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State and Nation

January 2, 2013

Cliff avoided: Congress staves off tax hikes

(Continued)

With the Treasury expected to need an expansion in borrowing authority by early spring, and funding authority for most government programs set to expire in late March, Republicans have made it clear they intend to use those events as leverage with the administration to win savings from Medicare and other government benefit programs.

McConnell said as much moments before the 2 a.m. Tuesday vote in the Senate — two hours after the advertised "cliff" deadline.

"We've taken care of the revenue side of this debate. Now it's time to get serious about reducing Washington's out-of-control spending," he said. "That's a debate the American people want. It's the debate we'll have next. And it's a debate Republicans are ready for."

Obama addressed the same point in his brief remarks. He said he is prepared to take steps to control spending this year, and noted pointedly that savings must be found in Medicare. "I believe that there's further unnecessary spending in government that we can eliminate," he said.

Countering McConnell and other Republicans, the president said future legislation must combine additional revenues and spending cuts, and he warned the GOP not to try and use the expiration of the Treasury's borrowing authority to force spending cuts.

The 89-8 vote in the Senate was unexpectedly lopsided.

Despite grumbling from liberals that Obama had given way too much in the bargaining, only three Democrats opposed the measure.

Among the Republican supporters were Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, an ardent opponent of tax increases, as well as Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, elected to his seat two years ago with tea party support.

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