|US Congress 390.(Photo by: REUTERS)|
US Senate approves bill to avert 'fiscal cliff'
Agreement likely to face stiff challenges in Republican-controlled House; holiday allows Congress time to draw up legislation.
WASHINGTON - The US Senate on Tuesday, two hours after a December 31 deadline had lapsed, approved legislation aimed at averting the "fiscal cliff" by stopping most tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts that were due to begin with the new year.
The House of Representatives still must approve the measure, possibly on Tuesday.
still came too late for Congress to meet its own deadline of New Year's
Eve to pass laws halting $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts
due to come into force on January 1.
But with Tuesday a holiday,
Congress still had time to draw up legislation, approve it and backdate
it to avoid the harsh fiscal measures coming into force.
will need the backing of the House where many of the Republicans who
control the chamber complain that US President Barack Obama has shown
little interest in cutting government spending to try to reduce the US
House Republicans are also likely to balk at
planned tax hikes on household incomes over $450,000 a year that was
part of the agreement struck between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate
Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Speaker John Boehner on Monday night said the House would consider
legislation to avert the fiscal cliff if the Senate passes such a
"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.
The House has convened a session for Tuesday at noon.
deal would make permanent the alternative minimum tax "patch" that was
set to expire, protecting middle-income Americans from being taxed as if
they were rich.
Indiscriminate spending cuts for defense and non-defense spending were simply postponed for two months.
New Year's Day approached, members were thankful that financial markets
were closed, giving them a second chance to return on Tuesday to try to
blunt the worst effects of the fiscal mess.
There is no major
difference whether a law is passed on Monday night, Tuesday or
Wednesday. Legislation can be backdated to Jan. 1.