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Senate Vote: 251     Vote Date: Jan 1st, 2013

Issue: H.R.8  American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.  Question:  On passage of H.R. 8, as amended (3/5 vote required).

Result: Passed, 89 to 8, 3 not voting. Became Public Law 112-240 (signed by the President 1-2-13).  GOP and Democrats scored.

Bill Summary:  A complex measure addressing multiple topics, including: The act made permanent the expiring “Bush-era” tax cuts, except for a top bracket of taxpayers — individuals with incomes over $250,000 and couples with $300,000.   The two-year old cut to Social Security payroll taxes was not extended. Federal unemployment benefits were extended for a year without a budget offset elsewhere. The “compromise” cancelled a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors. The act also delayed the budget sequestration created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 for two months.

Analysis:  This bi-partisan “compromise” followed days of negotiations by Senate leaders and the Obama administration to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff (a combination of expiring tax cuts, an expiring Social Security payroll tax cut, imposition of a sequester on spending, and pushing the debt ceiling).   The Senate gave the New Year’s Day “compromise” overwhelming support, 40 Republicans voting in favor, while only 3 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted against it.

While H.R. 8, as amended in the Senate, also subsequently passed that same day in the House (and was signed into law the next), a majority of the House Republicans opposed it. A substantial number of House Republicans were posturing as fiscal conservatives (unfortunately, not as constitutionalists), insisting on using House leverage to push through spending cuts. However, in the year-end 2012 fiscal cliff negotiations, the GOP leadership sold them (and America) out. According to CQ Roll Call (1-16-13):

“The tax bill that postponed the fiscal cliff got through on New Year’s Day with only 35 percent support from the GOP, and half as many Republicans voted for it (85) as did Democrats (172).”

An obvious complaint was that the “compromise” did very little to address spending and caved in to President Obama’s socialist rhetoric that the “rich” needed to pay a greater share of the federal burden. Never mind that the burden came from an explosion in unconstitutional programs. Or that the proposal for a graduated, progressive income tax came straight from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

The “compromise” failed entirely to address the federal government’s longer term financial crisis — the rapid rise in entitlement spending on health care and income security for the elderly.   And, of course, there was no effort to conform government programs to those authorized by the Constitution.

So after months of high-profile partisan squabbling, America was still on the road to fiscal disaster. Even the much-hyped scheduled sequester would make only a small dent in spending.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)