Congress Passes Senate Measure To Deal With ‘Fiscal Cliff’

by Roby Brock ( 3 views 

In a late Tuesday night vote, the U.S. Congress approved a Senate measure to deal with the so-called “fiscal cliff” issue as Arkansas’ four representatives split their votes 2-2.

Reps. Mike Ross (D) and Steve Womack (R) cast their votes for the bill, while Reps. Rick Crawford (R) and Tim Griffin (R) opposed the deal.

Womack, who presided over a portion of the House debate, said the Senate deal has “more in it that I like than I don’t like,” and it “saves a lot of people from tax increases they can ill afford right now.”

“The President has been able to beat up the GOP over this narrative that we are about protecting the wealthy. … If this is approved, he (Obama) is no longer going to be able to use that as leverage against us. He will now have to come to the table on spending,” Womack told our content partner, The City Wire.

Griffin said he liked elements of the tax reform, but was worried about the lack of attention to spending reforms he says are needed.

“The Senate bill increases revenue to the treasury by hundreds of billions of dollars but still adds billions of dollars in new spending to our ballooning deficit,” said Griffin in explaining his opposition. “That’s unacceptable and a far cry from the President’s so-called ‘balanced approach.’ Unfortunately, in Washington tax increases are effective immediately and spending cuts are postponed indefinitely.”

“I have supported every single major bipartisan agreement proposed by the President, the Senate Majority Leader and House Speaker since I was elected, but this one is a bridge too far,” he added.

The deal retains almost 90% of tax cuts approved during the term of President George W. Bush.

According to the White House, it raises $620 billion in revenue by raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. The White House also claims the deal will build upon $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction packages approved in the past 12 months.

Additional provisions include:
• The top tax rate on household income above $450,000 rise from 35% to 39.6%. The new top rate is the rate prior to tax reductions approved in 2001 and 2003.
• Taxes paid on large inheritances – over $5 million per individual – rise from 35% to 40%.
• Unemployment benefits are extended another 12 months for an estimated 2 million Americans.
• A planned 27% reduction in payments to Medicare doctors is removed.
• Approval of a five-year extension of several tax credits primarily available for low- and middle-income earners – for example, the child tax credit and college tuition tax credits.
• Several tax credits for businesses – R&D credit, production credits, etc. – are extended through 2013.

The Senate approved the measure 89 to 8, and it was supported by Arkansas’ Senators John Boozman (R) and Mark Pryor (D).

Michael Tilley with The City Wire contributed to this report.