President Barack Obama used his weekly address Saturday to advocate again for swift passage of his deal with Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts, and incoming Rep. Kristi Noem (S.D.) began her House career by agreeing with the president in the GOP response.
Obama has been taking heat for days from Democrats who complained that he caved to Republican demands to extend tax cuts even for the wealthiest Americans. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) held the Senate floor for more than eight hours Friday to argue that the deal would permanently enshrine Republican tax cuts for the rich and leave the country in debt for years to come.
The president said Saturday he understands this concern. “It’s clear that over the long run, if we’re serious about balancing the budget, we cannot afford to continue these tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers — especially when we know that cutting the deficit is going to demand sacrifice from everyone. That’s the reality.”
But he added, “We cannot allow the middle class in this country to be caught in the political crossfire of Washington. People want us to find solutions, not score points. And I will not allow middle-class families to be treated like pawns on a chessboard.”
In the end, he said, “we hammered out a deal that reflects ideas from both sides. It wasn’t easy, and it’s by no means perfect. And as with any compromise, everybody had to live with elements they didn’t like. But this is a good deal for the American people. The vast majority of the tax cuts in this plan will help the middle class,” and it also includes an extension of unemployment benefits for people who have been unable to find work.
“I strongly urge members of both parties to pass this plan,” Obama said. “ And I’m confident that they will do the right thing, strengthening the middle class and our economic recovery.”
Noem, already a rising star in Congress before she has even been sworn in, used the national platform of the Republican response to endorse the tax cut package, but also to suggest that rolling back other Obama initiatives will be critical to restoring the economy.
“The American people want to see all the tax hikes stopped, and they won’t tolerate games that might get in the way, Noem said. “They won’t put up with any celebrating and back-slapping, either. Putting the games aside and doing the right thing for the people shouldn’t be the exception — it should be the rule.”
Leaders from military and veterans service organizations joined Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Kelly Ayotte , R-N.H., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a press conference to urge the Senate to replace a provision in the budget proposal that cuts retirement benefits for veterans. Wicker, Ayotee, and Graham earlier called for a bipartisan solution to replace the $6.3 billion in cuts to military retiree benefits.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.