Washington, DC--Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) voted in favor of the Senate-passed solution to the so-called “fiscal cliff,” addressing the many tax rates which were due to increase at the end of 2012.  The agreement also temporarily shuts off the “sequester” cuts to domestic programs and the military, which were also due to become effective at the beginning of the year. The bipartisan bill passed the full House by a vote of 257-167.  To view his comments on the topic during the debate -

“This was the definition of a compromise.  Not everyone got what they wanted out of this – it is not perfect, but it is acceptable.  We had two choices today – accept this bill or go over the cliff.  To me, that was an easy calculation.  The bill is much better than going over the cliff.  It would have been irresponsible for the House Republicans to do anything else at this late hour.  The American people did not want to see us fail to agree to something which affects each and every person in this country. 

“I was pleased to see the threshold for the expiring Bush Tax Cuts turned out to be a bit higher than the $250,000 which was long-talked about.  In New York, and many other states in the country, $250,000 doesn’t go nearly as far as it does in other states.  This addresses that problem and helps more New York middle class families continue to enjoy lower taxes, while asking those who have the ability to pay more to contribute to deficit reduction.

“The inclusion of the permanent reform to the Alternative Minimum Tax was also vital to the livelihood of thousands of New Yorkers.  The AMT was created in 1969, and was designed to prevent the wealthiest taxpayers from adding excessive deductions, thus avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.  Because the legislation did not account for inflation, over time, more and more middle class families are forced to pay the AMT rate.  This has led to an undue burden upon these families. Approximately 21 million American households, with many more to be affected each year, will see an instant benefit in their tax bill. 

“The fact that we have added another year of unemployment insurance for those families still fighting through joblessness will enable them to have more time to get back on their feet.  Positive steps like these give hope to those out of work, but the reality of paying the rent and putting food on the table continues to be daunting.  In the next Congress, we must have a bipartisan bill to help put more people back to work, and end the partisan shenanigans we have been dealing with for the last two years.

“However, while there were many things to be happy about, I wasn’t encouraged by additional cuts to hospitals.  While it could have been much worse, these cuts were not helpful to New York’s hospitals.  The cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding, which helps pay for uncompensated care and makes up the cost of underpayments in Medicaid, will punish New York hospitals for providing superior health care.  New York sets the bar when it comes to health care - training one in six doctors and is home to some of the world's leading research and treatment health facilities. 

Other positive provisions in the legislation:

  • “Doc Fix” – Prevents substantial cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit – helps pay for college expenses.
  • Child Tax Credit – Up to $1,000 credit per qualifying child.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit – Helps people who work, but have low- to moderate-low wages.
  • Teacher tax deductions – Up to $250 ($500 for married teachers) on any unreimbursed expenses for the job.
  • Transit benefits – Incentives for workers to use public transportation.
  • Farm bill – Avoids a massive spike in milk prices.

“We cannot keep doing this kind of deadline legislating.  The delay on the sequester only sets up another battle in two months when that expires, and when we have another debate over raising the debt ceiling.  I am hopeful that when we begin the 113th Congress later this week that we can put the hyper-partisanship from the last two years behind us and work together on behalf of the American people,” added Rep. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.