Congress approves fiscal cliff compromise, but battle is far from over
Congress approved a fiscal cliff bill Tuesday night, after weeks of broken deals and failed compromises. But the battle is far from over as conservatives push for dramatic increases in spending cuts in exchange for raising the country's debt limit, as soon as March.
The U.S. House of Representiatives late Tuesday night approved a bill to prevent the U.S. government from going over the fiscal cliff.
Technically, though, they actually pulled the government back up to the ledge, after going over when the House adjourned Tuesday night without considering the Senate's bill.
The new law includes tax increases for Americans making more than $400,000 individually and $450,000 for couples, but also makes permanent tax cuts for incomes below those levels.
Todd Zwillich, Takeaway Washington correspondent, says the battle isn't over because part of the deal merely delays the automatc spending cuts, known as the sequester, for two months.
"That means right around February or March, the sequester comes back. But as if that weren't bad enough it's plopped right on top of the expiration of the debt limit," he said.
House Speaker John Boehner is under enormous pressure from Republicans, like Rep. Blake Farenthold, to use the debt limit for maximum leverage, Zwillich says — something President Barack Obama has said he won't accept.
"Now, the President has spoken to this. He has said we are going to do more debt reduction, we are going to do tax reform, we will have to deal with the sequester,” Zwillich said.
With government funding set to run out March 27, which would lead to a government shutdown, the House and Senate will have to deal with another cliff in a matter of weeks, Zwillich said.
President Obama, Zwillich says, has indicated he will call for addressing the sequester through a mix of spending cuts and additional revenue..
But Republicans, including Speaker Boehner, are saying the next round of budget maneuvers is going to focus solely on spending cuts.
"We're headed for this scenario again, I'm sorry to say. Whether the speaker uses the threat of a debt limit expiration and a default to its maximum effect remains to be seen,” Zwillich said.
Whether Boehner can keep his position as speaker, Zwillich says, the closeness of the speaker election will work in his favor because there isn’t a lot of time for someone to challenge him. And those who were potential candidates have said they’re no longer running.
"Nothing is certain. It would be very surprising if there was a serious challenge mounted to John Boehner. Maybe symbolic but not serious,” he said.
The election for speaker is slated for this week.
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