On the heel of a deal to stave off a fiscal crisis that could have sent the country headed toward another recession, Congressman Howard Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, supported the legislation, but decried the undue burden that has been placed on the armed forces, after a series of compromises were reached by the House on Tuesday.
An agreement to stave off the harshest and most immediate consequences of the “fiscal cliff” won approval in the House, paving the way for President Barack Obama’s quick signature.
Following a day of hectic wrangling on Capitol Hill — where the prospects for passing the bipartisan, Senate legislation regarding the fiscal cliff hung in the balance for much of New Year’s Day — the House voted 257 to 157 to pass the belated compromise measure over the objections of many conservative Republicans.
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“I support this deal with important reservations. Our troops have shouldered an unfairly large share of budget cuts to date, in addition to the strains of combat,” McKeon said Thursday, in a statement.
“Rather than shield a wartime military from further reductions, this deal leaves the force vulnerable to sequestration’s devastating and arbitrary cuts, and it leaves Congress and the president with much work to do to end this crisis.”
The legislation takes steps toward resolving the combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that took effect at midnight on Jan. 1. It preserves tax rates as they were at the end of 2012, except for those individuals earning more than $400,000 and households earning over $450,000.
It also allows taxes on capital gains and dividends to go up, and extends benefits of the unemployed. Additionally, the Senate bill delays the onset of the “sequester” — the swift, automatic spending cuts — for two months.
The House vote laid bare some of the internal ideological divisions to plague the GOP over the past two years. More Republican congressmen (151) voted against the deal than for it (85), meaning that Democrats’ support was needed to advance the final deal. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, took the rare step of casting a vote, and did so in favor of the deal. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the former Republican vice presidential nominee, also supported the package. But Boehner’s top two lieutenants, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., each opposed the deal.
While the last-minute action on Capitol Hill essentially mitigates much of the risk posed to the U.S. economic recovery by the fiscal cliff, it hardly brings resolution to the bitter and often intractable fight in Washington over taxes and spending. The first half of 2013 will feature battles in Congress over raising the debt limit, continuing basic government funding and the expiration of this two-month delay in the sequester.
“As we continue down this uncertain road, we must keep in mind that cutting spending and raising taxes can only get us so far,” McKeon said. “We must allow our economy to grow if we are able to resolve this debt crisis. We must also, finally, address the entitlement spending that is driving our debt.”
MSNBC contributed to this report.