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US Rep. Bill Owens.
US Rep. Bill Owens.

North Country House delegation votes yes on"fiscal cliff" deal

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North Country congressman Bill Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh, voted in favor of a zero-hour spending bill late last night that averted the so-called "fiscal cliff".

Owens was joined by Republicans Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna, who also currently represent parts of the North Country.

They helped lift the measure past opposition from conservative Republicans. The bill passed on a vote of 257 to 167.

The controversial bipartisan deal came just in time to spare the country broad tax hikes and deep cuts to Federal spending, which Owens called "dangerous."

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

Speaking just hours before last night's vote, Congressman Bill Owens described the spending deal as acceptable – the kind of compromise that he says is necessary in a deeply divided country.

Owens argued throughout last year's campaign that taxes would have to go up for the wealthiest Americans.

No business would do what we're doing. I understand why folks are very frustrated with us. And I'm saying to you that they should be.
"I've been pretty consistent really throughout the last year, year and a half that I'm okay between $250,000 and $500,000," Owens said.

"So the fact that [tax hikes] came in [for Americans earning] around $450,000 is not a problem. That to me is a reasonable compromise." The compromise passed the House on a 257 to 167 vote last night.

Without this deal, Owens says, the North Country would have faced broad spending cuts of seven to eight percent for most Federal agencies – a clumsy brand of budget cutting that he described as "dangerous."

"You're talking about potentially dramatic cuts at Fort Drum. Those are things that have real impact. If you have layoffs or furloughs on the border, that's going to affect communities in terms of the traffic coming down from Canada."

Last night's zero-hour deal averted that kind of across-the-board reduction. Owens acknowledged that a lot more work will need to be done to bring the country's deep spending deficits under control.

"We did not do anything significant on spending. I thought we should have had a grand bargain, if you will, a bigger deal, because we need to get both of these things in line. We need reduced spending and more revenue."

New York state's entire congressional delegation voted in favor of last night's compromise deal. That includes two Republicans – Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna – who still represent chunks of the North Country.

Congressman Chris Gibson, who represents a chunk of the North Country that stretches from Queensbury to Saranac Lake, issued a statement last night explaining his vote in favor of the controversial spending bill.

Gibson, a Republican, says the deal "provides much needed tax relief for over 99 percent of my constituents." Gibson says that a deal is still needed to "achieve necessary long-term deficit reduction."

(Gibson and Hanna will no longer represent portions of the region in the new Congress, because of redistricting.)

But this bipartisan deal is only a down-payment on more gridlock that's expected this year, as lawmakers tackle tax reform and the national debt ceiling.

Owens says voters are right to be impatient with the level of combativeness in Washington.

"I think they're right on target," Owens said. "No business would do what we're doing. I understand why folks are very frustrated with us. And I'm saying to you that they should be."

One factor that shaped this deal was the unpopularity of Congress compared to the high job ratings of Barack Obama. Here in New York, the latest Siena poll shows Obama with 62 percent approval ratings.


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