ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
Speaker Designate John Boehner says that House Republicans took a strong step late last night in helping to rebuild the economy by passing a full extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, including breaks for the country’s wealthiest taxpayers, but says that the GOP must now work to cut spending and decrease the size of government in order to further stimulate job creation.
“It's a good first step, but let's be clear, if we actually want to help our economy get back on track and to begin creating jobs, we need to end the job- killing spending binge. We need to cut spending significantly and we need to provide more certainty to small businesses around America,” Boehner said. “Doing this is going to require tough choices. And we'll start first by cutting our own budget. It will be one of our first votes. Then we'll turn our attention to the rest of the federal budget and the job-killing policies that are denying economic growth and opportunity for the American people, including killing the job-killing health-care law.”
Just seconds before the stroke of midnight, after months of heated debate, back-room arm-twisting and White House negotiations, the House of Representatives last night finally passed a $858 billion tax cuts package, including a two-year extension on all of the Bush-era Tax Cuts, a 13-month extension for Unemployment Insurance benefits, and approval of the controversial estate tax break that gives 6600 families a break worth $23 billion.
The compromise negotiated by President Obama and GOP leaders in Congress passed by healthy, bipartisan vote -- 277-148, with more Democrats (139) actually voting for the deal than Republicans (138). Thirty-six House Republicans voted against final passage and 112 Democrats opposed the measure.
“All you have to do is look at the vote last night,” Boehner said. “It was a strong, bipartisan vote in favor of the bill. Why? Because you saw polling all week that indicated that the American people were in favor of stopping all of the tax hikes.”
When asked whether he thought that the bipartisan deal with Democrats could serve as a template for future collaboration with the White House, Boehner said that “no one can predict what next month will look like or next year will look like.”
“I was glad that we were able to come to an agreement on stopping all of the tax hikes,” Boehner said. “I've told the president the same thing I've told him over the last two years. I'll always be up front with him, honest with him and fair. But I've also told the president, the American people have spoken and it's time for Washington to listen.”
Responding to recent criticism over the compromise from conservative leaders, including Sarah Palin who called the deal “lousy,” Boehner stressed that the bill was not perfect but it successfully achieves his primary objective to prevent any of the Bush-era tax cuts from expiring in the midst of a sputtering economy.
“There are some of our colleagues last night and others who didn't think that the agreement on the tax bill was a good one. But I've got to tell you, from where I stand, our first goal was to stop the big tax hike that was coming on January the 1st,” Boehner said. “I've made it clear going back over the summer that stopping all of the tax hikes was one of our main priorities for this lame-duck session. And while there was an agreement, considering that, you know, Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, I thought on balance it was worthy of my vote, and I voted for it.”
The House of Representatives now stands on the brink of adjournment while it waits for the Senate to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government. Yesterday, with Senate Republicans revolting against an alternative, massive $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid abandoned the package and pulled it from the Senate floor.
Today, Boehner called the death of the omnibus “a victory for the American people.”
“The Congress was gearing up for one last big spending spree before Christmas with thousands of earmarks, but the American people just wouldn't stand for it. The Americans spoke out and the bill got scrapped,” Boehner said. “This is a new thought for Washington, but you might be surprised what you can accomplish when you listen to the American people.”
The Senate is expected to take up a short-term CR as early as today that would fund the government through Feb. 18 and leave Republicans free to shape spending once Boehner takes the gavel Jan. 5.
Boehner, R-Ohio, said that while many in Washington believe that government spending is what spurs the economy and creates prosperity, when Republicans take over the majority in January, “the House is going to become the outpost in Washington for the American people and their desire for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government.”
“The president's agenda may be the agenda of Washington, but beginning January 5th, the agenda of this House will be the agenda of the American people. Now, the peoples' priorities will be our priorities,” Boehner said. “We can't borrow and spend our way to prosperity, and the American people know that. And I think the government's failure to recognize this has led to the uprising that we saw over the last year that helped create a new majority in the House.”
“We're ready to get to work,” Boehner added. “We're ready to be held accountable. And as I said before, if we don't do what the American people are demanding, they'll throw us out of here in a heartbeat. Not quite yet.”