raise taxes on and by how much, without a word about cutting spending," he said. "It'll only be so long until we're taxing the entire country at maximum rates but still spending so much that we cannot meet our obligations. That's when we'll reach the real fiscal cliff, and as a consequence the United States will no longer be the global powerhouse and economic leader that it once was. We cannot let it come to this, but it will unless this Congress, this Administration, and this President get serious about cutting spending."
Woodall said he was also concerned that government spending will not be addressed until it is too late.
"At some point, it can't be about the next election," he said. "It hs to be about the right thing."
But Jason Pfeifle, who, as part of Georgia Fair Share, organized business owners and residents to present a petition to Woodall last month encouraging him to approve a compromise bill, said he was disappointed in the congressman, saying his vote was "for a tax hike."
"Georgia Fair Share and a growing coalition here in Gwinnett County will continue to hold Rep. Woodall accountable to the middle class voters who elected him," he said. "It's time for Rep. Woodall to put partisanship aside and help us build an America where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody pays their fair share."