WASHINGTON – The Senate, in a pre-dawn vote two hours after the deadline passed to avert automatic tax increases, overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday that would allow tax rates to rise only on affluent Americans while temporarily suspending sweeping, across-the-board spending cuts.
The deal, worked out in furious negotiations between Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, passed 89-8, with just three Democrats and five Republicans voting no. Although it lost the support of some of the Senate’s most conservative members, the broad coalition that pushed the accord across the finish line could portend swift House passage as early as New Years Day.
Quick passage before the markets reopen Wednesday would likely negate any economic damage from Tuesday’s breach of the so-called “fiscal cliff” and largely spare the nation’s economy from the one-two punch of large tax increases and across-the-board military and domestic spending cuts in the New Year.
“This shouldn’t be the model for how to do things around here,” Senator McConnell said just after 1:30 a.m. “But I think we can say we’ve done some good for the country.”
“You surely shouldn’t predict how the House is going to vote,” Mr. Biden said late New Years Eve after meeting with leery Senate Democrats to sell the accord. “But I feel very, very good.”
The eight senators who voted no included Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, two of the Senate’s most ardent small-government Republicans, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, and Senator Charles E. Grassley, who as a former Finance Committee chairman, helped secure passage of the Bush-era tax cuts, then opposed making almost all of them permanent on Tuesday. Moderate Democrats Tom Carper of Delaware and Michael Bennet of Colorado also voted no, as did liberal Democrat Tom Harkin, who said the White House had given away too much in the compromise. Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, also voted no.
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