All local House members back cliff deal

WASHINGTON – All 10 Philadelphia-area House members voted for the compromise plan to avert the fiscal cliff late Tuesday night, including, notably, six Republicans who went against the tide in their party in order to get the bill through the House.

The support was important to avoiding the cliff, as most Republicans in the GOP-controlled House voted against the bill, saying they wanted more spending cuts in the final package. That left it to a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans to get the bill over its final hurdle, averting some $500 billion in tax increases and budget cuts that threatened the economy. The bill raises taxes on couples with incomes of $450,000 and up, but locks in existing rates below that threshold, a key selling point to Republicans who have long loathed any tax hikes.

Local Republicans provided six of the 85 GOP votes for the plan; 151 House Republicans opposed the bill. Democrats voted 172-16 in favor of the proposal.

“Failure to pass (the bill) would have had disastrous consequences for middle-class families in Pennsylvania and fueled even more Washington spending,” said Congressman Pat Meehan, a Delaware County Republican.

In statements that echoed one another, the local Republicans who backed the plan said they were happy that the bill provided tax relief for “99 percent of Americans” and avoided other harsh steps – such as cuts to doctors’ Medicare reimbursements -- but criticized the lack of spending restraint in the bill.

Only 0.7 percent of tax filers will see their income tax rates rise as a result of the cliff deal, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, though other taxes – such as the payroll tax – will hit most workers starting this week. (Neither party sought to extend that break).

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County, said in an interview that supporting the lowest possible taxes for his constituents meant voting for this bill, since the alternative was widespread tax hikes.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a staunch anti-tax Republican, used a similar argument while voting for the plan in the Senate. Every Pennsylvania and New Jersey Senator also backed the bill, except for Sen. Frank Lautenberg, was was ill and did not vote.

The support from local House Republicans came in contrast to many hard-right members of the GOP caucus who had wanted to insert new spending cuts into the bill. That would have helped reduce the deficit, but it would have also re-opened the divide with the Senate, potentially scuttling the bill and delaying any fix to the cliff.

The cliff’s automatic tax hikes and budget cuts would have begun having an impact this week. Local members such as Fitzpatrick and Meehan said they favored a vote on the bill, to avoid the cliff, rather than starting a new fight.

The local House Republicans who voted for the plan were: Fitzpatrick, Meehan, Jim Gerlach, Frank LoBiondo, Jon Runyan and Chris Smith.

Every local Democrat supported the measure: Rob Andrews, Bob Brady, Chaka Fattah, Allyson Schwartz.