After threatening to amend the Senate’s fiscal cliff bill to include spending reductions, the House passed the measure Tuesday evening by a vote of 257-167, with 85 Republican votes. 151 Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and 16 Democrats voted against the bill. The “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” now goes to President Obama for his signature.
During debate, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) urged Republicans to support the bill, arguing that it “settles the level of revenue Washington should bring in.” The GOP has indicated that it would not support revenue increases in the upcoming battles to raise the debt ceiling, turn off the sequester cuts, and keep the government running through a continuing budget resolution. Instead, conservative lawmakers in both the House and the Senate have said that they will take advantage of these critical debates to extract deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
“I just don’t want the gentleman’s statement that this settles permanently how much revenue will be made available,” Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI) said in response to Camp. “The President has made clear there has to be a balanced approach and no one should be misled into thinking otherwise. No one.”
As the House began voting on the measure, Grover Norquist gave his blessing, tweeting that since the vote took place in the new year — after the Bush tax cuts have technically expired — “Every R voting for Senate bill is cutting taxes and keeping his/her pledge.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) explains why he voted in favor of the bill: “When you like something, you vote for it. …I wasn’t afraid.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who usually doesn’t vote, also backed the measure.
In a statement from the White House, President Obama praised the bill as “one step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy.” But he admitted that “the deficit is still too high” and called for a balanced approach of raising new revenues by closing tax loopholes and eliminating deductions for rich individuals and corporations and cutting government spending. Obama called Medicare the “biggest contributor to our deficit” and said that Congress must “find a way to reform our program without hurting seniors who count on it to survive.” He also drew an important line in the sand, reiterating that he “will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up, through the laws that they passed.” If Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, Obama said, “the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic, far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff.”