Now in the spotlight, House Republicans plan a closed-door meeting today to decide their next move after the Senate overwhelmingly approved compromise legislation avoiding a fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies.
The Senate endorsed the legislation early today, 89-8. That vote came hours after Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky sealed a deal.
It would prevent middle-class taxes from going up but would raise rates on higher incomes. It would also block spending cuts for two months, extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevent a 27% cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and prevent a spike in milk prices.
The measure ensures that lawmakers will have to revisit difficult budget questions in just a few weeks, as relief from painful spending cuts expires and the government requires an increase in its borrowing cap.
House Speaker John Boehner pointedly refrained from endorsing the agreement, though he's promised a vote on it or a GOP alternative right away. But he is expected to encounter opposition from House conservatives, and it's unclear when the vote would occur.
Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., arrived at the Capitol in late morning, and both bid "Happy New Year" to greeters but didn't say anything substantive.
Boehner plans to brief his caucus this afternoon. Biden has scheduled a separate meeting with House Democrats to reprise his role of Monday night when he promoted compromise to Democrats before that chamber voted. (AP)
Statement from the President:
Leaders from both parties in the Senate came together to reach an agreement that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support today that protects 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small business owners from a middle class tax hike. While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay.
This agreement will also grow the economy and shrink our deficits in a balanced way – by investing in our middle class, and by asking the wealthy to pay a little more.
What's more, today's agreement builds on previous efforts to reduce our deficits. Last year, I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut spending by more than $1 trillion. Tonight's agreement does even more by asking millionaires and billionaires to begin to pay their fair share for the first time in twenty years. As promised, that increase will be immediate, and it will be permanent.
There's more work to do to reduce our deficits, and I'm willing to do it. But tonight's agreement ensures that, going forward, we will continue to reduce the deficit through a combination of new spending cuts and new revenues from the wealthiest Americans. And as we address our ongoing fiscal challenges, I will continue to fight every day on behalf of the middle class and all those fighting to get into the middle class to forge an economy that grows from the middle out, not from the top down.
U.S. Senator Dean Heller issued the following statement:
"Congress has had nearly a year and a half to work out a deal, but the Senate has waited until the final hours to vote on a proposal. This entire process has been an embarrassment, and I hope that Washington finally realizes that running the clock on last-minute, high-drama crises is no way to run a country. Moving forward, Democrats and Republicans must commit to working together so that Congress can better serve the American people.
"Times are tough, especially for the Silver State, and ultimately the Senate did the right thing today by providing certainty for Nevada's families and businesses. Today the Senate came to an agreement on a pro-growth solution that will allow Nevadans to keep more of the money they earned in their pockets. While I did not get everything that I wanted, this bipartisan compromise will allow businesses to start planning for the future and ensure that unemployment benefits are extended at a time when so many Nevadans are looking for employment," said Senator Dean Heller.
Senator Heller was the only member of the Nevada delegation to vote against the Budget Control Act, which triggered sequestration following the Super Committee's inability to negotiate.