Lawmakers approve deal to avoid ‘fiscal cliff’

“Now the focus turns to spending” and overhauling the tax code, Boehner said in a written statement after the vote. He said the GOP will fight for “significant spending cuts and reforms to the entitlement programs that are driving our country deeper and deeper into debt,” a reference to costly benefit programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.

In his White House remarks, Obama said that while he was open to compromise, he would demand deficit-cutting savings from added revenue on the well-off, not just spending cuts.

He also pointedly said he would “not have another debate with this Congress” over extending the federal borrowing limit.

“If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic—far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff,” he said.

National education leaders were not available to comment on the fiscal cliff deal as of press time, but in a statement released before the House voted on the measure, the American Federation of Teachers endorsed the agreement.

“This agreement, while imperfect, provides critical and immediate relief to millions of families who were facing substantial tax increases, and it ensures that Americans still struggling to find work will continue to receive the unemployment benefits they need to support themselves and their families,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a statement. “It also brings in needed revenue by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay more to strengthen and grow our economy.”

She added: “As important as this relief is right now to the majority of Americans, this is a temporary, Band-Aid solution. Kicking the can down the road for two months means that we still face the possibility of staggering and debilitating cuts to public schools, health care, and services that our kids and families count on. Failure to avert these across-the-board cuts will cripple public services in communities across the nation, many of which are already barely recovering from the recent recession and state and local budget cuts; will make it harder for parents to afford child care and for students to afford college; will leave thousands of children hungry; and could plunge our economy back into recession.”

Though its focus was on taxes, the measure approved Jan. 1 also would prevent a potential doubling of milk prices and prevent a $900 salary increase for members of Congress in March. Its extension of jobless benefits would help 2 million people out of work at least six months, and it would prevent a 27-percent cut in reimbursements that doctors get for treating Medicare patients.

Weighing in with criticism of the compromise were the chief authors of an influential bipartisan deficit-cutting proposal, former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton. They called the measure “truly a missed opportunity to do something big to reduce our long-term fiscal problems.”

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