The nation breathed a collective sigh of relief late Tuesday night as Congress passed a resolution to the fiscal cliff in which both sides of the aisle made significant concessions to avert automatic across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts that would have taken effect January 2.
The measure originated in the Democrat-led Senate where it was approved by an overwhelming majority, 89-8, shortly after clocks chimed the New Year. Less than 24 hours after the Senate approved the legislation, it came to a vote in the House, where it was approved by the Democratic minority with the help of a small faction of Republicans unwilling to risk allowing the fiscal cliff to go into effect. Economists have widely speculated that, should the tax hikes and spending cuts have been allowed to take effect, they would have plunged the U.S. economy into another recession.
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The bill shields millions of middle-class taxpayers from income tax increases, but will let rates rise on individuals earning more than $400,000 a year, and households earning more than $450,000 a year. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had earlier in December pushed for a bill that would raise taxes only for those earning $1 million a year or more, but could not garner significant support from his own party, as they stuck to their long-held stance against raising taxes for any Americans. His bill also failed to get Democratic support, and was quickly shot down.
Democrats ultimately won greater concessions with the bill approved on Tuesday, while Republicans were forced to accept the measure in order to avert fiscal catastrophe, ultimately deciding their game of chicken could go on no longer. The bill marks the first time in more than two decades that a broad tax increase has been approved with GOP support. The bill drew 85 votes from House Republicans and 172 from Democrats. The majority of House Republicans — 151 — voted against the measure…