WASHINGTON — In a dramatic, late night-vote Tuesday, Colorado’s House members split along party lines on the so-called “fiscal cliff” legislation – which raised taxes and largely postponed scheduled spending cuts. All three Democrats voted yes on the legislation and all four Republicans voted no.
More than 20 hours earlier, the state’s two Democratic senators had voted on opposite sides of the legislation when it came before members of the upper chamber. Mark Udall supported the bill, while Michael Bennet opposed it. But the breakdown of the vote among the state’s seven U.S. representatives broke along party lines.
Democratic Representatives Diana DeGette of Denver, Jared Polis of Boulder, and Ed Perlmutter of Golden voted for H.R. 8. Republican representatives Scott Tipton of Cortez, Cory Gardner of Yuma, Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, and Mike Coffman of Aurora voted no.
The vote represented the mirror image of that 16 months earlier for its legislative predecessor. Then, the four Republicans voted yes on the Budget Control Act and the three Democrats voted no.
Among all 435 members of the lower chamber, the breakdown of the vote was less partisan.
The legislation passed through the GOP-controlled House with the support of 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans. However, a large majority of Republicans, 150 of them , joined 16 Democrats in voting against the tax hike.
Rep. Tipton said he supported the permanent extension of the Bush-era tax rates for lower income earners and a fix to the alternative minimum tax. However, like many other Republicans, he voted against passage of the bill in the end because it did not contain meaningful cuts in federal spending.
“What was missing from this bill was any deficit reduction. For every $42 in tax cuts, it has $1 in spending cuts,” Tipton said. “Some of the permanent extensions were appropriate on many levels, but this (bill) kicks the can down the road on sequestration. It mortgages our children’s and our grand children’s future.”
Before the vote, Rep. Lamborn released a statement that echoed his colleagues’ remarks.
“Until we bring spending under control and reform entitlements, we will never have a truly prosperous economy with strong job creation. Another major problem is that most of the new tax revenue demanded by President Obama is spent on government programs rather than reducing the deficit,” he said.
The offices of the three Colorado House Democrats have yet to release statements about the bill. Many of their Democratic colleagues said the bill would prevent steep tax increases and across-the-board reductions in federal spending.
Conservative House Republicans had been unable to muster enough support for an amendment that would have called for immediate and larger reductions in spending and would have been sent the bill back to the Senate, prompting pundits on Twitter to predict the lower chamber was likely to approve the bill.
Yet the outcome of the vote was far from certain. Republicans outnumber Democrats by a nearly 3-to-2 margin in the 112th congress, and as lawmakers cast their votes, they did not behave as if the result was foreordained.
At 10:45 p.m., Rep. Coffman stood on the left side of the House floor, peering up at the stadium-size board that recorded an apple green “Y” for yes or a cherry red “N” for no next to the names of hundreds of members of Congress voting on fiscal-cliff legislation this city had long awaited.
The more time expired on the recorded 15-minute vote, the more members stood beside him, forming a loose semicircle of lawmakers staring up at the big board with the intensity of Kant gazing at his church steeple. They looked up not in knowledge of the outcome of the vote but in anticipation.
For the first half of the vote, they had good reason to be curious. For every apple green Y that flashed on the screen to the left of a name like that of Rep. Polis, roughly a cherry red N appeared to the left of a name like Coffman. And though House Republicans had been in a continual conference meeting since Tuesday morning about the legislation, Tipton said House GOP leadership had not lobbied rank-and-file members to oppose or support the bill.
Then, in the second half, the legislation gained more and more supporters. A green light appeared next to the name of Rep. DeGette. Two more green lights appeared for House GOP leaders John Boehner of Ohio and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Another flashed next to the name of Rep. Perlmutter.
At 10:55 p.m., the bill had the support of 217 members, a sufficient number to ensure passage. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and other Democratic leaders cheered.
President Obama has said he will sign the bill into law.
In the coming days and weeks, the result of Tuesday’s votes could have lasting political effects. Many conservative pundits say that the outcome calls the future of Rep. John Boehner’s Speakership into question.
Tipton said he supports Boehner and does not blame him for the legislation.
“Yeah, I like the Speaker. Why is Harry Reid not allowing a full vote on the legislation we passed last August,” Tipton said, referring to a more conservative companion piece of legislation the Democratic Majority Leader refused to bring up for a vote.
Tipton added that conservative House Republicans were unable to agree on a bill that could have attracted sufficient support from their Democratic colleagues.
“I’m not sure that we could have brought Democrats into the fold,” Tipton said.
For Democrats, the emotional vote Tuesday night was only the first of many. “The sequel to fiscal cliff 2 is in two months,” Polis tweeted.