The vote was 257-167, with 85 Republicans joining Democrats to put the bill over the top, and 150 Republicans opposed.
Lawmakers observed that world financial markets were closely watching how the House responded to the fiscal cliff, and that the standing of America’s economy was on the line. Economists had warned that the US economy would slide into recession if the fiscal cliff tax hikes and spending cuts were allowed to take effect. Also at stake was the reputation of Congress as an institution, numerous speakers remarked on the House floor.
Some lawmakers said they were hopeful the tax deal — which also delays $110 billion in automatic spending cuts for two months — would lay the groundwork for comprehensive, bipartisan tax and spending overhauls later in the year. But with another debate over the nation’s debt ceiling looming in February, those issues are likely to be contentiously fought.
“Americans may be politically divided, but they are united in their desire to see their leaders in Washington work together to achieve results,’’ said Representative David Dreier, a moderate Republican from California giving his last speech as a member of Congress.
The measure – which President Obama is expected to sign quickly — returns income taxes back to Bush-era levels for more than 98 percent of Americans, while allowing them to remain at higher levels for individuals earning more than $400,000 and married couples making more than $450,000.
While the measure passed the Senate early Tuesday morning with overwhelming Republican and Democratic support, 89 to 8, it landed with a thud in the House hours later. Republicans said it did not contain needed spending cuts to balance out the tax increases it would impose on the wealthy.
Opposition came not just from rank-and-file conservatives, but also from a high level: Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the number two Republican in the House.
‘‘I do not support the bill,’’ Cantor told reporters after a closed-door meeting of GOP members.
But the realities of the fiscal cliff loomed large. Driving home the consequences of not acting, the Internal Revenue Service marked the passing of the New Year’s Eve deadline by instructing employers to begin extracting more tax withholdings from employee paychecks “as soon as possible.’’
Now those instructions will be torn up, except as they relate to people in the top tax bracket, whose marginal rate will rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.
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