WASHINGTON -- Now that Congress has backed away from the fiscal cliff it faces three new deadlines and two more months of difficult debates.
The expectation is more of the familiar partisan battles in January and February over the debt ceiling, across-the-board spending cuts and a temporary budget to keep the federal government running.
The vote in Congress on the fiscal cliff, however, didnt fall entirely along those same lines. It split the Triangles lawmakers 3-3, and brought surprises from both parties. Republican Howard Coble voted for the deal, a break from many in his party, because it preserved income tax cuts for most Americans and ensured that estates under $5 million wouldnt be taxed.
There was some compromise. And compromise in my opinion is not a dirty four-letter word, Coble said on Wednesday. But he was guarded about the prospects for more of it. Perhaps, he said.
Meanwhile, liberal Democrat Brad Miller of Raleigh, whos not returning for another term, voted against the legislation, warning that it set the stage for bargaining over spending cuts that would go too far.
Congress has assured that there will be more embarrassing and damaging melodrama over the debt ceiling and spending in just a couple of months, Miller said, referring to the March 1 deadline to make spending cuts or trigger automatic 8 percent cuts in the military, education and other programs, and the expectation of reaching the debt ceiling in mid-February.
I have held my nose and voted yes many times, but this bill makes mindless cuts to programs important to the middle class inevitable, Miller said.
Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Democrat from Lumberton, voted against the fiscal cliff compromise as well for different reasons. McIntyre said it added to the debt, delayed spending cuts and didnt go far enough in tax reforms that help small businesses.
Those reasons were echoed to some extent by Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-Dunn.
We must get serious about addressing the true driver of the fiscal mess that our nation is in, Ellmers said in a statement Wednesday. Our out-of-control spending does nothing to help American families and only exacerbates the problems facing our country. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the real sources of this crisis and continuing the fight against government waste in the upcoming congressional session.
But Democrat David Price of Chapel Hill and G.K. Butterfield of Wilson, who voted yes Tuesday, said it would be impossible to solve the deficit problem through spending cuts alone.
Price said the legislation preserved lower tax rates for the middle class, tuition tax credits for students and unemployment benefits, and postpones automatic, across-the-board cuts, what he called the meat ax approach.
In a statement Tuesday night he said he was hopeful that the vote meant Republicans are newly committed to shared sacrifice in a broader, balanced deficit reduction agreement and the new Congress should get to work on such an agreement right away.
But in an interview Wednesday he did not sound optimistic.
Republicans seem likely to pursue the same kind of crisis-creation tactic they have before, Price said. What may restrain them is just how fed up people are with this. I certainly hear it. I hope they not only hear it but are going to do something about it.