US legislators for the Valley hope for deal

By David Skolnick


With the nation heading toward the so-called fiscal cliff, federal lawmakers representing the Mahoning Valley say compromise is the key to avoid going over it.

Though members of Congress agree a deal must be struck before the Jan. 1 deadline, they differ on a resolution.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, said going over the fiscal cliff would increase taxes for the poor and the middle class.

“It’s not the right thing to do,” Johnson said of not coming to an agreement. “We have a fiscal problem because of the [Obama] administration. The president has boxed himself in. He’s made it clear he wants to increase revenues by taxing the rich. The real answer is to create an economy to get Americans back to work.”

Republicans are willing to compromise through “comprehensive tax reform by closing loopholes and cutting federal spending,” he said, while keeping the tax cuts.

The fiscal cliff was avoided in the summer of 2011, which essentially pushed the decision on resolving it to the end of this year.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, said he supports President Barack Obama’s position to “stand strong on bringing equity to the tax code and balancing the budget with shared responsibility” by the wealthy.

Obama’s re-election proves Americans are fine with asking the wealthy “to pay a little more,” he said.

But Ryan said he doubts House Republicans will agree with Obama.

Ryan said House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester, Ohio, R-8th, will work to get the “best deal he possibly can and one he can live with. Unfortunately, he’s the most reasonable guy in the tea party caucus, and he’s going to have a hard time convincing Republicans” to vote for such a deal.

“I expect a resolution, but I don’t know what it will be,” Ryan said.

Noted conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said he expects similar results to what happened in 2011.

“It’s the same people around the table having the same discussion,” said Norquist, who was born in Sharon, Pa. “Obama says the difference now is the economy is doing better. No, it’s not. You can’t make the argument the economy is healthy.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, said he views this issue “as an opportunity for us to face some of the issues that Congress must address including entitlement reform and tax reform. If we fail to address those issues, then we’ll have another fiscal cliff coming up very, very shortly.”

Portman also said it’s time “for us to address not just the fiscal cliff, but also the underlying issues that we must address to move the economy forward.”

A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said he believes both parties “must work together on a balanced approach that reduces the deficit while promoting economic development and job creation, and protecting Medicare and Social Security.”

The senator also wants to reduce spending and have the wealthy pay “their fair share” of taxes, said Allison Preiss, his spokeswoman.

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