Although President Obama presented his budget to Congress in February of last year, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (H.R. 8) "fiscal cliff" bill was not passed by the Senate and House until yesterday, New Year's Day, 2013.
Links to the text of the law and Congressional debate from January 1 are provided here. The actual roll call votes of each Senator and House member appear at the end of this article. I also discuss the law's implications for health care.
With supplementary adjustments, the slightly post-last-minute measure relieves the 112th Congress, which adjourns at noon tomorrow (January 3), of its obligation to act on job protection and recession prevention for the coming year. Otherwise, the new 113th Congress would have had to start the entire lawmaking process over.
The new law follows the lead of Vice President Joe Biden's talks with Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell over the last weekend of 2012. It reduces the federal deficit to $737 billion, dramatically down from the 2012 deficit of $1.3 trillion (8.5% GDP), through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. However, over the next 10 years, some believe it may add nearly $4 trillion to federal deficits, more than the amount projected earlier. The bill is expected to raise roughly $600 billion in new revenues during the same period.
The compromise agreement keeps taxes low for the middle class (those earning less than $450,000), asks the wealthiest to pay a fairer share, and helps the economy continue to grow. "Households making between $200,000 and $500,000 saved the most compared to a world where we went off the cliff forever," The Atlantic magazine proclaimed. (See two charts in the article.) More Congressional bickering about the budget has been effectively tabled until March.
Effects on public health
The new law has two significant implications for health care in the United States:
- Scheduled cuts to doctors under Medicare will be avoided for a year by making spending cuts. The areas to be cut have not yet been determined.
- Federal unemployment insurance will be extended for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks by allowing them room to budget for health expenses.
The individual roll call votes
In the Senate, the American Taxpayer Relief bill was approved in the middle of the night (01:39 A.M.) on January 1, 2013, by a vote of 89-8, with 3 not voting. President of the Senate Vice President Joe Biden, Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV], and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY] all voted for its passage. The 8 "NAY" votes in the Senate were cast by Bennet (D-CO), Carper (D-DE), Grassley (R-IA), , Harkin (D-IA), Lee (R-UT), Paul (R-KY), Rubio (R-FL), and Shelby (R-AL). Senators DeMint, Kirk, and Lautenberg did not vote.
The law then moved to a House vote, taken almost a day later, on January 1, 2013, at 10:57 P.M. In the House, the Act passed by a vote of 257 to 167, with 8 members not voting (5 Republican, 3 Democrat). Speaker of the House Rep. John A. Boehner [R-OH-8] and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi [D-CA-8] voted for the bill. Majority Leader Eric Cantor [R-VA-7] voted against it.
The table below lists all Representatives who voted AGAINST the fiscal cliff bill and those who did not vote. Democrats voting AGAINST the bill are indicated with an asterisk; those unmarked are Republicans or other.
You'll find the final text of the House proceedings in the Congressional Record at Page: H7531 and the proceedings on the related Congressional Pay Act at Page: H7526. Printer-friendly displays are available at each location.
"NO" votes in the House. If this segment of Congresspeople had won, the drastic measures of automatic spending cuts (sequestration) might have gone into effect for 2013, raising income taxes on all Americans and putting 12 million unemployed and their families out on the street. As it was, 167 elected representatives voted along the hard line against the majority.
NOT VOTING--8. Buerkle, Burton (IN), Graves (MO), Lewis (CA), Lewis (GA), Paul, Stark, and Woolsey. BUERKLE and GRAVES each stated that if they had been present, each would have voted "nay.''
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert recently covered health care issues in the Presidential race and holiday mental and physical health. She has also reported on Hillary Clinton's recent illness, the fungal meningitis outbreak, and the procedure that saved Good Morning America cohost Robin Roberts.
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