US Senate deal averts ‘fiscal cliff’

BUS

As the new year began on Tuesday, Congressional efforts to head off tax increases on most working Americans shifted to the House, where members began to pore over details of a plan passed by the Senate in the early morning hours as Republican leaders began the delicate task of assessing the measure's fate in their chamber.

House Republicans were planning to meet at 1 p.m. (EST) to discuss the Senate legislation, cobbled together after furious negotiations between US Vice President Joseph R Biden Jr. and the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, to avert automatic tax increases for all but the wealthiest Americans and put off, for two months, large cuts to the Pentagon and other areas of government.

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, said she would also present the plan to House Democrats and Biden, who helped sell the deal to Senate Democrats on Monday night, was set to meet with members of his party in the House just after noon.

With just two days to go before a new Congress convenes, the House has essentially three choices: reject the bill, pass it as written by the Senate after what is certain to be a robust, even rancorous debate, or amend the bill and quickly return it across the rotunda to the Senate.

Any failure to pass the measure before the 112th Congress ends as of noon Thursday would require the process to start over in the new 113th Congress, meaning the Senate would have to vote again with a changed membership due the departure of several veteran lawmakers and the arrival of newcomers from both parties as a result of victories in the November elections.

But the strong, bipartisan 89-to-8 vote in the Senate about 2 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday will put strong pressure on the House to approve the legislation since a defeat would essentially leave the House responsible for a steep series of tax increases and spending cuts that some economists warn could send the nation back into a recession.

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