The Senate voted 89–8 on a compromise budget deal, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, in the wee hours of New Year’s morning. The House voted on renaming a post office and not giving themselves scheduled raises, then adjourned by noon on New Year’s Day.
By late afternoon, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) had declared that he would not compromise. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said to CNN that he, too, would not vote for the fiscal cliff bill. He wants spending cuts.
CNN reported that Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) said it would be absurd for the House to vote on a bill passed by “sleep-deprived octogenarians.”
House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) spokesman, Brendan Buck, issued a more polite statement via email: “The Speaker and Leader laid out options to the members and listened to feedback. The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting. Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward.”
The House may pass the Senate bill tonight around 11 p.m.
Lake Superior State University in Michigan put the phrase “fiscal cliff” on its annual list of banished words. The phrase not only made the list, but it also got the most nominations, including this one by Christopher Loiselle from Midland, Mich.: “You can’t turn on the news without hearing this. I’m equally worried about the River of Debt and Mountain of Despair.”
President Barack Obama released a statement early News Year’s Day hailing the Senate bill: “Today’s agreement builds on previous efforts to reduce our deficits. Last year, I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut spending by more than $1 trillion. Tonight’s agreement does even more by asking millionaires and billionaires to begin to pay their fair share for the first time in twenty years. As promised, that increase will be immediate, and it will be permanent.”
Tonight’s agreement does even more by asking millionaires and billionaires to begin to pay their fair share for the first time in twenty years.
—President Barack Obama
Under this bill, tax rates would rise for families with incomes over $450 million dollars, which is nearly twice the income level the president named when campaigning on the issue.
The bill would also prevent payment cuts of 27 percent to doctors who provide care to Medicare patients.
According to a fact sheet from the White House, the Senate bill fixes the marriage penalty, in which a dual-income couple pays more in taxes if they marry than if they live together. It also extends emergency long-term unemployment insurance for one year, which will prevent 2 million people from losing unemployment benefits in January. In addition, the bill extends tax credits for college tuition, child care, and earned income.
The Senate bill would postpone sequestration, which enacts across-the-board domestic and military spending cuts, for two months. The purpose of postponing sequestration is to give Congress time to develop more rational spending cuts.
The compromise is moot, however, if the House does not accept it.
A new Congress begins Thursday, Jan. 3. Any agreement that does not get the vote from both the House and the Senate by that time will have to be redone.
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