The Fiscal Cliff was averted by a House vote of 257-167, with the passage bloc made up of 85 Republicans and 172 Democrats. There being no amendments, the adopted bill was sent directly to the President for signature.
For much of the day, it appeared that there would be no vote, or that substantial debate and amendments might derail the bill as it was sent to the House by the Senate. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor opposed the bill, as did a majority of House Republicans. A rule requiring expressed support by a majority of Republicans before bringing a bill to the floor was discarded by House Speaker Boehner in order to achieve an up-or-down vote on the unamended Senate bill.
Many Republicans in the House were angered both by Presidential remarks when the Senate bill passed, which essentially laid the entire fiscal cliff brinkmanship exercise over the past several months at the feet of Republicans, and by the Senate’s stated refusal to take up any amended version of the bill. There were some $380 billion in proposed spending cuts that various members proposed to add to the bill. However, the Senate adjourned until noon Wednesday, after restating their refusal to consider amendments. It was clear the House would most likely kill the bill if it insisted on amending it, and that would throw it into the new Congress.
Once the new Congress was sworn in on January 3, the whole process would have to start again. Meanwhile, financial markets would be in confusion, businesses would be unable to determine their next payroll tax amounts, doctors would be subject to significant payment reductions… the entire economy would be thrown into turmoil for as long as the new debate lasted, and there was no guarantee a new Congress would reach agreement again.
Even that threat did not garner enough support to get the bill to the House floor, so the Speaker abandoned the Republican majority support rule and brought it to the floor anyway. There was no certainty it would pass. Not only were a majority of Republicans willing to throw the American economy under an ideological bus, there were a dozen or more Democrats who were willing to do the same… just a different bus. The good news was, a simple majority was all that was required to pass the bill, and the House doesn’t filibuster. In the end, passage significantly exceeded fifty-one percent of those voting.
The President praised the decision of the House to send the bill on to him for signature, saying, that the vote avoided a problem that could have sent the economy back into recession. Noting that the deficit is still too high, he warned that he would not negotiate with Congress again over an increase in the debt ceiling, saying, “While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether they should pay the bills for what they’ve racked up. We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred.” He seemed to be emphasizing what seemed to be evident to all… the TEA Party domination of Washington has just hit a serious speed bump, and several of its members turned out to be one-term wonders.