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Utah's congressional delegation frustrated by fiscal cliff

Published: Saturday, Dec. 29 2012 9:00 a.m. MST

President Barack Obama called on Senate leaders Friday to either come up with a deal this weekend or at least vote on preventing taxes from increasing on middle-class families and unemployment benefits from expiring.

J. Scott Applewhite, File, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Utah's congressional delegation continued to express frustration Friday over the lack of progress to prevent so-called "fiscal cliff" tax increases and spending cuts from taking effect at the start of the new year.

President Barack Obama called on Senate leaders Friday to either come up with a deal this weekend or at least vote on preventing taxes from increasing on middle-class families and unemployment benefits from expiring.

"It's so terribly frustrating," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. "We need solutions, not another punt. I was a placekicker in college. I know what kicking is all about. We need to move the ball forward here and solve these problems. These are not acceptable answers."

Chafftez said he was hoping the looming deadline would inspire action.

"Congress is notorious for waiting until the last minute," he said. "Here we are, hours away from the end of the year, and the suggestion is we do something short term."

Utah's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, said leaders in both parties need to "understand the word compromise." Ultimately, he said, everything needs to be on the table, including an overhaul of the tax code.

Matheson said the only way to solve the long-term fiscal imbalance the country faces is with some level of shared sacrifice. He said he didn't know if that would mean a tax increase for the wealthy, as Obama has proposed.

Rep.-elect Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said he would be willing to work with the president on tax increases.

"I wouldn't fight against that," Stewart said. "But we have to look at the spending side."

Stewart said his concern with a tax increase is that "it doesn't fix the problem in any meaningful way. And I'm afraid we'll end up spending it all anyway."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, blamed Democrats for the stalemate. 

“Let's be clear: The only reason we're days away from the largest tax hike in history is because President Obama and Senate Democrats have refused to put forward any reasonable proposals to avert the fiscal cliff," he said in a statement.

Hatch said he has long maintained that "the only way we're going to avert the fiscal cliff is with strong presidential leadership, but we just haven't seen that. The president needs to stop trying to score political points and get serious about finding a solution to stop this massive tax hike.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said even if a deal is reached, the nation "will still face a $13 trillion debt and a sprawling, outdated tax code that provides a volatile, inconsistent revenue stream."

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