Short-Term “Fiscal Cliff” Fix Goes To House; Bennet Votes No

UPDATE 9:00PM: House passes Taxpayer Relief Act 257-167. In the Colorado delegation the vote is party line, all Democrats voting in favor, all Republicans voting against.


UPDATE #2: Just when you thought it was safe to exhale, FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

After House Republicans caucused Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-VA, the second-ranking member of the caucus, stated he was opposing the bill, the first big sign that the Senate compromise may be in serious trouble.

Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, a close confidant of Cantor’s, also confirmed that he’ll oppose the legislation as it’s currently written.

“But [Gardner] will consider an amendment that meets the test of cutting spending, growing the economy (through responsible tax policy) and not burdening an ever growing deficit,” Rachel George, Gardner’s spokeswoman, told FOX31 Denver in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

The very latest word is that a vote will be held tonight on an unmodified version of the deal passed by the Senate early this morning. It should then pass, with support of Democrats and some number of moderate Republicans in favor. We’ll update when and if that happens.


UPDATE: Politico’s Seung Min Kim has more from dissenting Sen. Michael Bennet:

“While I do support many of the items in this proposal – for example, extending unemployment insurance, the wind production tax credit and tax cuts for most Americans – I believe they should have come in the context of a comprehensive deficit reduction package,” Bennet said. “Without a serious mechanism to reduce the debt, I cannot support this bill.”

“Putting the country on a sustainable fiscal path and bringing our debt under control is incredibly important to our economy and our standing in the world and is a top priority for me,” Bennet continued. “I remain committed to continue working with any Republican or Democrat willing to address this problem in a serious way. Colorado’s kids deserve no less.”


Los Angeles Times:

After a rare holiday session that lasted through the New Year’s Eve celebration and two hours into New Year’s Day, senators voted 89-8 to approve the proposal. Three Democrats and five Republicans dissented, most prominently Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“It took an imperfect solution to prevent our constituents from very real financial pain,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)  said before the vote. “This shouldn’t be the model for how to do things around here. But I think we can say we’ve done some good for the country.”

President Obama, in a statement released by the White House early Tuesday morning, said, “While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay.”

One of those three dissenting Democrats was Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado:

In addition to Rubio, the dissenters to the deal in the Senate were Democrats Tom Harkin (Iowa), Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.), and Republicans Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.).

CNN has a statement from Sen. Bennet:

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, is the incoming chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the group tasked with electing Democrats to the upper chamber. He created his own plan to avert the fiscal cliff in November alongside Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (who voted for the compromise measure early Tuesday).

He wrote in a statement Tuesday: “Washington once again has lived up to its reputation as the ‘Land of Flickering Lights.’ For four years in my townhall meetings across the state Coloradans have told me they want a plan that materially reduces the deficit. This proposal does not meet that standard and does not put in place a real process to reduce the debt down the road.”

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa also voted against the deal, calling it “grossly unfair” to the middle class after the ceiling on income remaining eligible for the Bush tax cuts was raised to accomodate Republicans. It’s possible Bennet’s objection is similarly progressive in nature, but we’ll have to see more details than this brief statement to know for sure.

Poltico reports the deal is off to the House, sped by its overwhelming bipartisan passage in the Senate. Despite the Senate vote, a number of conservative House Republicans have already come out against the measure, meaning it will likely pass only with the help of the Democratic minority–which could force Speaker John Boehner to abandon his standing rule that bills should only come to a vote with the support of “the majority of the majority.”

Although Republican leaders have been non-committal about when the bill will come to the floor, and whether it will be amended, there could be implications if a vote slips to Wednesday. Financial markets are closed Tuesday for New Year’s Day, and reopen Wednesday. If the Senate bill isn’t signed into law, that could shake market confidence.

For the time being, Congress has sent the nation over the fiscal cliff. The Senate passed its bill after 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, so over the cliff the country went – though perhaps for only a day or two and, assuming no snags, without incurring the double whammy of another recession and higher unemployment.

The $620 billion agreement was a major breakthrough in a partisan standoff that has dragged on for months, spooking Wall Street and threatening to hobble the economic recovery. It turned back the GOP’s two-decade-long refusal to raise tax rates, delivering a major win for President Barack Obama, who has said he would sign this legislation.

We’ll update when the House takes action (or not).

72 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Sir RobinSir Robin says:

    David Atkins nails it:

    It doesn’t matter that Americans in general blame Republicans for the fiscal cliff mess far more than Democrats. What matters is that in the vast majority of Republican districts they’re considered heroes for standing up to the evil President, while the few sane or vulnerable ones in the House GOP caucus have no power. So why would they compromise? Why would they buckle? Their voters don’t want them to, and any retreat would only mean a potential challenge from the right. Most of them aren’t the least bit afraid of a Democratic opponent in 2014.

    This is what makes the poker analogy so often used to criticize the President’s negotiating tactics such a weak metaphor. Obama is often said to be the worst poker player in history, consistently bluffing then folding. But the problem with that analogy is that Republican House members aren’t playing with their own chips: they’re playing with the country’s. The Republican electoral chips are stashed safely in gerrymandered hands, and any losses over fiscal cliffs or debt ceilings only hurt the President and the nation’s perception of government. There’s no downside for the GOP in bluffing every time in the hopes that the President will fold. Why not? When you’re playing with house money, it makes sense to go all in on every hand.

    None of this is to say that the President shouldn’t be a tougher and more progressive negotiator. He should be.

    But no one should delude themselves into believing that if he were, the Republicans would be intimidated and stand down. Quite the contrary. We are in uncharted waters, an era unprecedented since the Civil War in which one side is willing to let the country burn down in order to achieve its goals.

  2. Bad stuff:

    1. Crappy capital gains rates, permanently locked in. If they were serious about the debt they’d have eliminated capital gains as a special rate. And the negotiated rate is lower than what it would have been going over the cliff.
    2. Permanent lock-in on the tax rate for those making <$400,000. If this bill were to get a CBO mark-up, it would be an atrocious deal for our country’s debt.
    3. The payroll tax holiday is over, with no replacement. Your SSDI taxes will be higher this year, costing regular workers 2% of their income (and self-employed workers 4% IIRC…).
    4. Sequester deal is extended 2 months. Coincidentally (not!), this is when the debt ceiling is going to start hurting.

    Good Stuff:

    1. Unemployment taxes extended for a year.
    2. Various business tax credits extended for a year. This is a mixed bag, but overall probably good, as these temporary tax credits were more skewed toward current needs than long-term credits.
    3. 9-month Farm Bill extension
    4. One year Medicare doc fix.
    5. One year extension on various low-income tax credits
    6. Re-enstatement of the personal exemption and itemized deduction phase-outs for the rich. These would have happened under the cliff, but they’re at least a partial offset on the higher threshold for taxes on the rich.

    I am still doubtful that this will get past the House. It contains the same $400,000 threshold that Plan B failed to get past House members, plus extensions on a number of progressive measures I’m guessing various House members won’t want to pass.

  3. botw says:

    There are sound reasons to vote against this deal, but worrying about deficit reduction isn’t one of them.

    Keynes says now is not at all the right time to be concerned about deficits.  The bond markets aren’t concerned about deficits; interest rates cannot be lower.  People all around the country are hurting and needing jobs and government support.

    Of all the reasons to vote against this deal — a two-month extension on the sequester, nothing on the debt ceiling, not to mention the process — deficit reduction just isn’t one of them.

  4. House Republicans, led by Majority Whip Eric Cantor, have said that they are set on amending the Senate bill to include spending cuts (no mention so far as to what those cuts might be, but if they don’t include social safety net programs I’d be shocked).

    The Senate has said that it will not consider amendments to the bill; according to one aide: “we’re done.”

  5. caroman says:

    He says he didn’t vote for the bill because it doesn’t materially reduce the debt.  So, does that mean he wanted more tax revenue (e.g., tax rate hikes on over $250k taxable income, higher capital gains rates, lower estate tax exemption, etc.)?  Or, does that mean he wants spending cuts (e.g., defense spending, Social Security and Medicare reform, domestic spending cuts)?  More of everything?

    We deserve a more detailed explanation from Senator Bennet why he voted against this measure.  Particularly since his budget partner, Senator Alexander voted for the measure.

  6. caroman says:

    Two things are certain at this hour:

    1) Payroll taxes on individuals making up to $113,700 are going up 2% starting today.  That’s $1,000 less change in your pocket if you make $50,000 per year.  Now, I wasn’t a fan of this type of tax relief — it inappropriately tied tax relief to Social Security, a dangerous concept.  Instead, why not reinstitute the Making Work Pay credit?  Bottom line: the middle class and working poor are paying higher taxes today.  I didn’t hear Senator Bennet (or anyone else) complain about that.

    2) Be prepared for a stock market collapse tomorrow assuming the House GOP spikes the Senate bill. Thanks a lot to my Rep. Coffman. A-hole.

  7. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    I think he put country over party in calling for a vote tonight. Yes he tried to get what he wanted. Yes he tried to avoid having it come down to this. Yes he punted to the Senate.

    But when it came down to no time left and his own party lacking a majority, he took it forward.

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