Rep. Hartzler: Dems politicizing drought-relief measures

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) slammed Senate Democrats Saturday, saying their failure to pass drought-relief or stop tax hikes set to take effect next year had harmed small businesses and farmers.

In the GOP weekly address, Hartzler said, as a small business owner, she has seen first-hand the challenges of the severe drought hitting the nation and economic uncertainty over the broader “fiscal cliff” of impending tax increases and spending cuts set to hit in 2013.

“Like you, I was relieved earlier this month when the House passed a bipartisan measure helping farmers devastated by the ongoing drought.  A lot was riding on this bill, but the Senate, a body controlled by the president’s party, left Washington for the month of August without even bringing it to a vote,” said Hartzler. 

“The president has seen fit to politicize this issue, but the fact is he didn’t urge the Senate to act,” she added. “That is a true shame.  Drought conditions continue to worsen, and the shaky state of the economy only amplifies our anxiety.”

Lawmakers left for recess earlier this month without finalizing a deal on either a farm bill or drought assistance for farmers and ranchers. The House passed a modest drought-relief bill after talks over the farm bill deadlocked, but the Senate did not adopt the measure. 

Senators had passed their own bipartisan farm bill earlier in the year which included drought-relief measures.

Obama on Monday, during a campaign stop in Iowa, said the Agriculture Department would begin taking steps to aid farmers hit by the drought, including through purchases from animal and crop producers to help stock food banks and increasing farmers’ access to water.

Hartzler also cited a study from accounting firm Ernst & Young which concluded that the coming expiration of the President Bush-era tax rates in 2013 will cost the economy 700,000 jobs and reduce wages.

“Senate Democrats haven’t acted to stop the small business tax hike scheduled for January 1st, but the House has.  Because while the president tells small business owners like me ‘you didn’t build that,’ Republicans know better and are committed to getting government out of their way,” said Hartzler.

Both the House and Senate have approved competing measures on the Bush-era tax rates, with Senate Democrats backing an extension of the rates for those making up to $250,000 a year. Democrats, led by President Obama, say wealthier taxpayers need to pay their “fair share.” 

House Republicans, however, have approved legislation which would extend the rates across-the-board, a plan Obama has pledged to veto.

Republicans have sought to cast the expiration of the Bush-era rates as a tax which will hit small businesses already struggling with a lukewarm economic recovery. 

“These days, the president doesn’t even want to talk about the bad economy, let alone do anything about it,” said Hartzler.