The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to avert the U.S. "fiscal cliff," sparing most Americans from tax hikes and spending cuts that threatened to plunge the U.S. economy into recession in 2013.
The measure now moves to President Barack Obama's desk for his signature, which is expected to come quickly. The 257-167 vote, which relied heavily on Democratic votes to win passage, ended hard-fought negotiations over tax rates but leaves many budget issues unresolved before another fiscal deadline in about two months - the need to raise the federal borrowing limit.
The Senate voted Tuesday to extend parts of the expired 2008 farm bill through September, a move that would prevent milk prices from immediately surging. Without a bill in place, prices paid by the government to farmers would revert back to higher 1949 levels. That could double the prices consumers pay for milk to $7 a gallon.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she considered the slimmed-down extension to be "Mitch McConnell's version of a farm bill." She was referring to the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky, who she said forced bargainers to accept the version of the farm bill that appeared in the deal.
McConnell spokesman Michael Brumas said, "Sen. McConnell put forward a bipartisan, responsible solution that averted the dairy cliff and provided certainty to farmers for the next year without costing taxpayers a dime."
In a statement, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson said the extenion, "left rural America out in the cold. An extension represents a short sighted, temporary fix that ultimately provides inadequate solutions that will leave our farmers and ranchers crippled by uncertainty.
“The legislation that passed fails to provide disaster aid for farmers or necessary support for our dairy industry, yet continues unjustifiable direct payments. The bill also does not provide mandatory funding for the energy title, specialty crops and organic provisions, and new important programs for beginning farmers and ranchers.
“Farmers, ranchers, rural communities and all Americans deserve better and would have been better served with a new five-year farm bill. It is truly a shame that the bipartisan work of both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees has been summarily and entirely discarded. Not only was that work far better than what has passed, it also provided meaningful deficit reduction.
“NFU will continue to work with members of Congress and all interested parties during the next Congress to ensure that a farm bill can be completed as expeditiously as possible.”
The farm bill deal came hours after an apparent deal between House and Senate agricultural leaders that would have extended the entire 2008 farm bill for a year. That broader proposal fell to the wayside during negotiations to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff .
House Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have been reluctant to vote on a larger five-year farm bill because of concerns they did not have the necessary support.
The full Senate passed its bill in June, and the House Agriculture Committee passed its own measure a month later. The entire House never voted on either bill.
There have been widespread disagreements as to how much the farm bill should cut spending in nutrition programs.
The fiscal cliff package also extended the wind tax credit through Jan. 1, 2014. The wind energy incentive, which has been in effect on and off since 1992, expired Monday.