Fiscal Cliff Bill Heads To House [VIDEO]
Legislation to negate a fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic agencies is headed to the House today but the fiscal cliff is not yet completely resolved.
House Republicans planned a closed-door meeting Tuesday to decide their next move. after the Senate overwhelmingly approved compromise legislation negating a fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies.
The measure ensures that lawmakers will have to revisit difficult budget questions in just a few weeks, as relief from painful spending cuts expires and the government requires an increase in its borrowing cap.
The biggest hit to the economy is expected to come from the end of a two-year Social Security tax cut. The so-called payroll tax is scheduled to bounce back up to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent in 2011 and 2012, amounting to a $1,000 tax increase for someone earning $50,000 a year.
NO ENDORSEMENT FROM BOEHNER
House Speaker John Boehner pointedly refrained from endorsing the agreement, though he's promised a vote on it or a GOP alternative right away. But he was expected to encounter opposition from House conservatives, and it was unclear when the vote would occur.
Boehner planned to brief his caucus in early afternoon Tuesday and Biden scheduled a separate meeting with House Democrats to reprise his role of Monday night when he promoted compromise to Democrats before that chamber voted.
Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., arrived at the Capitol in late morning, and both bid "Happy New Year" to greeters but didn't say anything substantive about the Senate-passed bill.
One of the more conservative House Republicans, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, had no such reticence to speak.
"It's three strikes in my book and I'll be voting no on this bill," he told CNN Tuesday morning, saying the legislation would impose a hardship on small businesses around the country and falls short of addressing the need for cuts in spending.
The Senate approved the bill in an early-morning, 89-8 vote, capping a New Year's Eve drama unlike any other in the annals of Congress.
Under the Senate deal, taxes would remain steady for the middle class but rise at incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples — levels higher than President Barack Obama had campaigned for in his successful drive for a second term in office.
Some liberal Democrats were disappointed that the White House did not stick to a harder line, while other Democrats sided with Republicans to force the White House to partially retreat on increases in taxes on multi-million-dollar estates.
The measure also allocates $24 billion in spending cuts and new revenues to defer, for two months, some $109 billion worth of automatic spending cuts that were set to slap the Pentagon and domestic programs starting this week. That would allow the White House and lawmakers time to regroup before plunging very quickly into a new round of budget brinkmanship, certain to revolve around Republican calls to rein in the cost of Medicare and other government benefit programs.
Officials also decided at the last minute to use the measure to prevent a $900 pay raise for lawmakers due to take effect this spring.
The sweeping Senate vote exceeded expectations — tea party conservatives like Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., backed the measure — and would appear to grease enactment of the measure despite lingering questions in the House, where conservative forces sank a recent bid by Boehner to permit tax rates on incomes exceeding $1 million to go back to Clinton-era levels.
"Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members — and the American people — have been able to review the legislation," said a statement by Boehner and other top GOP leaders.
President Barack Obama says the "fiscal cliff" agreement reached by the Senate is "the right thing to do for our country," and he's encouraging the House to "pass it without delay."
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)