After a full day of will they, won't they, the U.S. House passed a bill late Tuesday night to avert the perilous fiscal cliff with the support of all of the region's lawmakers.
Though most Republicans voted against (85-151) the measure to raise taxes on people making more than $400,000, local GOP congressmen Charlie Dent, Lou Barletta, Jim Gerlach and Mike Fitzpatrick all voted for it. The bill made permanent lower taxes for Americans making less than that.
The bill garnered the support of all but 16 Democrats. For his last vote after a 20-year career in Congress, Tim Holden voted for it. So did Allyson Schwartz.
Hours earlier, in the darkness of the first hours of the new year, Pennsylvania U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey also halted the economic damage of the fiscal cliff. Though Congress had technically gone over the cliff, missing the Dec. 31 deadline, they swooped in before the economy splattered on the ground below. (I wanted to make a Superman saving a freefalling Lois Lane joke here, but comparing Congress to the Man of Steel seemed much too generous.)
Dent, 15th congressional district, said in a statement that the Congress got "unacceptably close."
"Let’s be clear. Failing to act on this legislation would have resulted in a tax increase of more than $4 trillion over ten years for American families," Dent said. "There was widespread agreement from credible economic sources that the effects of “going over the Fiscal Cliff” would have pushed our struggling economy back into a recession and that unemployment would have reached 9 percent. Those outcomes would have caused real harm to the vast majority of American families and were not acceptable to me."
Barletta, 11th district, shared similar sentiments, saying "my goal was to get the lowest taxes possible for as many of my constituents as possible, and this bill does that."
But Barletta, who was elected in the Tea Party wave in 2010, also set up the next round of fights over deficit reduction and the nation's debt limit - a fight that promises to be just as bloody as the ones we've seen in the last two years.
“While I'm disappointed this bill does not include spending cuts, this is a tax bill, not a spending bill, so I will fight to cut ridiculous government overspending during the upcoming debate on raising the debt limit," Barletta said in a statement. "At some point, we need to address the root of our problem – the reckless spending. It's time that we take back the credit card from the politicians in Washington."