(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill, 89 to 8, that would prevent the "fiscal cliff" from going into effect. The U.S. House of Representatives is meeting Tuesday at noon, but House leaders have not said when, or if, they will vote on the measure.
The compromise legislation was put together by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden.
"This shouldn't be the model for how we do things around here, but I think we can say we've done some good for the country," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
If passed by the House, the bill would prevent income taxes from going up on taxable income below $450,000 while taxes would go up on income above that amount. It would also maintain many tax deductions from the Bush-era tax cuts, such as the higher $1,000 child tax deduction.
One of the main sticking points in Monday night negotiations was what to do about the automatic spending cuts that are also part of the fiscal cliff. Republicans wanted a two month delay in the spending cuts to be offset by cuts in other parts of the budget. Democrats wanted the spending cuts to be offset by the tax increases. In the end, Democrats got what they wanted, but Republicans got a concession on the estate tax in return. By the end of the decade, the threshold at which the estate tax kicks in will rise to $15 million, much higher than the current $5 million threshold or the $1 million threshold that would go into effect with the fiscal cliff.
The bill also includes a one year extension of unemployment benefits, prevents cuts to doctors who provide Medicare services, and extends the farm bill, which would cause milk prices to double if it is not passed.
The senators who voted against it included five Republicans: Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.); and three Democrats: Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Tom Harkin (Iowa).
In a statement released Monday night, House leaders promised they would take up any legislation passed by the Senate.
"The House will honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement if it is passed. Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members – and the American people – have been able to review the legislation," they said.
The House is meeting at 1 p.m. on Tuesday to debate the bill, but leaders said there would not be a vote that day.
The new House, elected in November, will be seated on Thursday. There will also be a vote to determine who the next speaker of the House will be and there may be a challenge to John Boehner (R-Ohio), the current speaker. Those events could potentially impact whether the House will pass the legislation.