House advances Senate's 'fiscal cliff' bill; final vote by midnight

The rule was put forward and adopted after Republicans flirted with trying to tie spending cuts to the bill and send it back to the Senate. But that idea was abandoned after it became clear the amendment might not pass, and that Republicans could be blamed for killing a bill to cut taxes for most people.

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But the GOP decision to go along with the Senate bill didn't let the party's members escape blame. The debate was punctuated by Rules Committee ranking member Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), who said it was the fault of House Republicans for the last-minute nature of the deal.

"As we vote, let every member of this chamber reflect on the dysfunctional legislative process and the irresponsible leadership that brought us here today, and the need for the majority to come back to the bargaining table in good faith as our work continues," she said.

"Let history show that the fiscal cliff and the dire economic consequences that would come with it were the deliberate creation of this House," she added. "Because of hyper-partisan actions taken by the majority, the body has pushed our nation closer to a self-created economic recession and the greatest displacement of workers that the nation has known since 1929.

"Sadly, such dysfunctional governing comes as little surprise. For the past two years, the majority has led with a toxic combination of extremism and hyper-partisanship that has resulted in the 112th Congress being the least productive in history."

After Slaughter spoke, Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) deadpanned that he wanted to "express my appreciation to my friend from Rochester for her very generous and kind remarks."

Dreier tried to cast the bill as one that sets up further work on tax and entitlement reform.

"The bill before us is not the grand bargain that I and I think most of my colleagues had hoped that we would have been able to achieve," he said. "But what we're doing … is a very essential bridge to what I hope will be a comprehensive long-term solution."

Slaughter and other Democrats agreed that the bill is not the perfect answer, but said it would help most avoid a tax hike, and hoped that it would set up further work to create a "fair tax code."

Dreier closed the debate with a set of farewell remarks in which he argued that issues like gun control and global warming are ones the country needs to resolve. Dreier is retiring at the end of the current Congress.

"These are the great challenges to which we all must rise, for which we all must find real solutions," he said. "I look forward to continuing to do my small part, as I follow the Madisonian directive and return to California as a private citizen.

"It's been an incredible honor … for me to serve in what I describe — even though the Senate often takes this label — this is the greatest deliberative body known to man, and I consider it an amazing honor to be able to serve here."

Immediately after the vote, members began an hour of debate on the Senate's fiscal-cliff bill, the amended H.R. 8.