June 19, 2013
US 'fiscal cliff' crisis heads to resolution in Congress
A months-long battle over the US "fiscal cliff" headed to a close today as the House of Representatives moved toward final approval of a bipartisan deal meant to prevent Washington from pushing the world's biggest economy into recession.
The Republican-controlled House was expected to back a tax hike on the top US earners shortly before midnight, ending weeks of high-stakes budget brinkmanship that threatened to spook consumers and throw financial markets into turmoil.
Approval of the bill would be a victory for President Barack Obama, who campaigned for re-election last November on a promise to raise taxes on the wealthiest but faced stiff opposition from congressional Republicans.
Republicans had earlier considered adding hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts after the bill had already passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support. That would have triggered further partisan warfare and pushed the crisis well past a self-imposed Jan. 1 deadline.
But party leaders abandoned the effort after determining they lacked the votes.
"We've gone as far as we can go and I think people are ready to bring it to a conclusion," Republican Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia said. "We fought the fight."
Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, a Republican, predicted the House would back the Senate bill, which also postpones for two months $109 billion in spending cuts on military and domestic programs set for 2013.
The bill easily cleared a procedural hurdle by a bipartisan vote of 408 to 10.
Lawmakers have struggled to find a way to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts that began to take effect at midnight, a legacy of earlier failed budget deals that is known as the fiscal cliff.
Strictly speaking, the United States went over the cliff in the first minutes of the New Year because Congress failed to produce legislation to halt $600 billion of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled for this year.