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Editorials

January 3, 2013

Congress does right thing in cliff vote

“The Americans will always do the right thing,” said Winston Churchill, “after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives.”

That certainly was the case in the unseemly and untidy machinations of the “fiscal cliff” crisis just barely averted Tuesday night when the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the overwhelming majority of Americans.

The bill, which delays automatic spending reductions for two months and amends some expiring tax and spending provisions, is an imperfect piece of work, but the alternative of wrecking the financial markets, throwing many thousands of people out of work and risking another recession would have been far worse.

The crisis was not caused by the American people, but rather, by the most dysfunctional Congress in memory. It was paralyzed by the Republican leadership in the Senate refusing to vote on virtually anything President Barack Obama supported without a filibuster, and a GOP Tea Party contingent unwilling to compromise.

With Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell finally acting like a statesman in negotiations with Vice President Joe Biden, the bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate. Rather than taxes going up on those making more than $250,000 a year, McConnell negotiated that up to $450,000 for couples.

But Speaker of the House John Boehner has a more-fractious GOP caucus. He wound up voting for the bill, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor voted against it along with the majority of Republicans in the House. The final tally was 257-157, with 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans voting in favor.

We are encouraged that our two local representative — Republicans Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna — voted for the bill, risking offending Tea Party groups that had supported them in the past.

Gibson, in a media release, put his finger on the best reason to vote for the bill.

“Early Tuesday morning, the Senate passed legislation by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 89-8 that will make permanent the lower tax rates of the Bush era. I support this bill and voted ‘yes’ as it provides much-needed tax relief for over 99 percent of my constituents.”

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