April 16, 2014

House votes to avert fiscal cliff

Wisconsin House members voted 5-to-3 in favor of a compromise which avoids the so-called fiscal cliff, of massive federal spending cuts, and tax hikes on the middle class. The measure passed 257-to-167 just before 10:00 Tuesday night. It was the same bill passed by the Senate on New Year’s Eve – although conservatives talked about adding more spending cuts before retreating.

Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, and Sean Duffy were the state’s only lawmakers to vote no. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Janesville said he voted yes to protect as many Americans as possible from a large tax increase. All employees will still get a Social Security tax hike, averaging $60 a month. That’s because a two-percent temporary tax cut will end, after it was passed two years ago to stimulate the economy.

Republican Representative Reid Ribble said basic tax rates will stay the same for 99-percent of all Americans. Ribble also said he was glad that the compromise avoids a large hike in consumer milk prices – and it also prevents a cut in payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients. ”The path to this fiscal cliff vote was distasteful and unfortunate I hope that with the start of the New Year and 113th Congress there will be less focus on partisan games and more on fixing problems,” Ribble said in a statement.

LaCrosse Democrat Ron Kind said there was still a lot to do, including a comprehensive agreement to get the government’s  fiscal house in order, and deficits under control. Kind challenged lawmakers to “go big and find real savings in defense, health care, and tax reform.”

Milwaukee Democrat Gwen Moore said she was happy that the deal continues the extended unemployment benefits, and higher taxes for couples making $450,000 a year. But she said spending cuts would again dominate the House discussion in two months, when an increase in the debt ceiling comes up again.