The sound and fury of the “fiscal cliff” debate proved just a prelude for more sound and fury on federal spending, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt said Wednesday.
The Republican lawmaker said legislation approved to avert tax increases on most Americans accomplished some goals but remains incomplete in correcting Washington’s fiscal missteps.
“We have to do our work in the right way,” he told Missouri reporters in a conference call. “Hopefully, we’ll learn a lesson from the needless crisis that developed at the end of the past year.”
Mr. Blunt spoke about 12 hours after the U.S. House approved without modification the Senate-passed bill to “extend certain tax relief provisions enacted in 2001 and 2003.”
The measure, passed at 10:57 p.m., Washington time, carried 257 to 167. Northern Missouri Congressman Sam Graves was one of only eight U.S. representatives not voting on the tax relief bill.
The Republican congressman had been present in the House chamber about an hour earlier and cast a vote on a procedural matter.
A spokesman for his office said on Wednesday morning that Mr. Graves had been “detained” and missed the voting period. On Wednesday afternoon, the spokesman said the congressman would not be available for an interview.
After the vote, the lawmaker entered a statement into the House record saying he would have voted “no” on the measure, according to his office.
Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who represents Northeast Kansas, voted against the legislation.
Her spokeswoman said Wednesday the Kansas Republican would have no statement following the vote and referred to an earlier announcement in which Ms. Jenkins said, “Our autopilot spending is eating our country’s fiscal health alive.”
All four members of the Kansas House delegation voted against the legislation. Of Missouri’s nine House members, to be reduced to eight with today’s swearing in of a new Congress, Republicans Todd Akin, Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler voted “no.”
Democrats Lacy Clay, Russ Carnahan and Emanuel Cleaver and Republicans Jo Ann Emerson and Blaine Luetkemeyer voted in favor of the legislation.
All four senators from the neighboring states, Mr. Blunt and Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran of Kansas, voted “aye” when the bill cleared the U.S. Senate by an 89 to 8 vote early Tuesday morning.
Mr. Blunt said he wished the lame-duck Congress and President Obama would have negotiated a comprehensive bill that included more spending cuts. Instead, lawmakers handed off the responsibility to the next Congress, which includes about 80 new members.
With the deal that resulted, Congress made permanent most of the “long-abused Bush tax policies,” Mr. Blunt said, and exempted 99 percent of taxpayers from any major changes in tax rates.
“We arrived at a conclusion that is the best we could have probably hoped for based on the election results,” the senator said.
Tough work remains for lawmakers, he added. Federal programs run out of appropriated money on March 27, the nation hits its debt ceiling in late February and the across-the-board “sequestration” cuts have only been postponed until the end of next month.
These issues can not be addressed without thoughtful negotiation by all sides, Mr. Blunt said, noting the elected divisions of a Republican-led House, a Democratic-led Senate and a Democrat in the White House.
“If anybody thinks that one side can do whatever they want to do, they’re in for a rough lesson,” he said.