January 3, 2013 10:28:32 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
Quite frankly, I expected better from Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo, two of the three Mississippi Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Both Harper and Palazzo voted against the Tuesday legislation that prevented the fiscal cliff disaster from becoming a reality.
That the third Republican, the one who represents Lowndes County, voted no on the bill was as predictable as a two-year-old pitching a fit at the supermarket until he gets candy.
Yes, predictably, Alan Nunnelee voted against the legislation. The bill passed by a 257-167 margin, but Nunnelee at least made his point: When it comes to putting politics over people, No-nnelee is working on a perfect record in Congress.
"Allowing more revenue today and promising to look at cutting spending down the road is the oldest trick in the Washington book," Nein-nelee said in a statement. "Somehow, the day to cut spending never comes. I cannot support a deal that adds to our spending-driven debt crisis."
What Nyet-nnelee can support is making a political point by taking money out of your pocket.
While Harper, Palazzo and Nada-nnelee fought vigorously to stave off a tax hike on the wealthiest two percent of Americans, the overwhelming majority of the people they represent would have been hit hard if the legislation had failed. For those with an income of $50,000, it would have meant an additional $2,200 in annual taxes, for example.
It should be noted that while Nunnelee was lying on the floor kicking and screaming, Mississippi's U.S. Senators, Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, voted yes on the fiscal cliff bill.
Now, it is unlikely that anyone is going to mistake Cochran and Wicker as spend-thrift liberals, yet both veteran lawmakers instinctively understood that the vote at hand was a simple proposition: You are either going to stick it to the average taxpayer or you're not. It was the political equivalent to the question, "Who's buried in Grant's tomb?"
At least our senators are bright enough to answer that question correctly.
"There is still work to do," Wicker said in a statement explaining his yes vote. "Congress and the president must reduce the federal deficit."
Cochran said in a statement that the legislation "will ensure that the income taxes for most families in Mississippi will not shoot upward this year."
Those are reasoned responses to a less than perfect legislation. Circumstances will soon force Congressional action on spending. Both Wicker and Cochran realize that. They will live to fight another day, an approach that does not inflict needless pain on the people they represent.
Perhaps Nunnelee calculated that going over the fiscal cliff would arise public outrage to such a point that the President and Democrats would be forced to make the sweeping cuts he favors. Of course, another possibility is that going into the abyss would expose those who voted against the legislation as being indifferent to the people they are supposed to serve.
In either event, an attempt to leverage the people's pain to gain a political advantage is deplorable. But Nunnelee will have it his way or somebody will have to pay, presumably the average taxpayer.
He is like a man standing in his living room as the flood waters rise around him, insisting that he will not move until somebody builds a levee.
It's not a smart move and it is certainly not an honorable move, regardless of the platitudes Nunnelee will certainly spout in his own defense.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In the original version of this column, it was stated that Nunnelee used a private jet to travel back and forth to Washington from his district. All of Nunnelee's air travel is confined to commercial flights. We regret the error and apologize to Mr. Nunnelee.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]