Effingham Daily News
The so-called “fiscal cliff” has been averted, but the debate over how the federal government should spend money will continue, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus said this week.
Shimkus, R-Collinsville, was one of 85 Republican congressmen who broke with the majority of their caucus and supported the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.” The 85 joined 172 Democrats to pass the bill late Tuesday evening, 257-167. Eight representatives did not vote.
Shimkus, who said he’s gotten flak on social media about his support of the bill, admitted that House Resolution 8 is not perfect.
“The bad thing is that we didn’t address spending,” he said, adding that he expects a lengthy debate over spending in the next few months.
“We will fight the spending battle at the end of February or March,” Shimkus said. “This vote was to cut taxes. The frustration is that people know we have a spending problem and we didn’t address it in this bill.”
President Barack Obama is expected to ask Congress to increase the nation’s debt ceiling sometime in the next few months. The debt ceiling was last raised in the summer of 2011 after a lengthy debate. Without such an increase, the federal government may not be able to borrow enough money to pay its bills.
But Shimkus said the spending battle was set aside for another day with HR 8, which was passed late Tuesday night after several days of feverish negotiations between congressional leaders from both parties. The congressman admitted the 154-page bill was complex.
“It’s a big bill with a lot of moving parts,” he said. “But in the end, I think it was a good vote.”
Shimkus said middle-class taxpayers would have been subject to a hefty tax increase if HR 8 hadn’t passed.
“It made permanent the Bush tax cuts for every individual with an income of less than $400,000 and every couple with an income of less than $450,000,” he said. “We were at a big risk of everyone getting a pretty sizable tax increase.”
The increase would have happened automatically, along with severe spending cuts, particularly to the military, after a bi-partisan supercommittee failed to agree on specific cuts in late 2011.
Shimkus said HR 8 provides a level of certainty for the business community that it did not previously have.
“I think we are in a better short-term position with passage of HR 8, than if it had not passed,” he said. “Now we have certainty and some of the capital that has been on the sidelines can be released to create jobs. Long-term, people have to remember that we still have a $16 trillion deficit.”
Shimkus said another plus for HR 8 was a provision that extended the current farm bill, enabling producers to better manage their risk — and avoid a steep hike in dairy prices.
“We wanted to make sure our producers had the risk management tools they needed,” he said.
While some visitors to Shimkus’ Facebook page praised his willingness to work with Democrats for what is perceived as the greater good, others used the popular social media site to slam the congressman, even questioning his conservative bona fides. Here are some excerpts:
• “WHY did you vote with the commie in the White House???? I actually thought you were a conservative...Traitor!”
• “How could you actually vote for this? I guess we had you all wrong. You are not a real conservative. Too bad. You always seemed like a nice and sensible guy.”
• “You voted for this crap. You’re just another gutless Republican...NOTHING will be done about entitlements and the enormous debt problem...Thanks for NOTHING. I will NOT cast another vote for YOU.”
Shimkus said he welcomes the debate.
“I’m more than happy to stand on my record,” he said.
Shimkus wasn’t the only Illinois Republican to vote for HR 8. Other Republican representatives favoring the bill included Reps. Judy Biggert, Bob Dold, Adam Kinzinger, Timothy Johnson, Donald Manzullo and Aaron Schock. Biggert and Dold lost their re-election bids, while Kinzinger defeated Manzullo in their Republican primary after re-districting. Johnson retired and Schock was easily re-elected.
Four Illinois Republicans voted against HR 8, including Reps. Randy Hultgren and Peter Roskam, who won their re-election bids, and now-former Reps. Joe Walsh and Bobby Schilling, who were unseated in their respective races.
All seven Democratic representatives from Illinois voted in favor of HR 8. Now-former Rep. Jerry Costello left office Thursday after choosing to retire from Congress. The others, Reps. Danny Davis, Luis Gutierrez, Daniel Lipinski, Mike Quigley, Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky, all won re-election last fall.