The U.S. Congress has approved a rare tax increase that
will hit the nation's wealthiest households in a bipartisan
budget deal that stops the world's largest economy from falling
into a deep fiscal crisis and recession.
By a vote of 257 to 167, the Republican-controlled House of
Representatives approved a bill that fulfills President
Barack Obama's re-election promise to raise taxes on top
The Senate passed the measure earlier in a rare New Year's
Day session and Obama is expected to sign it into law
The United States will no longer go over a "fiscal cliff" of
tax hikes and spending cuts that had been due to come into
force on Tuesday (local time) but other bruising budget
battles lie ahead in the next two months.
It was a reversal for House Republicans, who were in disarray
despite winning deep spending cuts in earlier budget fights.
But they saw their leverage slip away this time when they
were unable to unite behind any alternative to Obama's
House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican House leaders
stayed silent during the debate on the House floor, an
unusual move for a major vote.
The deal shatters two decades of Republican anti-tax
orthodoxy by raising rates on the wealthiest even as it makes
cuts for everybody else permanent.
Lawmakers had struggled to find a way to head off
across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts worth $600
billion that began to take effect at midnight on January 1, a
legacy of earlier failed budget deals that is known as the
Strictly speaking, the United States went over the cliff in
the first minutes of the New Year because Congress failed to
act on time. But the bill passed on Tuesday will be
While many Republicans were uneasy with the tax hikes and
wanted more spending cuts, they seemed to realize that the
fiscal cliff would begin to damage the economy once financial
markets and federal government offices returned to work on
Wednesday. Opinion polls show the public would blame
Republicans if a deal were to fall apart.
Income tax rates will now rise on families earning more than
$US450,000 per year and the amount of deductions they can
take to lower their tax bill will be limited.
Low temporary rates that have been in place for the past
decade will be made permanent for less-affluent taxpayers,
along with a range of targeted tax breaks put in place to
fight the 2009 economic downturn.
However, workers will see up to $US2000 more taken out of
their paychecks annually with the expiration of a temporary
payroll tax cut.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill
would increase budget deficits by nearly $US4 trillion over
the coming 10 years, compared to the budget savings that
would occur if the extreme measures of the cliff were to kick
But the bill would actually save $US650 billion during that
time period when measured against the tax and spending
policies that were in effect on Monday, according to the
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent
group that has pushed for more aggressive deficit savings.