While Americans join the world in celebrating New Year's Day today, the nation's capital is more akin to Groundhog Day, or perhaps April Fool's Day.
Congress is considering stopgap measures this morning to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" as the fates of parents, students, teachers, caregivers and most of the working American population looks on from the sidelines. Even the millions of Americans seeking work are in the crosshairs as unemployment benefits are also threatened without passage.
At 1:39 a.m. Eastern Time, Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch joined 87 of their Senate colleagues to pass something called H.R. 8, the Job Protection and Recesion Prevention Act of 2012. Only eight U.S. senators—five Republicans and three Democrats—voted against the fiscal cliff deal. Three senators didn't vote.
The U.S. House is scheduled to reconvene later this morning to take up the measure.
As part of the new deal, the Obama White House won some ground in raising tax rates on larger estates—from 35 percent to 40 percent—but Republicans successfully suggested that the rate should be adjusted for annual inflation.
For taxpaying families making less than $450,000, and individuals making less than $400,000, the deal restores Clinton-era limits on personal exemptions and itemized deductions. The deal also calls for a permanent fix to the alternative minimum tax and extends tax credits for college students and the working poor for another five years.
But of course, all of this depends on what the U.S. House will do and if the GOP-controlled body tacks on any extra amendments that could push the deal back over the cliff.