Updated at 2:30 a.m. ET: An agreement to stave off the harshest and most immediate consequences of the fiscal cliff won approval in the House late Tuesday. President Barack Obama said he would sign the law, the battle over which foreshadowed more fights with Congress over spending.
Following a day of hectic wrangling on Capitol Hill — where the prospects for passing the bipartisan, Senate legislation regarding the fiscal cliff hung in the balance for much of New Year’s Day — the House voted 257 to 167 to pass the belated compromise measure over the objections of many conservative Republicans.
The legislation takes steps toward resolving the combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that took effect at midnight on Jan. 1. It preserves tax rates as they were at the end of 2012, except for those individuals earning more than $400,000 and households earning over $450,000. It also allows taxes on capital gains and dividends to go up, and extends benefits of the unemployed. Additionally, the Senate bill delays the onset of the “sequester” — the swift, automatic spending cuts — for two months.
Yeah, it’s not perfect. But it’s a step in the right direction. And it has the added bonus of not having the Chained CPI that Obama floated a month earlier.
The down side is that it pushed “The Sequester” with its massive cuts to two months from now, just in time to be used in tandem with the Debt Limit fight.
That fact alone is why I just scarfed down two candy bars while the ghost of Warren Zevon implored me to enjoy every sandwich.
But there is something else to keep in mind.
Eighty-five House Republicans voted for this bill. That’s eighty-five Republicans that maybe...maybe we can legitimately negotiate with. I’m guessing at this point that Boehner has had his fill of Tea Party craziness and might be willing to use them to cut deals with Dems to get stuff passed. (The X in that situation being what kind of stuff.)
Of course, there will be primary challenges from the Tea Party. But considering that we had expected to lose The Senate this year and wound up gaining some seats because of crazy tea party rape talk, that could break in our favor also.
The other big problem we have to worry about is Obama himself. In the words of Grand Funkmaster Krugman.
So why the bad taste in progressives’ mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.
If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation, this deal won’t look bad in retrospect. If he doesn’t, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.
There’s always been that nagging question whether Obama threw in the Chained CPI because he knew the House GOP wouldn’t take the deal and it would make him look more reasonable or if he was serious.
Reminds me of the scene in Joseph Heller’s “God Knows” where King David said that Solomon actually wanted to cut the baby in half.
So the good news is that Congress managed to fix the self inflicted crisis it created.
The bad news is that we’re going to have to do this again in two months.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, BITCHES!