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Updated: House Gives Final Passage to Fiscal Cliff Bill

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WASHINGTON — Legislation to block the “fiscal cliff” is headed to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature. The bill will avoid, for now, the major tax increases and government spending cuts that had been scheduled to take effect with the new year.

Final approval came in the House on New Year’s Night. The vote was 257 to 167.

The Senate passed the bill less than 24 hours earlier.

The measure raises tax rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, a victory for Obama.

It also extends expiring unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevents a cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and cancels a $900 pay increase due to lawmakers in March.

Another provision is designed to prevent a spike in milk prices.


Update, 9:22 p.m.:

New Mexico’s representatives in the House released statements explaining their votes:

Martin Heinrich, a Democrat:

“Middle-class families and small businesses in New Mexico will now have the guarantee that their tax rates will stay where they are, which restores confidence and certainty in the economy.

“None of us are happy with every provision in the legislation, but it was imperative that we take action to prevent catastrophic and irreparable harm to the nation’s economy and our middle class.

“While there is still more work to do to reduce the deficit, this legislation asks millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, and prevents automatic spending cuts that would threaten vital funding for New Mexico’s national labs and harm the progress we’ve made in rebuilding our economy.”

Steve Pearce, a Republican:

Today, U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce voted against the Senate’s package of tax increases for Americans and small businesses.

“I cannot support this or any plan that doesn’t provide a solution,” said Pearce. “Washington doesn’t have a tax problem, it has a spending problem. The President has said we shouldn’t raise taxes in a recession, because he understands that no matter who we tax, it will slow our economy without fixing our debt problem. Still, this is exactly what he proposes we do.

“The House has already passed numerous bills to avert the Fiscal Cliff.  We have given the President and the Senate the opportunity to take steps toward solving our debt crisis, while making sure that the damaging impact of sequestration and tax increases are avoided. Instead of acting in the same spirit, the senate and the president want to raise taxes and continue the federal spending spree.

“We need a plan that will help our seniors. As the government continues to print more money, the value of hard-earned retirement savings deflates, leaving our seniors with inadequate funds. All the while, our government is ignoring the problems facing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Our seniors will go on getting the same old sad government services, despite tax increases and inflation.

“Real tax reform could make America competitive again, and bring manufacturing jobs back home,” Pearce continued. “Instead, the White House wants to pile a jumble of even more taxes onto Americans’ backs. Americans deserve honesty from Washington. They deserve a real solution that spends tax dollars efficiently and effectively, instead of wasting them and then demanding more. They deserve a government that will make the tough decisions, live within its means, and control spending—just like millions of American households have to do every day.

“Everyone knows the Euro Zone is in crisis, but America’s debt-to-GDP ratio is as bad as countries like Ireland and Portugal! More taxes and more spending haven’t solved the problem for Europe, and they won’t help us here. The President is deceiving Americans by promising new taxes can help, while in reality they won’t scratch the surface of our mounting debt. Today’s bill does nothing to address Washington’s reckless spending spree, and it does nothing to put Americans back to work. I call on the White House and the Senate to get serious about our nation’s debt problem, and stop kicking the can down the road.”

Pearce also directed constituents to a new feature on his website, www.pearce.house.gov/debt, where over a trillion dollars in spending controls are identified—not by cutting key programs, but simply by forcing bureaucracies to address waste, fraud, and abuse. New Mexicans can make their voices heard on the site by identifying which changes in federal spending they would support.

Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat:

Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District voted tonight in support of a compromise plan to resolve the fiscal cliff by avoiding an income tax hike on middle-class families, extending unemployment benefits, and preventing arbitrary spending cuts that could harm the national laboratories.

“Like many New Mexicans, I am disappointed with how this process played out during a Congress that has created one manufactured crisis after another.  This plan is far from perfect and I do not support all of its elements, however, it represents a compromise that protects middle-class families in New Mexico from seeing their income taxes increase and it ensures that those struggling to find work during this difficult time will continue to have support,” Congressman Luján said.  “In addition, the extension of important tax credits will support hard-working families, help young adults afford college, and support a growing renewable energy industry.  Finally, while I would have preferred a long-term solution to the sequester’s arbitrary budget cuts that I have opposed from the beginning, this plan will prevent these cuts from taking place immediately – threatening the vitality of our national labs and our nation’s competitiveness.”

Under the plan, the Bush tax cuts will expire on individuals making more than $400,000 and couples making more than $450,000; unemployment benefits will be extended for a year; and arbitrary spending cuts through the sequester will be delayed for two months.

Other key provisions of the plan include:

·      A permanent fix to the Alternative Minimum Tax to prevent tax increases on middle-class families;
·      An extension of the wind production tax credit, child tax credit, and American Opportunity Tax Credit that helps families pay for college;
·      Preventing a 27 percent cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients;
·      Preventing milk prices from rising sharply; and
·      Blocking a pay raise for members of Congress.

“I am also disappointed that the House has still failed to take action on other important measures such as a new farm bill, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and legislation that enables New Mexico to use existing funds to clean up abandoned uranium mines,” Luján concluded.  “This bill, introduced by Senator Bingaman, has passed the full Senate and House Natural Resources Committee with unanimous support and deserves a vote on the House floor.”

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