WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham was the only Republican member of South Carolina’s congressional delegation who voted for the last-minute package to avert a fiscal cliff, saying Congress had to act to prevent catastrophic consequences.
Sen. Jim DeMint, days before he leaves office, chose not to vote after saying that a lame-duck session of Congress with dozens of outgoing lawmakers shouldn’t vote on such an important issue.
“Without this legislation, there will be a dramatic increase in every American’s taxes,” Graham said after joining most senators in easily passing it. “Additionally, without this legislation, draconian cuts to our national defense will take place.”
The measure put off for at least two months forced reductions in military spending under sequestration requirements that were to have taken effect Wednesday.
In the House of Representatives vote Tuesday just before midnight, all five Republicans, four of them concluding their first terms in office, opposed the measure that raises taxes on household income above $450,000 but avoids tax hikes for the vast majority of Americans.
House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of Columbia, the state’s only Democratic member of Congress, joined most members of his party in supporting the legislation.
Rep. Tim Scott, who will be sworn in as a senator Thursday after his appointment by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to replace DeMint, said he could not vote for the fiscal cliff deal despite his close relationship with Speaker John Boehner as a leader of the House freshman class.
“We cannot allow Washington’s out-of-control spending to continue, and that is what this deal does,” the North Charleston Republican said. “For every dollar in spending cuts, there are 41 dollars in tax hikes. The can continues to be kicked down the road.”
Describing himself as “extremely disappointed” by the House’s 257-167 vote to pass the package, Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land said Wednesday that Congress had added $330 billion to the current $16.4 trillion in federal debt.
“Borrowing money without ever intending to pay it back is not debt,” Mulvaney said. “It is theft. It is what we have been doing for too long in Washington. And instead of turning the tide last night, we continued our lazy ride toward inevitable financial ruin.”
Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Laurens Republican, said voting for the measure would have been “a betrayal of our oaths of office to continue to ignore runaway spending.”
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg branded the package “irresponsible” and said that “it did nothing to make Social Security and Medicare solvent for current and future recipients.”
Overall in the House, 151 Republicans and 16 Democrats voted against the deal, while 85 Republicans and 172 Democrats voted for it. The Senate passed the measure by an 89-8 vote, with five Republicans and three Democrats opposing it.