For the weeks leading up to New Year's Day 2013, the talk was not of ball drops, fireworks or New Year’s resolutions. Instead, it was about the "fiscal cliff;" when the largest tax increase in American history and across the board spending cuts would take effect and threaten to tip America's weak economy back into recession.

Congress knew this cliff was coming for more than a year. In fact, it was a cliff of Washington’s own making. That is why the House got to work to avert the cliff months ago. In June, we voted to replace the across the board spending cuts with more targeted reductions. In August, we voted to extend tax relief for all Americans, which was set to expire on January 1 and would have resulted in an enormous tax increase on everyone.

Unfortunately, just because the House gets its work done doesn’t mean the rest of our nation’s leaders have to follow our lead. So the bills thoughtfully crafted and passed by the House sat untouched in the Senate and ignored by the President. Instead of leading, the President chose to posture and play political games with hardworking American families. It wasn’t until we were nearly over the cliff that the Administration got truly engaged and a deal was brokered.

I will be the first to admit that the deal that is now law is flawed, and is an unfortunate example of how politics are getting in the way of common sense policy. However, faced with the choice of allowing taxes to go up on every taxpayer in America or enacting permanent tax relief for 99 percent of them, I chose the latter. I want to make it clear that had Congress done nothing, middle class families in South Dakota would be paying $2,000 more this year in taxes. I refused to stand by and allow that to happen. Instead, I chose the option that protects 99 percent of South Dakota taxpayers from government reaching into their pockets and taking more of their money.

The fiscal cliff also posed a very serious threat to the future of family farming in South Dakota. Without action, the death tax would have reverted to a $1 million exemption and 55 percent tax rate on any assets above that, which would have ensnared more than 70 percent of South Dakota’s crop producers. The fiscal cliff legislation I supported made permanent the $5 million death tax exemption so that more family farms and businesses can stay in the family. I will continue to work with others in Congress to permanently repeal the death tax. There were other important parts of the bill that was passed, including a temporary extension of the Farm Bill.

Even with the glimmers of good in the bill, this deal doesn’t even begin to touch the real problem our nation is facing: spending. South Dakotans have heard the numbers repeated over and over again: $16 trillion debt; $1 trillion annual deficits; $50,000 owed by every child in America. In my short time in Washington, I have already voted for trillions in spending cuts and I will not stop fighting tooth-and-nail to force Washington to live within its means.

The people of South Dakota know what’s at stake if we fail to address our spending crisis. I will continue to stand up for South Dakotans every step of the way and fight for responsible spending cuts that will secure America’s future. And I encourage South Dakotans to make their voices heard in this as well. Because we don’t just need leadership, we deserve it. For the sake of our children and for love of our country, we must rein in the out-of-control spending that threatens the way of life we all hold dear.

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