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updated: 1/2/2013 5:41 PM

How suburban lawmakers split on fiscal cliff vote

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U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, part of the GOP leadership of the U.S. House, said insufficient federal spending cuts led him to split with Speaker John Boehner and vote against the fiscal cliff deal.

"It's clear that President Obama wants to govern the United States how Pat Quinn is governing Illinois," Roskam, the GOP's chief deputy whip, said Wednesday, referring to Illinois' Democratic governor.

Roskam, of Wheaton, along with suburban Republicans Randy Hultgren of Winfield and Joe Walsh of McHenry, were among the U.S. House members who voted against the measure. Other Republican members of Congress, including suburban representatives Bob Dold of Kenilworth and Judy Biggert of Hinsdale, voted in favor.

The bill, which passed 257-167, does away with the tax increases that would have hit 99 percent of households. While most income tax cuts that expired Dec. 31 are being extended permanently, the legislation ends a 2 percent payroll tax cut -- which will immediately shrink paychecks for U.S. workers.

The bill's passage was a victory to President Obama even as Republicans vow to fight him in coming weeks for spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

"(This bill) will make the debt and the deficit worse, and it will hurt the economy," Walsh said. "Most Republicans and Democrats held hands and got along, because it's a lot easier than doing what's right."

Walsh, Dold and Biggert lost their re-election bids last November and leave office on Thursday.

Walsh bashed Republicans who voted in favor of the bill, accusing them of being afraid "to ask the American people to grow up" and "doing a lousy job of telling the American people where things are at."

Hultgren said he liked that the fiscal cliff deal made some tax rates permanent, such as estate, dividends and capital gains tax rates, but voted against the measure because it didn't cut spending.

"I didn't think this was the right solution," Hultgren said. "To me, it's done and we made our decision and we have to work together ... because we still have so many decisions we have to make."

Roskam said his Illinois perspective ultimately made him unable to support the package. While he described some components of the "cliff" deal as "attractive," he said the lack of spending cuts was a deal breaker.

"I have seen at home what happens when the entire solution is revenue and that's exactly what Springfield has been doing," said Roskam, who served in the state legislature from 1992 to 2006.

In talking with GOP representatives on how to vote on the deal, Roskam said, "it was very much, 'vote your conscience.'"

Despite a fracturing of opinion at the leadership table, Roskam said Boehner should not be criticized for bringing the legislation to the House floor.

"When 89 senators agree on something, the House needs to consider it and debate it. He followed through on that," Roskam said.

"The president got his revenues. He has created an expectation that making some people pay more in taxes, that somehow, he is making these problems go away. He has classically oversold this," Roskam said.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Evanston, supported the bill. While she said it's not perfect, she noted it does require the richest Americans to absorb more tax increases than the middle class and avoids cuts to important programs like Social Security.

The deal ends tax cuts for couples earning $450,000 or individuals earning more than $400,000 and raises taxes on capital gains and dividends for those at that income level. The bill also raises the estate tax rate from 35 to 40 percent for inheritances over $5 million for an individual or $10 million for a couple.

"Overall, this was a very good beginning," Schakowsky said Wednesday, noting the future "cliffs" that lie ahead. "I'm not happy about seeing those taxes go up. If we had not extended the tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, the average tax increase would have been about $2,200 a year and that would have been a very big bite."

Schakowsky added that the Bush tax cuts were always viewed as a short-term tax break, and the money was coming right out of the Social Security Trust Fund, which needed to be protected.

Obama plans to sign the fiscal cliff bill into law.

"The deficit needs to be reduced in a way that's balanced," Obama said at the White House.

He said top earners and corporations should pay even more and that Congress must raise the debt ceiling. "Everyone pays their fair share. Everyone does their part," he said.

Daily Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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