Fiscal Cliff Bill Cheat Sheet: What's in the Bill


I take it all back. I've been saying for months that there was no fiscal cliff and that nobody was going to fall off and go Splatt!

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I hiked all the way down to the bottom of this mess to find your crumpled political corpse, broken on the rocks of Tea Party intransigence. You did manage to retain that oversized phallic symbol of a gavel on Thursday afternoon – by about 30 votes and the skin of your teeth – but your political career is toast and I think you already know it. You probably ought to have thought twice about telling Senator Reid to do that anatomically impossible thing to himself.

Ladies and Gentlemen of PolicyMic: If John Boehner took us all "over the cliff" with him in an attempt to appease the apparently unappeasable Teapublican faction of his caucus, both he and they deserve whatever happens to them in both the upcoming rough-and-tumble of the 113th Congress (because you can bet that there will be no quarter offered by either Senator Reid or Representative Pelosi) and in the midterm elections of 2014.

Not only would some Democrats dearly adore getting some of their own back for all the past nastiness endured in the 111th and 112th Congresses but there is also a whole lot of the nation's business that has gone unattended-to while the obstructionists were doing their thing. Whether we are Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, no labels, or anything else, we can agree that Congressional constipation has gone on quite long enough.

With that in mind, let's look at what the American Taxpayer Relief Act, finally agreed to and voted on by both houses includes and omits, and what expires:

— Permanent extension of the middle class tax cuts (the Bush tax cuts)

— Permanent Alternative Minimum Tax

— Return to Clinton era rates for singles making $400k+ and couples making $450k+

— Tax benefit reductions (i.e. elimination of itemized deductions) for singles making $250k+ and couples making $300k+

— Extension of tax cuts for working families, such as Child Tax Credit and some others

— Extension of long-term unemployment benefits

— Extension of business incentives: renewable energy, R&E, etc.

— Fixes the SGR to ACA (the "doc fix")

— Postpones the sequester for 2 months

— Extends the Farm Bill for 1 year

— Not included in the actual legislation: the expiration of the payroll tax holiday

Now, with some breathing room, the 113th Congress can begin to address the sequester, or the spending part of the "deal" struck during the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling in 2011. The Farm Bill will continue as it has been for another year, which also offers some room for assessment of such things as whether or not the drought in the Midwest might continue into multiple years.

One further item that will come up fairly soon on the agenda is the issue of raising the debt ceiling, yet again. Please remember that although that terrifying word "debt" is in the name of the bill, what the legislation actually does is authorize the Treasury to write the checks to pay our bills for money we have already appropriated and spent in past sessions of Congress. This is a routine item in the work of Congress: the debt ceiling was raised something like 8 times during the 8 years George W. Bush was president. It allows us to pay the bills we have already incurred. If individual senators or congresspersons have political or moral issues with this process, they see their party leadership and are routinely allowed to vote "nay," assuming their votes are not needed for passage.

Let us not allow the Teapublican faction to seize hostages again.