The New Year’s weekend featured Congressmen pulling all-nighters and trying to stay awake for a crucial vote that will decide the fate of the wealthiest Americans. The new bill was introduced this year to end the legislative drama behind the “fiscal cliff,” a term describing the conundrum that occurred this past year with insufficient revenue.
Congress finally approved a plan to end Washington’s long drama on New Year’s Day, after House Republicans ended up surrendering to President Obama’s demand to let taxes rise on the nation’s richest households. The plan will raise the estate tax on individuals with incomes over $450,000.
After a Senate compromise that dragged discussion into the New Year’s Day morning, the President’s negotiations with the Senate Republican minority proved successful with a 92 to 8 vote. The newly amended bill was then passed to the House of Representatives, where Speaker of the House John Boehner and Republican majority leader Eric Cantor were waiting.
After voting on several other bills, skipping a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill, and taking an hour-long recess, the House finally cast their votes on the new Senate amendments. The House voted 257 to 167 to send the measure to Obama for his signature, drawing 85 votes from the Republicans and 172 votes from the Democrats.
Boehner and other major GOP leaders ultimately took no public position on the new bill, and the Speaker denied the traditional opportunity to deliver a closing speech on the seemingly bi-partisan legislation. The legislation will save millions of middle-class citizens from the burden of an increase in taxes by introducing much heavier taxation on more wealthy Americans. Additionally, this legislation marks the first time in several decades that a tax-increasing measure has drawn support from the GOP. The bill also keeps more than 2 million unemployed Americans from losing their benefits and federal checks. Many economists still believe that without such legislation, the nation would plunge back into a deep economic recession.
Even though the bill drew widespread bi-partisan support, it faced severe opposition from the most conservative of GOP representatives. They complained that the tax increases brought about by the bill would not solve the ongoing problem of extraordinary spending. Without more cuts in federal spending, they stated, the economy can never get out of its current financial hole. Speaker John Boehner contemplated an additional change to the bill that would include billions of dollars of spending cuts, but decided not to go forward with the plan that would have broken the compromise that the Democrats had crafted.
Ironically, Boehner himself ended up supporting the Senate bill. The GOP majority has continued to face bitter divisions within its own membership, illustrated by the recent failure of the party to support a GOP alternative that would increase taxes only on income over $1 million a year. 85 Republicans voted “yes,” while the remaining 151 voted “no” to the Senate bill, further plunging the GOP into a political divide. The Republican surrender to the Democrats’ crafty compromise marked an end to a three-year struggle that culminated at the end of 2012.
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