Lawmakers move closer to the cliff


WASHINGTON — The nation last week moved closer to year-end enactment of steep tax increases and deep spending cuts after Congress and the White House failed to pull away from the “fiscal cliff.”

Congress recessed for the holidays. While senators were scheduled to return to the Capitol after Christmas, it was unclear whether the House would follow suit.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, dismissed House members after failing to build enough support for one strategy to address the looming imposition of more than $500 billion in automatic taxes and cutbacks.

It would have prevented taxes from increasing on most Americans but allowed them to go up for people with income above $1 million.

The Boehner plan was rejected by President Barack Obama who favored a lower, $400,000 income threshold for tax hikes. On the other hand it was criticized by Republicans who opposed all tax hikes and some who feared the plan did not included guaranteed spending cuts.

Earlier the Republican-led House voted 215-209 for a GOP bill that sought to avert $97 billion in spending cuts to the Pentagon and some domestic programs. It would replace the cuts with $314 billion in savings over 10 years.

“We believe it’s better to identify specific spending cuts, waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government in order to prevent the sequester from occurring,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis..

But Democrats said the proposal was warmed over from a similar Republican spending bill passed earlier this year that included cuts to food stamps and other social programs.

Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, Mike Ross, D-Prescott and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, voted for the bill.

Defense Bill Passed

Before recessing, Congress finalized a $633.3 billion defense bill setting policy for the Pentagon weapons and personnel programs and funding for the war in Afghanistan.

The House voted 315-107 for the bill after fielding complaints from some lawmakers over its cost and various specific policy decisions.

Womack, Ross, Griffin and Crawford voted for the bill.

The Senate passed the bill 81-14, and sent it to the White House to be signed into law. Sens John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted for it.