After a frantic day of last-ditch debate, the House of Representatives on Tuesday night passed a bill—approved by the Senate less than 24 hours prior— to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, finally putting an end to the deficit wrangling that had gridlocked Congress for much of the past year.
The final vote tally: 257 – 167.
The bill, which will now go to President Obama, will allow tax rates to revert to their pre-Bush levels for Americans with annual incomes over $450,000. That amounts to an estimate $600 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. Despite a Republican demand for budget cuts to be a part of any deal, there are no net spending cuts in the final deal.
For part of the day, the Senate compromise seemed destined for the dustbin, as a rift developed among House Republicans, some of whom said publicly that they would refuse to support the bill if it came to a vote untouched. Those openly revolting included House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the number two Republican in the lower chamber, who surprisingly announced earlier in the day that he would oppose the deal.
Cantor did vote no on the final legislation, as did Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, putting them at odds with Speaker Boehner.
Boehner did not immediately allow a straight vote on the bill following its passage in the Senate, despite Democratic pressure on him to do so. Boehner faces reelection to retain his speakership in the new Congress and has already had a testy relationship with the right wing of his party.
Instead of holding an immediate vote on the raw bill as passed by the Senate, Republicans spent the day debating whether to tack amendments to it, and to then send it back to the Senate for a new vote there. Yet after hours of debate Tuesday, the Republican caucus could not muster enough support among themselves for specific amendments. And even had they pushed through an amended bill, Senate Democrats had previously said they wouldn’t consider it anyway, meaning negotiations would have started anew once the next session of Congress is sworn in.