A deal to avert the looming fiscal cliff was struck this week after months of debate and negotiations between President Obama, the House, and the Senate.
The Senate passed a bill in the early hours of New Year's Day, which kept the income tax rate for couples making under $450,000 (and individuals making under $400,000) at current levels, but raising them for those over that cap, while also continuing long-term unemployment benefits. The bill also extended tax credits for college students and low-income families, and budget sequestration was delayed for two months. The bill was passed by a vote of 89-8. On a transportation-related issue, the fiscal cliff deal also included an increase in monthly pretax federal transit benefits to $240 per month per individual, up from $125.
House members were split on the matter, holding multiple caucuses throughout the day to gauge feelings on the bill. House Republicans were looking for spending cuts in the bill and expressed reservations at the lack of them. Yet after a day of back and forth, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put the measure up for a vote, vowing to continue to press for spending cuts in the near future.
"Now the focus turns to spending," Boehner said in a statement. "The American people re-elected a Republican majority in the House, and we will use it in 2013 to hold the president accountable for the 'balanced' approach he promised, meaning significant spending cuts and reforms to the entitlement programs that are driving our country deeper and deeper into debt."
The House passed the measure by a vote of 257-167. President Obama signed the bill Thursday.
The full text of the bill, HR 8, is available at bit.ly/HR8text.