So heated, in fact, that the 'family values' Republican House Speaker told the top Senate Democrat what he could do with himself. Hint-- it wasn't "have a Happy New Year."
that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pointed an angry finger at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and told him to "Go f*ck yourself" not once, but twice, in the White House lobby on Friday, according to several witnesses. After a shocked Reid asked what Boehner was talking about, the Speaker repeated himself lest his message wasn't understood.
Perhaps Boehner was still fuming over Reid's accusation that he was running a "dictatorship"
in the House. Or perhaps the frustration at the impotence of Congress in finding a fix to avoid half a trillion dollars in tax hikes and spending cuts was wearing on him.
In the end, a deal was reached
although neither side could really claim victory because the agreement does little to mitigate the debt ceiling and unemployment problems. A catastrophic default still looms less than two months from now, and allowing the payroll tax cut to expire means less money come payday for millions of Americans.
What the bill does
is raise approximately $600 billion in new government revenue over the next decade. It permanently extends the Bush-era tax cuts for most Americans. Individuals earning more than $400,000 and married couples making more than $450,000 will see their taxes increase. It also:
* Permanently adjusts income exemption levels for the Alternative Minimum Tax.
* Limits tax breaks for wealthy households.
* Extends tax breaks for businesses, including the production and research and development tax credits.
* Retains expired tax breaks for individuals, including expense deductions for teachers and an option to deduct state and local sales taxes in place of state and local income taxes.
* Extends tax exemption on estates up to $5.12 million and indexes that amount to inflation.
* Extends unemployment benefits by one more year.
* Avoids a scheduled 27 percent cut
in doctors' Medicare reimbursements for one year.
* Avoids sequester
-- wherein automatic government spending cuts kick in-- for two months.
There was a palpable sense that neither side, let alone the American people, won the fiscal cliff battle.
"We're going to look back on this night and regret it," Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) lamented.
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) said that passing the bill was as if "someone stopped hitting you in the head with a hammer, and you're supposed to say, 'Thanks so much!'"
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sounded a tone of resignation. "Let's take what's been agreed to and get moving," he urged.
"[Republicans] don't think taxes should be going up on anyone, but we all knew if we did nothing they'd be going up on everyone today," McConnell said on Monday. "We aren't going to let that happen."
President Barack Obama called the deal "just one step" towards strengthening the moribund US economy, adding that the deficit is "still too high." The president warned that he will not negotiate another debt ceiling hike with Congress.