Tea party backers swallow a bitter pill in ‘cliff’ bill

January 3, 2013

Cantor and Boehner
The bill was 153 pages long. It was written only the day before, by Washington insiders working in the dark of night. It was crammed with giveaways and legislative spare parts: tax breaks for wind farms and racetracks. A change to nuclear-weapons policy. Government payments for cheese.

And, most significantly, the bill will raise taxes but do relatively little to cut government spending or the massive federal deficit.

To a tea-party-influenced crop of House Republicans, the bill to resolve the “fiscal cliff” crisis was everything they had wanted to change about the way Washington worked. Too rushed. Too bloated. Too secretive. Too expensive.

“There’s lots and lots of pork in this bill,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), one of its most outspoken opponents.

On Tuesday, however, it passed on their watch. After the Senate approved the compromise, it briefly appeared that the GOP-led House would rebel against the bill. But the threat faded: For many Republicans, it appeared, the risk of rejecting the bill — and courting economic calamity — outweighed their unhappiness with the bill’s contents.

The fiscal-cliff bargain had been worked out on the phone by Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), two 70-year-olds with a combined 68 years in office in Washington. They stepped in after President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) tried, and failed, to reach a far-reaching agreement to tackle the debt.

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