WASHINGTON — The House late Tuesday approved a last-hour deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff with the Arkansas delegation divided on the legislation.
Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and Mike Ross, D-Prescott, voted in favor of the bill that averts tax increases on most Americans and postpones across-the- board spending cuts set to begin this year.
Reps. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, voted against the legislation, saying it failed to cut government spending needed to reduce the federal debt.
"The Senate bill increases revenues to the treasury by hundreds of billions of dollars but still adds billions in new spending to our ballooning deficit. That’s unacceptable," Griffin said.
"Our nation continues speeding toward the real fiscal cliff by not implementing permanent spending controls that would require Congress to budget responsibly," Crawford said.
Womack said he was disappointed the deal failed to address spending and the $16.4 trillion debt but voted for the bill because it prevented "massive tax hikes" on millions of Americans.
"The notion that because we didn’t get the spending cuts we wanted and should therefore raise taxes is absurd, and the discussion on spending is far from over," Womack said.
Republican lawmakers said they plan to push for deeper spending cuts in the 113th Congress that opens on Wednesday.
The House approved the bill 257-167 Tuesday evening, sending it to President Obama for his signature. Democrats voted 172-16 in favor while Republicans voted 151-85 against it.
The Senate approved the bill early Tuesday morning 89-8. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and John Boozman, R-Ark., voted in favor, saying they supported the bipartisan deal to avoid tax hikes on most Americans.
The bill makes permanent most Bush-era tax cuts that were set to expire at the start of this year but allows those to expire for individuals earning over $400,000 or couples earning over $450,000. The top rate will rise from 35 percent to $39.6 percent this year.
Democrats had favored allowing the tax cuts to expire for those earning over $250,000 while Republicans wanted to extend the tax cuts for all Americans.
Most Americans, however, will see an increase in their payroll tax — which funds Social Security — as it returns to 6.2 percent. It had been lowered two years ago to 4.2 percent as part of the stimulus bill.
The bill also delays for two months the automatic spending cuts that were required as part of the debt-limit deal struck in 2011.