Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee GOP lawmakers support Obama's tax plan

Posted on December 8, 2010

WASHINGTON - East Tennesseans in Congress are embracing a compromise economic package negotiated by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to temporarily keep Bush-era tax cuts in place for all taxpayers and extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Tuesday the deal would prevent tax increases on American families and on small businesses.

"We have close to 10 percent unemployment, and this agreement is the single best action Congress can take to make it easier and cheaper to create private-sector jobs," said Alexander, who as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference is the chamber's third-ranking GOP member.

"The only question is, 'Is this the right thing to do for our country?' and the answer is yes," Alexander said.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said Congress' top priority must be preventing a tax increase on any American.

"Based on what I've heard," Roe said, "this legislation will help alleviate some worries many small businesses, families and farmers were facing if these tax cut extensions were to expire."

"Although this deal is by no means perfect, it should make clear to all Americans that Republicans were serious when we said that our top priority was job creation and stopping job-killing policies," Roe said.

The compromise, announced late Monday by President Obama, would extend for two years tax cuts that were adopted under former President George W. Bush but were to expire at the end of the year.

Obama had campaigned on renewing the tax cuts for all Americans except those making more than $250,000 a year. But with Republicans in the Senate refusing to back down and with the GOP set to have even an bigger presence in Congress next year, the White House and a bipartisan group of congressional leaders negotiated the compromise deal.

Besides extending the tax cuts for another two years, the package also would renew jobless benefits through the end of 2011 and grant a one-year cut in Social Security taxes.

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, threw his support behind the package.

"I am in favor of tax cuts for everyone, and it has nothing to do with protecting millionaires," Duncan said. "What it is about is making sure this money is spent by the private sector rather than by the federal government, where much of it is wasted. More jobs would be created and prices will be held down if we can keep this money in private hands."

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he hasn't yet seen the package, but he stressed that businesses and families need to know their taxes won't be going up next year. Corker said he plans to introduce an amendment to the bill to cap federal spending as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product to instill fiscal discipline and smaller government while encouraging lawmakers to pass "pro-growth policies."

"A binding cap on spending coupled with tax certainty would send a strong message to the American people and the marketplace that Washington will not continue to defer tough choices to future generations," Corker said.

Michael Collins may be reached at 202-408-2711.