But Congress has other similar issues it needs to confront.
Now that the "fiscal cliff" bill has passed, Congress still has other similar issues to confront.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted on Tuesday to pass legislation which prevents tax hikes from going into affect, especially on middle class families. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin cast his vote in favor, but he wasn't entirely happy with the bill. "I was as frustrated as everyone that it was done so late, and that it didn't include a lot more," he says. "Including dealing with our growing debt problem, and dealing with automatic, across the board cuts."
He says the legislation passed on Tuesday provides some predictability regarding Medicare reimbursement to physicians and keeps a number of popular tax credits, including those for college tuitions. It also extends unemployment benefits which were set to run out, and raises tax rates on individuals making $400,000 or more annually, and for couples making $450,000 or more. Another provision prevents a huge jump in milk prices.
The legislation was signed into law on Wednesday by President Obama.
But Congress put off until later proposals to deal with across-the-board spending cuts, the debt ceiling and appropriations bills. Cardin hopes the same bipartisanship that helped passed the "fiscal cliff" bill will prevail when Congress takes up these issues. "I don't think it's a heavy political lift. And I think our country will continue to be the envy of the world as far as our economy, but we have to act," he says.
Congress needs to deal with the across-the-board spending cuts very soon, because they could take affect by the end of February, if no action is taken. Will they do it, Cardin was asked. "Well, I know that we've come close in the past in missing deadlines. And I hope we would act well before the next deadline," he says.
The tax increases and the across-the-board spending cuts were enacted in 2011 as Congress was debating an increase in the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling was increased, but the tax and spending bill was also passed. Because the tax increases and cuts were so severe, the legislation was intended to get members of Congress to act on these issues before they took affect in January, 2013.