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Hawaii House members split votes on tax bill


Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 2:53 p.m. HST, Dec 17, 2010

In one of their last significant votes before the current Congress adjourns, Hawaii's two members of the U.S. House took opposing stances on the tax cut compromise that President Barack Obama signed into law Friday.

During a House floor vote Thursday night, Republican Rep. Charles Djou supported the legislation, which has components to extend Bush-era tax rates for two years and unemployment benefits for 13 months.

The accord had been hammered out by the White House and GOP congressional leaders.

Calling it an imperfect bill, Djou in a statement released after the vote said it nonetheless "is a reasonable bipartisan measure that stops any tax increase from being imposed on any American during this current economic downturn."

Djou, who supported extending all the tax rates during his unsuccessful re-election campaign, represents urban Honolulu.

Rep. Mazie Hirono, who represents the remainder of the state, called for extending the tax rates for everyone but the wealthy during her successful re-election campaign — a position that at the time mirrored Obama's.

Last week, after the Obama-GOP compromise was unveiled, she voted for a nonbinding resolution in the House Democratic caucus that called for its demise. This week, she had not said what she would do if the measure actually came up for a floor vote.

On Thursday, she voted no.

"This bill does not create jobs and it adds to our country's deficit. What kind of compromise is that?" Hirono said in a statement.

The measure "doesn't provide a fair deal to the middle class and the unemployed. It does, however, provide generous tax cuts to the wealthiest families, and it raids Social Security to provide a 'payroll tax holiday.' We needed to fight for a better deal," she added.

Spokesman Marvin Buenconsejo said Hirono's comment about fighting for a better deal was not a criticism of Obama.

The compromise includes a 2 percent reduction in payroll taxes that finance Social Security, and the federal pension system for the retired and disabled.

Hawaii's two senators, Democrats Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, on Wednesday voted for the measure, though they said they did so reluctantly.

Djou is leaving Congress soon because his re-election bid was defeated last month by Democrat Colleen Hanabusa. In a statement Friday, Hanabusa said she would have voted for the accord even though she called it imperfect.

"Now is not the time to end unemployment benefits for more than two million Americans while putting pressure on the middle-class by raising their taxes," she said.

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