WASHINGTON — On a climactic vote to raise taxes and put off the bulk of scheduled spending cuts, Colorado’s “Senate twins” split apart.
Early Tuesday morning, Michael Bennet voted “no” on the so-called “fiscal cliff” agreement, while Mark Udall voted “yes.”
The two Democratic senators voted alike so often in 2011 that National Journal identified them as one of 10 “Senate twins” in the upper chamber.
But their statements about the fiscal package reflected different legislative priorities.
“While I do support many of the items in this proposal – for example, extending unemployment insurance, the wind production tax credit and tax cuts for most Americans – I believe they should have come in the context of a comprehensive deficit reduction package,” Bennet wrote in a statement. “Without a serious mechanism to reduce the debt, I cannot support this bill.”
For Udall, opposing spending cuts in expansive federal entitlement programs were a key priority. “I do believe we needed to keep taxes low for the middle class and ensure that working families and seniors will not be hurt in 2013,” he wrote. “This is not the deal I would have written, but we cannot ignore the need to protect taxpayers, businesses and our fragile economy from the destructive effects of the fiscal cliff.”
Bennet and Udall’s votes were not decisive for the outcome of the legislation. The bill commanded the support of 89 senators, with five Republicans and three Democrats in opposition. Yet the Colorado Democrats’ votes on the so-called fiscal cliff agreement is the latest sign of Bennet’s distance from Udall.
In July, Bennet announced he had joined a “Gang of Eight” in the Senate to work out a compromise on the nation’s entitlement programs, a bipartisan move that independent voters favor. But last month, he accepted the position of chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a more partisan position that that entails raising money to elect Democratic senators.
With his vote Tuesday night, Bennet may be trying to appeal to Republicans, who support spending cuts. A Gallup poll in November found that nearly 7 in 10 Republicans said deficit reduction should be achieved “only or mostly” with spending cuts.
Udall is up for re-election in 2014.