Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late on Tuesday passed and sent to President Barack Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs.
The measure, brought to the House floor less than 24 hours after its passage in the Senate, was approved 257-167, with 85 Republicans joining 172 Democrats in voting to allow income taxes to rise for the first time in two decades, in this case for the highest-earning Americans. “The one thing that I think, hopefully, the new year will focus on,” Mr. Obama said, “is seeing if we can put a package like this together with a little bit less drama, a little less brinkmanship, and not scare the heck out of folks quite as much.’’
In approving the measure after days of legislative intrigue, Congress concluded its final and most pitched fight over fiscal policy, the culmination of two years of battles over taxes, the federal debt, spending and what to do to slow the growth in popular social programs.
The decision by Republican leaders to allow the vote came despite widespread scorn among House Republicans for the bill, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
They were unhappy that it did not include significant spending cuts in health and other social programs, which they say are essential to any long-term solution to the nation's debt.
Democrats, while hardly placated by the compromise, celebrated Mr. Obama’s nominal victory,
Many Republicans in their remarks characterized the measure, which allows taxes to go up on household income over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples but makes permanent tax cuts for income below that level, as a victory of sorts.
Republicans hope to fight for more spending cuts in the upcoming debt-ceiling vote.