Congress Avoids Fiscal Cliff – Now the Debt Ceiling

Though it took going past the deadline into the New Year, the United States Congress managed to settle on a deal that raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans who make over $400 thousand a year for individuals and $450 thousand for couples and yet continues the Bush tax cuts for everyone else.

There was dissatisfaction from both sides of the aisle, as some Democrats were angry about President Obama raising the threshold for raising taxes, from $250 thousand a year to the $450 thousand, and some Republicans were angry because of the lack of spending cuts in the bill. The last step for final passage of the bill in the house, saw the Republican leadership split, with House Speaker John Boehner (OH) voting for the bill and Eric Cantor (VA) voting against.

The bill passed the U.S. House 257-167 and now awaits Obama’s signature which he has assured us he will sign.

The next showdown will surely be the debt ceiling. President Obama has made it clear that he will not debate the issue. Speaking to reporters directly after the fiscal cliff deal passed the House of Representatives, he remarked:

“While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they have already racked up.”

The Debt Ceiling will need to be dealt with by the end of February and Republican lawmakers have made it clear they intend to use the Debt Ceiling to demand spending cuts in entitlement programs.  The last time Republicans decided to block raising the debt ceiling, it cost us a credit rating.

President Obama is correct that Congress should pay the bills that have already racked up. We all accept that if we make a debt, then we pay for it. We may complain that we need to cut back but we still pay for the bills that are current, as responsible citizens. We should expect our Congress to do accordingly.

This bill is far from what it should have been and it should not have to be in the 25th hour for this Congress finally to pass a budget plan. Republicans are right that there needs to be cuts to entitlement programs though there is a fundamental difference in opinion on how those cuts should be made and whom they should affect.

Some Democrats were unhappy that Obama raised the amount income level on who will pay more tax but they need to realize that President Obama needs to compromise if he expects compromise.  Nothing will be accomplished if Republicans can turn around and point the finger at the president for not being willing to compromise, giving them reason to do the same.

The new congress will have a few more Democrats added to their numbers and the Tea Party will still be around, thought their clout somewhat diminished. I am also certain if they continue the same agenda as before, which means blocking any progress in legislation besides their own agenda, which won’t get passed the president’s desk, they may find their numbers dwindling more when the midterm 2014 elections arrive.

The Debt Ceiling debate will show us where the new congress is heading and if it will be more productive than the last. For the good of the nation, let us all hope so.

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