Fiscal Cliff
8:01 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio Voted To Risk The Cliff

Most of the Florida delegation went along with last night's vote to stay on the high side of the fiscal cliff. But the big exception was Sen. Marco Rubio.

VOTING NO: Rubio said the fiscal cliff bill would would threaten job creation and the broad economy.

He voted no on the bill -- one of just eight senators to do so -- explaining that it was an historic tax hike that would hurt the economy.

"Rapid economic growth and spending reforms are the only way out of the real fiscal cliff our nation is facing," Rubio said. 

"But rapid economic growth and job creation will be made more difficult under the deal reached here in Washington."

The Senate compromise bill repeals Bush-era tax cuts for individuals who earn annual salaries above $400,000 and couples that report more than $450,000 but leaves tax rates intact for everyone else.

At least 52,000 Floridians reported incomes of $500,000 or more to the IRS in 2010.

Passing the bill avoided across-the-board tax increases and deep spending reductions. Analysts agreed that the combination of higher taxes and less government spending would have damaged the recovering economy severely.

Every Democrat from Florida and five of its Republicans voted for the fiscal cliff bill. Republicans in favor included Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the Miami area, Bill Young of St.  Petersburg, Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville and  Vern Buchanan of Sarasota.

But the state's most conservative Republicans, including Rep. Allen West of Broward County, voted no. Dissenting in addition to West were Reps. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, Dan Webster of Winter Garden, Bill Posey of Melbourne, Steve Southerland of Panama City and Connie Mack of Cape Coral.

Rubio's "no" vote is being seen as politically self-interested on the assumption that he'll need the support of a staunchly anti-tax Republican base if, as many assumed, he runs for president in 2016.

In an editorial that appeared this morning, the Palm Beach Post blasted the fiscal cliff deal as a paltry accomplishment that reflected poorly on the president, the  Republican leadership and, particularly, Marco Rubio:

It was a cowardly thing to do. Let others be tainted by the necessity of ugly compromise. Sen. Rubio remains “pure” by holding out for a deal that has no chance of making it to the floor, much less of passing. He said in a statement he couldn’t support tax increases on small businesses. But his vote against the deal was a vote to raise taxes on everybody.

Not that Sen. Rubio was alone in striking an infuriatingly pious tone. President Obama on Monday staged an inappropriate campaign-style media event to stick it to Republicans. It was a dumb move, since the GOP leadership needed to keep the rank-and-file on board with a deal that, after all, Mr. Obama had approved.

Not that the economy will remain unscathed. The president's 2010 payroll tax "holiday" has gone away, meaning that every American paycheck will be reduced by two percent as the tax that funds Social Security returns to its pre-holiday level.

Passage of the bill was a victory for the president and the delivery on a campaign promise. But it dealt almost exclusively with taxes, leaving the Republicans to argue further on ground where they feel more confident. The Miami Herald reports,

“Now the focus turns to spending,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement after the vote. “The American people re-elected a Republican majority in the House, and we will use it in 2013 to hold the president accountable for the ‘balanced’ approach he promised, meaning significant spending cuts and reforms to the entitlement programs that are driving our country deeper and deeper into debt.”

Reluctant House Republicans, concerned the plan had too few spending cuts and not enough meaningful debt reduction, had threatened to stymie the plan. Their fury was fueled further by a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the package would add $3.97 trillion to deficits over the next decade.

The AP, in this story, gets us oriented on where we are with the fiscal cliff, and what happens next.