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GOP backs down as House passes bill to avoid fiscal cliff

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WASHINGTON, DC -- After a roller coaster ride of negotiations that left most Americans feeling nauseated and disappointed in the country's political system, the last-minute deal to avert an across-the-board tax hike is finally on its way to President Obama's desk.

On the first day of 2013, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which will make the Bush era tax cuts permanent for 84 percent of Americans: individuals earning less than $400,000 annually and couples earning under $450,000.

The official vote, which came around 9 p.m. Mountain time Tuesday night, was 257-167, with a majority of Republicans voting against the deal, while GOP Speaker John Boehner made a point of joining a majority of Democrats in voting yes.
After the deal cleared the Senate early Tuesday morning with 89 yes votes, House Republicans spent most of the day voicing their opposition to the legislation, which doesn't address spending, on cable news and considering alternatives behind closed doors.

In the end, the only alternative -- allowing the country to go over the so-called "fiscal cliff" -- was unpalatable for Republicans, unwilling to shoulder most of the blame for that potential economic catastrophe and unable to muster the votes needed to amend the legislation with a package of $300 billion in spending cuts.

Under the deal negotiated between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, sequestration, the $109 billion in automatic spending cuts set to take effect Tuesday, will be put off for two months, leaving the next Congress, which will be sworn in Thursday, little time to tackle deficit reduction measures.

The package also includes an extension of unemployment benefits and a number of tax credits, including the Production Tax Credit for wind energy providers.

Before the official vote on the House floor, Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy didn't speak, leaving Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer to take a verbal victory lap of sorts.

Ultimately, nearly all Democratic representatives voted for the legislation, while Republicans split over it.

On the House floor shortly before the vote, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Denver, acknowledged that the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was imperfect, but argued that its passage was essential for middle-class Americans.

"It ensures that the American people will not have the largest tax increase in the history of our country tomorrow," Polis said. "Anybody opposing this bill is supporting the largest tax increase in the history of the country."

Interestingly, Boehner himself cast an early vote in favor of the bill, making a point to the more obstructionist members of his caucus.

All four of Colorado's GOP congressmen voted against the bill, while all three Democrats voted for it.

"This bipartisan compromise ensures we build clean energy jobs here in Colorado and reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern Oil," said Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, in a statement. "We are protecting the hard working people of Colorado, seniors, veterans and students while continuing to find ways to reduce our deficit, add jobs and have an economy built to last."

Coffman, who was said to be considering the bill late in the day Tuesday, issued a statement just before the vote explaining his decision to oppose the package, which will add an estimated $4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.

“I strongly support extending the Bush-era tax cuts and making them permanent for the vast majority of Americans," Coffmann said in a statement. "However, I’m deeply disappointed that, under this compromise, nothing much was done to solve our budget problems.

"The spending cuts agreed to during the last debt limit agreement are delayed through budget gimmicks that make our debt situation worse. Our tax code remains full of loopholes and special interests giveaways. We will come away from this agreement nearly 4 trillion dollars deeper in debt, and I just cannot support that."