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Graves: Tax cuts renewal will help region
Congressman will take part in lame-duck session
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As others slow down for the holiday season, Congress is taking one last shot at tackling some big issues during its final session of the year.

U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, believes debates over Bush-era tax cuts will have the greatest impact on his constituents in the 9th District.

“We’re in the lame duck portion of this year, and the No. 1 issue facing all of us right now is stopping the largest tax increase in the history of our country, which is slated to happen on Jan. 1,” Graves said.

Tax cuts enacted by former President George W. Bush expire Dec. 31. Congress is debating whether to extend the tax breaks for wealthier Americans — individuals earning $200,000 plus or couples making more than $250,000. Republicans favor extending the tax cuts while Democrats oppose permanently extending them, which would cost about $700 billion over 10 years.

Graves said he will vote to extend the tax cuts at all income levels.

“I believe that we shouldn’t see taxes increase for any American, any business owner, at all across the board,” Graves said. “We’re in one of the most challenging economic times we’ve seen in decades. This is no time to have taxes increase on anyone.”

Graves said it is likely the tax cuts will be hotly debated until the final hours of the session.

“I think it’s a debate you’ll see each and every day in the House and in the Senate,” he said.

The stage is set after Republicans took over the majority of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats came out with a much slimmer majority in the Senate after the general election.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said there are a number of goals the Democrats likely won’t achieve before the end of the year.

“Given the way the electorate spoke, which was very negatively on Democrats; things like cap and trade (emissions policy), dues check off for unions, don’t ask don’t tell (in the military); all these things kind of on the liberal agenda that liberals would like to have seen this 111th Congress act on, it didn’t and probably won’t.”

Bullock said lame duck sessions are traditionally unproductive, so it is significant that Congress is convening at all.

“The fact that there is a special lame duck session suggests that there must be something important to do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t bother,” Bullock said. “The fact that we don’t have a budget passed, well all right, you either need that or you have to keep passing continuing resolutions. Otherwise the government closes down. So that’s significant.”

Graves said the lame duck session does present some challenges.

“You have a lot of members on the Democrat side who were defeated in the general election, so their participation may not be the same as it was prior to the election,” he said. “On our side we have 80 plus freshman who have a lot of energy and a lot of passion. But they are unable to vote at this time because they are not sworn in until January.”

In January, Graves will begin his first full term as the representative for Georgia’s 9th district. He was elected in a special election in May to fill the remainder of Gov.-elect Nathan Deal’s term.

“It’s been a really good transition and for the district it’s been beneficial because my seniority goes to the 2008 class,” Graves said. “Everything in Washington is based on seniority — your committee assignments, your subcommittee assignments and your involvement in the process.”