Fiscal 'agreement' pushes Congress near dysfunction cliff
By Michael Mathes, AFPWASHINGTON--U.S. lawmakers gave themselves a New Year's resolution of sorts late Tuesday, but it was nearly a lump of coal: a fiscal cliff bill that few like, and which highlights the dysfunction gripping Washington.
January 3, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Lawmakers' inability to meet their own self-imposed year-end deadline or address the crucial element of the so-called fiscal cliff, billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts set to hit in 2013, is also promising an epic showdown on the financial problems that lay ahead.
Even as the U.S. House voted 257-167 to pass a Senate bill permanently extending tax rates for some 100 million families, Republicans were up at arms because it hikes taxes, at least on the rich, for the first time in a generation and postpones deep federal spending cuts for two months.
While the legislation secured billions in stimulus spending like unemployment insurance, many Democrats were livid because the tax hike threshold was agreed at US$450,000 of income, not US$250,000.
Uniting each side in their anger was the prospect of a renewed fiscal fight just two months from now when automatic spending cuts known as “sequester” kick in, the nation reaches its federal borrowing limit, and everyone braces for a government budget battle.
Seniors in both parties spoke warmly of how lawmakers are able to overcome differences and do something for the good of the country, even if at the last minute.
But seething resentment was the undercurrent in the House.
“This is no profile in courage,” winced veteran Democratic congressman Charlie Rangel on the House floor.
His Democratic colleague Louise Slaughter agreed.
“It sets the nation up for another fiscal showdown in mere months,” she said.
“This toxic combination of extremism and hyper-partisanship has resulted in the 112th Congress being the least productive in history.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, right, and Rep. Eric Cantor, R-VA, left, walk to a meeting with House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 1.