The fiscal cliff bill is on its way to President Obama’s desk for signature, thanks to the votes of Democrats in the House. In many ways, this legislation is a Republican dream bill, though most Republicans in the House opposed it. The bill preserves the Bush era tax cuts for all but the very wealthiest, and includes a host of other breaks for the rich and for corporations. There are great ironies here, but also some harsh realities. Someone had to step up and take responsibility for the country’s economic stability, and so in the end, House Democrats had to swallow a bitter pill.
Our own congressman, Tom Reed, voted for the legislation, one of 85 Republicans who did so, while 151 Republicans voted against. The burden of doing the right, if distasteful, thing fell to Democrats, who supported the bill by a margin of 172-16.
If Republicans hadn’t controlled the House, a far better solution to the fiscal cliff problem might have been found. That’s why it’s so important for Democrats to regain control of the House in 2014.
The term of 112th Congress ends at noon on Thursday. Downstate representatives are in shock that House Republican leaders have decided to adjourn without bringing up legislation to assist victims of Superstorm Sandy. However, that failure is entirely in keeping with the sorry performance of this Republican-controlled Congress.
For now, let us take some comfort in the good things that are in the fiscal cliff legislation, including the breathing space it has given the country from this prolonged crisis. The bill preserves the earned income tax credit, which helps low-wage earners, along with the child tax credit, the child and dependent care credit. It also preserves the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps families with college tuition, and extends emergency unemployment benefits.
In a short time, the country will be at another cliff as the federal government reaches the limit of its borrowing authority and the two-month extension of the sequester ends. All other legislative priorities, such as dealing with our decaying infrastructure, will be pushed aside for yet another fevered confrontation. This is not the way our nation’s business should be conducted, but it is the way that is forced upon us by the Republican House.