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House Passes ‘Cliff’ Bill

Legislation to block the “fiscal cliff” is headed to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

FULL COVERAGE: Fiscal Cliff

The bill will avoid, for now, the major tax increases and government spending cuts that had been scheduled to take effect with the new year.

 

Final approval came in the House on New Year’s Night. The vote was 257 to 167.

The Senate passed the bill less than 24 hours earlier.

The measure raises tax rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, a victory for Obama.

It also extends expiring unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevents a cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and cancels a $900 pay increase due to lawmakers in March.

Another provision is designed to prevent a spike in milk prices.

A decision by the Republican-run House to amend the Senate-passed bill would have complicated prospects for final congressional passage of the measure. Senate Democratic aides have said the Democratic-led Senate, which overwhelmingly approved the compromise early Tuesday, would not return to vote on an amended version of the measure.

The decision capped a day of intense political calculations for conservatives who control the House. They had to weigh their desire to cut spending against the fear that the Senate would refuse to consider any changes they made in the “fiscal cliff” bill, sending it into limbo and saddling Republicans with the blame for a whopping middle class tax increase.

Adding to the GOP discomfort, one Senate Democratic leadership aide said Majority Leader Harry Reid would “absolutely not take up the bill” if the House changed it. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a requirement to keep internal deliberations private.

“We’ve gone as far as we can go,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. “I think people are ready to bring this to a conclusion, and know we have a whole year ahead of us” for additional fights over spending.

The measure would allow tax increases on the highest-earning Americans, but retain decade-old income tax cuts for everyone else.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would add nearly $4 trillion over a decade to federal deficits, a calculation that assumed taxes would otherwise have risen on taxpayers at all income levels. There was little or no evident concern among Republicans on that point, presumably because of their belief that tax cuts pay for themselves by expanding economic growth and do not cause deficits to rise.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

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