House gives final passage to fiscal cliff bill - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

House gives final passage to fiscal cliff bill

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WASHINGTON (WKOW) -- Legislation to block the "fiscal cliff" is headed to the White House for President Obama's signature. The bill will avoid, for now, the major tax increases and government spending cuts that had been scheduled to take effect with the new year.

Final approval came in the House on New Year's Night. The vote was 257 to 167.

The Senate passed the bill less than 24 hours earlier.

The measure raises tax rates on incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, a victory for Obama.

It also extends expiring unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevents a cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and cancels a $900 pay increase due to lawmakers in March.

Another provision is designed to prevent a spike in milk prices.

What the bill does not do is raise the so-called debt ceiling. In two months, the government will reach its limit on borrowing money, unless Congress acts. President Obama says when the debt ceiling is addressed, he hopes Congress can get a deal done with less drama.

The fiscal cliff tax package negotiated by President Obama and Senate Republicans and passed by Congress will protect 99 percent of Americans from an income tax increase, but that doesn't mean that most Americans won't see their taxes go up.

The vast majority of workers will pay higher federal taxes in 2013 because of a temporary reduction in Social Security payroll taxes expired on New Year's Day.

The tax package did nothing to prevent that from happening. According to the Tax Policy Center, 77 percent of American households will face higher federal taxes in 2013. This includes high-income families, but many middle and low income families will pay higher taxes too.

Wisconsin's two U.S. senators both voted for the bill meant to avert the fiscal cliff. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, both Democrat Herb Kohl and Republican Ron Johnson backed the measure, passed by the Senate on New Year's Day.

Johnson says he wanted to extend tax cuts for all Americans but that he believed 99 percent of Wisconsin residents would not see a tax increase under the bill.

Kohl's vote may be his last as a senator as his term ends soon. He did not release a statement.

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