Congress approves ‘fiscal cliff’ deal in bipartisan vote

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During the day’s debates, Democrats said the GOP recklessly pushed the country toward the fiscal cliff, and they poked at Republicans.

“There is a kind of ‘Let them eat cake’ feeling in here tonight,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, New York Democrat.

The action marks a victory for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who negotiated the deal with Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican, said he wasn’t happy with the Senate’s bill, but said adding an amendment may “draw this thing out and create more problems.”

Rep. Charles W. Dent, Pennsylvania Republican, was also leery of late-minute changes, noting the Senate could send back the same bill it passed early Tuesday or tack on measures that make it even tougher for House Republicans to swallow.

The deal had seemed on a glide path after passing the Senate by a 89-8 vote in the early-morning hours.

Senators adopted the 157-page bill even before they received a final cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

Only three Democrats and five Republicans voted against it, including two of the GOP’s potential 2016 presidential candidates, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“I think our sense, at least in the House, was that a number of the Republicans that voted for it must have been drunk, because it really was a number that wasn’t reflective of where we thought some of these people were going to be on a bill like this,” Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican, said after emerging from a closed-door House GOP meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Armed with the CBO score, released just as the GOP went into that meeting, Republicans blasted the Senate deal. That score showed the bill included net new spending of $330 billion.

Democrats had pleaded throughout the day for Republicans to quickly bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote to match the Senate.

“The difference between a divided government and dysfunctional government is the willingness to compromise. We saw that in the Senate,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “That means looking at an agreement and deciding whether on balance it helps, not Democrats and Republicans, but whether it helped move the country forward.”

Democrats cheered what they kept out of the deal, such as changes to Social Security benefit calculations, and applauded Mr. Biden, their chief negotiator, for holding firm on including unemployment benefits and extended tax credits for college tuitions and other party priorities.

The CBO said that between new tax credits, higher payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients, and extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, the bill adds $330 billion in net new spending over the next decade.

The nonpartisan agency said the bill contains about $25.1 billion in new cuts, but only $2 billion are scheduled to take effect in 2013, and the entire package is overshadowed by the new spending.

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