Senate clear fiscal cliff measure
台灣民代 要學 阻止 無能 霸道 ， 為民謀福利
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed legislation to block the impact of across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts that make up the fiscal cliff.
The vote was an overwhelming 89-8 and came well after midnight on New Year's Day.
A House vote is expected before Wednesday.
The White House-backed legislation would prevent middle-class taxes from rising, and raise rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples.
It also blocks spending cuts for two months, extends unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevents a 27 percent cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and prevents a spike in milk prices.
A last-minute addition would also prevent a $900 pay raise for members of Congress from taking effect in March.
WASHINGTON（AP） - 美國參議院已通過立法，以阻止全面的板增加稅收和削減開支，彌補財政的懸崖的影響。
Senate approves "fiscal cliff" deal, crisis eased
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate moved the U.S. economy back from the edge of a "fiscal cliff" on Tuesday, voting to avoid imminent tax hikes and spending cuts in a bipartisan deal that could still face stiff challenges in the House of Representatives.
In a rare New Year's session at around 2 a.m. EST (0700 GMT), senators voted 89-8 to raise some taxes on the wealthy while making permanent low tax rates on the middle class that have been in place for a decade.
But the measure did little to rein in huge annual budget deficits that have helped push the U.S. debt to $16.4 trillion.
The agreement came too late for Congress to meet its own deadline of New Year's Eve for passing laws to halt $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts which strictly speaking came into force on Tuesday.
But with the New Year's Day holiday, there was no real world impact and Congress still had time to draw up legislation, approve it and backdate it to avoid the harsh fiscal measures.
That will need the backing of the House where many of the Republicans who control the chamber complain that President Barack Obama has shown little interest in cutting government spending and is too concerned with raising taxes.
All eyes are now on the House which is to hold a session on Tuesday starting at noon (1700 GMT).
Obama called for the House to act quickly and follow the Senate's lead.
"While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay," he said in a statement.
"There's more work to do to reduce our deficits, and I'm willing to do it. But tonight's agreement ensures that, going forward, we will continue to reduce the deficit through a combination of new spending cuts and new revenues from the wealthiest Americans," Obama said.
Members were thankful that financial markets were closed, giving them a second chance to return to try to head off the fiscal cliff.
But if lawmakers cannot pass legislation in the coming days, markets are likely to turn sour. The U.S. economy, still recovering from the 2008/2009 downturn, could stall again if Congress fails to fix the budget mess.
"If we do nothing, the threat of a recession is very real. Passing this agreement does not mean negotiations halt, far from it. We can all agree there is more work to be done," Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, told the Senate floor.
A new, informal deadline for Congress to legislate is now Wednesday when the current body expires and it is replaced by a new Congress chosen at last November's election.
The Senate bill, worked out after long negotiations on New Year's Eve between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also postpones for two months a $109 billion "sequester" of sweeping spending cuts on military and domestic programs.
It extends unemployment insurance to 2 million people for a year and makes permanent the alternative minimum tax "patch" that was set to expire, protecting middle-income Americans from being taxed as if they were rich.
The tax hikes do not sit easy with Republicans but conservative senators held their noses and voted to raise rates for the rich because not to do so would have meant increases for almost all working Americans.
"It took an imperfect solution to prevent our constituents from a very real financial pain, but in my view, it was worth the effort," McConnell said.
House Speaker John Boehner - the top Republican in Congress - said the House would consider the Senate deal. But he left open the possibility of the House amending the Senate bill, which would spark another round of legislating.
"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 ... have been able to review the legislation," Boehner and other House Republican leaders said in a statement.
Boehner has struggled for two years to get control over a group of several dozen Tea Party fiscal conservatives in his caucus who strongly oppose tax increases and demand that he force Obama to make savings in the Medicare and Social Security healthcare and retirement programs.
A campaign-style event held by Obama in the White House as negotiations with Senate leaders were taking place on Monday may have made it more difficult for Republicans to back the deal. In remarks to a group of supporters that resembled a victory lap, the president noted that his rivals were coming around to his way of seeing things.
"Keep in mind that just last month Republicans in Congress said they would never agree to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. Obviously, the agreement that's currently being discussed would raise those rates and raise them permanently," he said to applause before the Senate deal was sealed.
Obama's words and tone annoyed Republican lawmakers who seemed to feel that the Democrat was gloating.
"That's not the way presidents should lead," said Republican Senator John McCain, Obama's rival in the 2008 election.
A deal with the House on Tuesday, while uncertain, would not mark the end of congressional budget fights. The "sequester" spending cuts will come up again in February as will the contentious "debt ceiling," which caps how much debt the federal government can hold.
Republicans may see those two issues as their best chance to try to rein in government spending and clip Obama's wings at the start of his second term.
華盛頓（路透社） - 美國參議院提出美國經濟恢復從“財政懸崖”週二的邊緣，投票，以避免迫在眉睫的加稅和削減開支，兩黨合作的協議，可以在眾議院仍面臨著嚴峻的挑戰。
眾議院議長約翰·博納 - 前共和黨國會 - 眾議院將考慮在參議院的交易。但他留下的可能性眾議院修改參議院的法案，這將引發新一輪的立法。
Senate bill stops many tax hikes, but leaves big issues pending
Make most Bush tax cuts permanent: The Bush-era income tax rates would be permanently extended for all income up to $400,000 ($450,000 if married). Bush tax cuts that apply to income above those levels would expire.
Effectively that means for households above those thresholds, their top rate would rise to 39.6%, up from 35% in 2012.
Plus, the capital gains and dividend tax rates for these high-income households would increase to 20% from 15%. For everyone else, investment tax rates would remain at 15% or below.
The compromise bill would also preserve the expanded parameters for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit for 5 more years.
Permanently protect the middle class from the AMT: The bill would permanently adjust the income exemption levels for the Alternative Minimum Tax for inflation.
Most immediately, the measure would prevent close to 30 million middle-class taxpayers from having to pay the so-called wealth tax for 2012.
Without a patch for 2012 in place soon, the IRS has warned lawmakers that up to 100 million taxpayers may not be able to file their 2012 taxes until late March and their refunds would be delayed.
Passing an AMT patch with an extension of the Bush tax cuts on most income -- which together make up the biggest piece of the fiscal cliff -- would boost real GDP by about 1.25% in fiscal year 2013, according to earlier Congressional Budget Office estimates.
Cap itemized deductions on high-income households: The Biden-McConnell compromise would cap how much those making $250,000 (married couples making $300,000) may take in itemized deductions.
Retain key tax incentives for businesses: The bill would extend for two years several tax breaks for businesses, including a production tax credit for developers of wind projects, the research and development tax credit, and a measure allowing for bonus depreciation.
Retains several expired tax breaks for individuals: The compromise bill would extend for one or two years a few "temporary" tax breaks for individuals that regularly are extended. These include an option to deduct state and local sales taxes in place of state and local income taxes; and a deduction for elementary and secondary school teachers for certain expenses.
Permanently extend a more lenient estate tax: The legislation would preserve the current estate tax exemption level of $5.12 million but index it to inflation for future years. And it would raise the top rate to 40% from 35% currently.
If the deal is not approved, the estate tax bite would be much bigger because the exemption level is scheduled to fall to $1 million and the top rate would rise to 55%.
Extend benefits for the long-term unemployed: The bill would continue a federal extension of unemployment benefits for one year.
Without it, more than 2 million of the long-term unemployed would run out of benefits at the end of this year, according to the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group.
Continuing the benefit extension for one year would cost an estimated $30 billion.
Prevent a cut in Medicare doctors' pay: The Biden-McConnell compromise would prevent a scheduled 27% cut in reimbursement for Medicare services for one year. The so-called "doc fix" would boost the deficit by $31 billion.
Replace sequester for 2 months: The dreaded sequester -- the automatic and blunt spending cuts to defense and nondefense programs -- would be replaced for two months in 2013.
The two months of cuts would be replaced by $12 billion in new revenue and $12 billion in spending cuts.
It's not clear what Congress will decide to do about the sequester after the two months are up. If left in place for the whole year, the sequester would have reduced spending authority in 2013 by roughly $110 billion.
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