WASHINGTON — A last-ditch tax deal in the Senate might allow the U.S. economy escape the worst of the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ and avoid going back into recession. But even if the House goes along, the tax increases likely coming in 2013 will dent economic growth anyway.
In the early hours of the new year, the Senate voted to end a long stalemate and raise taxes on upper-income households, extend long-term unemployment benefits and postpone decisions over government spending cuts, officials said. But any deal needs approval from the House.
U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller (both D-W.Va.) released a statement after his vote in favor of an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff.
Manchin said the measure wasn’t the “big fix” that he wanted, but was the best “we can do at this late hour.”
“First thing tomorrow, though, I will start working again on making this a better deal for the people of West Virginia and this great country,” Manchin said. “The fact is, this deal is the flawed product of a broken process that puts politics ahead of people. And it sets us up for more dangerous political gamesmanship in the months ahead. But the bottom line is this last-minute deal guarantees that the paychecks of middle class Americans won’t take a big hit from higher taxes on New Year’s Day, and it protects more than 99 percent of all West Virginians.”
Rockefeller said that the Senate “did the right thing” in passing the measure on an 89-8 vote.:
“Preventing a tax increase on the middle class; requiring the very wealthy to start paying their fair share; providing financial certainty for individuals, families, and businesses; and giving the nation a bipartisan compromise solution that moves us past the fiscal cliff,” Rockefeller said. “Tomorrow, House Republicans need to step up to the plate and join us in supporting middle class and working families in West Virginia and across America. House Republicans should allow a straight up or down vote on the bipartisan Senate deal, with no ducking and no gimmicks, and make clear to the American people whose side they’re on.”
House Democratic leaders are pressing Speaker John Boehner to let the House vote on the Senate-approved bipartisan compromise that would avert much of the impact of the so-called fiscal cliff. Following a nearly three-hour private meeting Tuesday between Vice President Joe Biden and House Democratic lawmakers, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Democrats expected Boehner to allow the House to vote on the accord.
Boehner has said the House would vote on the Senate measure or vote to amend it. He and House GOP lawmakers were also meeting Tuesday, and some Republicans expressed concerns that the measure needed more spending cuts.
For example, the No. 2 Republican in the House leadership says he opposed the Senate-passed measure.
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.
About $536 billion in 2013 tax increases were scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, along with $109 billion in cuts from military and domestic-spending programs, if Democrats and Republicans could not reach agreement.
House passage of the measure would send it to President Barack Obama for his signature and an amendment back to the Senate could produce a deadlock. The biggest hit to the economy is expected to come from the end of a two-year Social Security tax cut. The so-called payroll tax is scheduled to bounce back up to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent in 2011 and 2012, amounting to a $1,000 tax increase for someone earning $50,000 a year. The bill would also increase taxes on family income exceeding $450,000 and delay across-the-board spending cuts for two months.
“The American people are sick and tired of seeing their elected officials bicker over petty politics while they are working hard every day to feed their families and keep or find jobs,” Rockefeller said. “Our economy will not go into a freefall this week because the ‘fiscal cliff’ is in fact more of a fiscal slope – the changes are gradual – but the nation needs stability and the opportunity is before us now to fix this. The House must move swiftly to pass this legislation, and I deeply hope that Congress can work together better going forward.”