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UPDATE: Obama Lauds House Vote On 'Fiscal Cliff'

UPDATED Wednesday, January 1, 2013 -- 12:30 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says an effort to change the nation's tax code that is too skewed toward the wealthy has been achieved with the "fiscal cliff" deal approved in Congress.

The president said in an appearance late Tuesday in the White House that the House vote to prevent a mix of tax increases and spending cuts avoids a problem that could have sent the economy back into recession.

Obama says the deficit is "still too high" and warns that he will not negotiate with Congress over another increase in the nation's debt ceiling.

The House approved Senate-backed legislation preventing middle-class tax increases and spending cuts that technically took effect with the new year.

It represented a triumph for Obama after he campaigned for re-election on higher taxes on the wealthy.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, January 1, 2013 --- 4:12 p.m.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Wisconsin's two U.S. senators both voted for a compromise bill meant to avert the fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that both Democrat Herb Kohl and Republican Ron Johnson backed the measure, which passed the Senate by 89-8 after midnight on New Year's Day. The vote was after the midnight fiscal cliff deadline, and the bill's prospects in the Republican-led House were unclear later in the day.

Johnson says he wanted to extend tax cuts for all Americans but that he believed 99 percent of Wisconsin residents would not see a tax increase under the bill.

Kohl's vote may be his last as a senator as his term ends in days. He did not release a statement.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, January 1, 2012 --- 2:32 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The No. 2 Republican in the House leadership says he opposes a Senate-passed measure to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor told reporters after a two-hour closed-door meeting Tuesday with his GOP lawmakers that he did not support the bill.

He said House leaders were looking for "the best path forward" and that no decisions had been made.

The Senate passed the measure early Tuesday by a sweeping 89-8 vote. House passage of the measure would send it to President Barack Obama for his signature. The bill would increase taxes on family income exceeding $450,000 and delay across-the-board spending cuts for two months.

House GOP leaders were considering amending the measure and sending it back to the Senate, but that step could produce a deadlock.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, January 1, 2013 --- 11:05 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Now in the spotlight, House Republicans plan a closed-door meeting today to decide their next move after the Senate overwhelmingly approved compromise legislation avoiding a fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies.

The Senate endorsed the legislation early today, 89-8. That vote came hours after Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky sealed a deal.

It would prevent middle-class taxes from going up but would raise rates on higher incomes. It would also block spending cuts for two months, extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevent a 27 percent cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and prevent a spike in milk prices.

The measure ensures that lawmakers will have to revisit difficult budget questions in just a few weeks, as relief from painful spending cuts expires and the government requires an increase in its borrowing cap.

House Speaker John Boehner pointedly refrained from endorsing the agreement, though he's promised a vote on it or a GOP alternative right away. But he is expected to encounter opposition from House conservatives, and it's unclear when the vote would occur.

Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., arrived at the Capitol in late morning, and both bid "Happy New Year" to greeters but didn't say anything substantive.

Boehner plans to brief his caucus this afternoon. Biden has scheduled a separate meeting with House Democrats to reprise his role of Monday night when he promoted compromise to Democrats before that chamber voted.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Tuesday, January 1, 2013 --- 10:12 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says the "fiscal cliff" agreement reached by the Senate is "the right thing to do for our country" and is encouraging the House to "pass it without delay."

The Senate voted 89-8 early Tuesday to pass legislation to block the impact of across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect at the beginning of the new year. The legislation would prevent middle-class taxes from rising, and raise rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples.

Obama says the bill takes a balanced approach to shrinking the U.S. deficit by "investing in (the) middle class" while "asking the wealthy to pay a little more."

The House is expected to vote on the bill later Tuesday or perhaps Wednesday.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate has passed legislation to block the impact of across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts that make up the fiscal cliff.

The vote was an overwhelming 89-8 and came well after midnight on New Year's Day.

A House vote is expected before Wednesday.

The White House-backed legislation would prevent middle-class taxes from rising, and raise rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples.

It also blocks spending cuts for two months, extends unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevents a 27 percent cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and prevents a spike in milk prices.

A last-minute addition would also prevent a $900 pay raise for members of Congress from taking effect in March.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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UPDATED Monday, December 31, 2012 --- 11:24 p.m.

From NBCnews.com

An agreement in principle to avert broad tax increases and spending cuts appeared imminent Monday night.

A senior Democratic source told NBC News that an accord had been reached. A senior GOP source said it "looks good" and that the outcome in the Senate would be clearer after Vice President Joe Biden conferred with Senate Democrats. Biden arrived at the Capitol to meet with Democratic senators Monday night.

Although a Senate vote later Monday night was possible, it’s not clear how an accord would fare in the House.

The interim New Year’s Eve tax deal negotiated by Biden and Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky would raise income taxes on single earners with annual incomes above $400,000 and married couples with incomes above $450,000.

As of mid-afternoon Monday, the sticking point involved the "sequester," the cuts to spending – about $100 billion to start in 2013 -- that were mandated by the Budget Control Act which President Barack Obama signed into law last year. Republicans have signaled they might let the sequester take effect unless it was offset by other spending cuts; the GOP has also said it might accept a delay, but only for a few months.

The Obama administration, however, is pushing for a longer delay in implementing the sequester. Otherwise, the president said, replacing those automatic cuts must be "balanced" — shorthand for a combination of new taxes and other spending cuts.

Obama tried to push talks over the finish line earlier in the afternoon with a statement from the White House.

"Today, it appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year's tax hike is within sight," the president said at the White House. "But it's not done."

In the absence of a broader agreement to resolve the sequester, McConnell appeared in the Senate floor to request a vote only on the tax element of the fiscal cliff.

"Let's pass the tax relief portion now," he said. "Let's take what's been agreed to and keep moving."
But it's not clear that Democrats, who were led in negotiations by Vice President Joe Biden, would agree to de-link the tax debate from other fights over the sequester and extending expiring unemployment benefits past Dec. 31.

House Republicans were careful to note that it was still possible for them to add votes late on New Year's Eve. But they also argued that there was no Senate-passed legislation on which they could schedule a vote, making the prospect of avoiding the cliff all the less likely.

Democratic and Republican sources in the House told NBC News that a final vote on any deal would now most likely wait until afternoon on New Year's Day, or even on Jan. 2.

Though Congress could still conceivably act after New Year's to preserve existing tax rates — thereby limiting any lasting effect on consumers — their inability to reach an agreement until the very last minute could still threaten to rattle the economy and markets.

The House did act late Sunday, though, to clear the way for emergency consideration of Senate legislation if leaders are able to reach an agreement. The House Rules Committee convened with the purpose of dispensing with a rule instilled by Republicans in the early days of 2011 to require that legislation be posted online for a full 72 hours before a vote in the House. GOP leaders had sought that rule to showcase their own transparency, and in reaction to actions by the previous Democratic majority to quickly pass legislation during the health care reform battles of 2010.

Republicans' move to sidestep their own rule underscores the urgency of fiscal cliff talks in the final hours of 2012. There were few ironclad assurances, though, that any Senate agreement would necessarily win the support of the House.

The lurching nature of legislating has been characteristic of the Congress during the last two years, and that's a phenomenon that may well continue into the next Congress, when Democrats will continue to retain control of the Senate, and Republicans will hold a slightly slimmer grasp on the House.

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Posted Monday, December 31, 2012 --- 3:22 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House will miss the midnight Monday deadline lawmakers set for voting to avoid the "fiscal cliff."

House Republicans notified lawmakers that the chamber will vote Monday evening on other bills. They say that will be their only votes of the day.

President Barack Obama and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Monday they are near a deal to avoid wide-ranging tax increases and spending cuts -- the fiscal cliff -- that take effect with the new year.

Both men said they were still bargaining over whether -- and how -- to avoid $109 billion in cuts to defense and domestic programs that take effect on Wednesday.

It remained unclear whether the Senate would vote Monday.

Congress could pass later legislation retroactively blocking the tax hikes and spending cuts.

Copyright 2012: Associated Press


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