By Tom Hayes
As Congressional Democrats and Republicans continue their "stare-down," many are worried that the U.S. will plunge off the "fiscal cliff" in three months and taxes will rise for 90 percent of Americans due to automatic increases in income and payroll taxes.
Third District Congressman Jeff Duncan is one of GOP House members holding the line on making a deal with Democrats on a budget deal during the lame duck session. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has struggled to hammer out compromises in part because he says some of the GOP House freshmen have been hardheads. That would include Duncan, who says he will take Boehner's remark, as "badge of courage", but he will not compromise on his basic principles about fiscally responsible government.
"When it comes to living within our means, when it comes to constitutional form of government, when it comes to limited government and free markets I'm going to be unabashed about that," he told Greenwood station WCRS, "I'm going to be hardheaded about it. I believe we have to return to the principles of our founding fathers. So you can call me hardheaded, stubborn, whatever. I'm going to be that way about those certain principles."
Duncan says he considers himself a reasonable man who can compromise. However he said he will not agree to any deal that does not include substantially paying down the deficit. "I'm flexible when it comes to pathways, as long as the means to an end are the right means. I understand politics. I understand working together is important, but I'm not one to go along just to get along. That's just not me."
Duncan says he does not believe in hammering out a compromise just after the election because that would give members of Congress voted out of office another chance on the issue. Also, if President Obama were defeated, he still holds veto power until January. Duncan says the Bush-era tax cuts or "rates," as he calls them, can be installed after the turn of the calendar year. So, he sees no reason to panic right now.
"In the mean time we may have to pass some short-term extension of the Bush tax rates, and I'm all for that. That does not have to happen before January. That can happen in January before the quarterly tax payments go out before the end of the quarter when you start paying your quarterlies. We can set the tax rates In January and make them retroactive to January 1 so that's no problem."
Still looming in January is the prospect of sequestration. Those are $1.2 trillion in across-the-board reductions to domestic budgets and defense spending. The cuts would take effect over the next 10 years unless Congress forestalls them by January 2. Duncan says supporters of the so-called Congressional "super-committee" said sequestration was put in place just to make sure that the super committee would hammer out a deficit reduction plan, but that failed.
Duncan says he would hate to see defense spending significantly reduced.
"Defense is one of the constitutional roles of government, so defense spending in part of that constitutional requirement. Now we can have an argument about the levels of defense spending and other things at another time, but I don't believe at this point in time we ought to have sequestration. I told them a year ago, and I feel like saying I told you so."
Anne Eller of Greenwood affiliate WCRS contributed to this report