House gives final passage to fiscal cliff bill
WASHINGTON (AP) - 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.
Obama says an effort to change the nation's tax code that is too skewed toward the wealthy has been achieved with the "fiscal cliff" deal approved in Congress. The president said in an appearance late Tuesday in the White House that the House vote to prevent a mix of tax increases and spending cuts avoids a problem that could have sent the economy back into recession.
Obama says the deficit is "still too high" and warns that he will not negotiate with Congress over another increase in the nation's debt ceiling. The House approved Senate-backed legislation preventing middle-class tax increases and spending cuts that technically took effect with the new year. It represented a triumph for Obama after he campaigned for re-election on higher taxes on the wealthy.
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.
Indiana House Republicans all voted against the bill, with the exception of Dan Burton, who did not vote. Democrats Andre Carson and Joe Donnelly voted for the bill, while Pete Visclosky voted against it.
Fourth District Representative Todd Rokita (R) explained his 'nay' vote in a statement late Tuesday night:
"I opposed this bill because we have a spending problem, and the deal sent over by the Senate makes it worse. I will not consign our children to a debtors' prison just to block President Obama's tax hikes.
"While Congress and the White House have steered the nation around a fiscal pothole tonight, we are still hurtling toward the real fiscal cliff. We must get serious about our debt crisis before it's too late," said Rokita.
INDIANA VOTING BREAKDOWN:
Democrats - Carson, Y; Donnelly, Y; Visclosky, N.
Republicans - Bucshon, N; Burton, X; Pence, N; Rokita, N; Stutzman, N; Young, N.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.