The high drama that has been the hallmark of the 112th Congress over the last two years, which was largely the result of Tea Party movement Republicans who came to Washington to oppose President Obama at every turn, ended in dramatic fashion Tuesday evening, when 257 Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives came together to pass a bill the Senate passed overwhelming 20 hours previously that avoids the harshest provisions of a bill that many said would result in the loss of millions of lost jobs and send the nation back into recession.
House stumbles forward
The House debated HR 8, the Tax Relief Extension Act, which the Senate passed early Tuesday morning by a vote of 89 to 8. The so-called "fiscal cliff" agreement had been negotiated Monday between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Vice President Joe Biden.
The legislation keeps the Bush era tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 and couples making less that $450,000. It also makes permanent the fixes for the Alternative Minimum Tax and delays government spending cuts for two months.
Republicans and Democrats took turns arguing for or against the bill as the minutes ticked down to midnight. Michigan Representatives Dave Camp for the Republicans and Sander Levin for the Democrats managed the debate on the measure.
Many Republicans argued against supporting the bill because it didn't include spending cuts. Democrats argued for the bill because it raised revenue as part of balanced approach to avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff, the combination of dramatic across the board spending cuts and income tax hikes that Congress had failed to address through previous strategies, including the Simpson-Bowles Commission and the Supercommittee.
But as one Democrat said, if the bill passes, as it is expected to, one cliff will have been avoided but another three—sequester, debt ceiling and continuing resolution—loom ahead.
Boehner fails to muster votes for alternative bill
House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team tried to gather enough votes to put forward an alternative to the Senate-passed bill, but not enough Republicans were willing to go that route.
When the final vote was announced, 85 Republicans joined 172 Democrats to pass the bill. A simple majority of 218 votes is needed to pass bills.
The bill now moves to the White House where President Obama said he will sign it.
The 113th Congress, with more Democrats in the Senate and House, will be sworn-in on Thursday.
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