KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

House Follows Senate And Passes Bill To Avert ‘Fiscal Cliff’

The measure, which awaits the president's signature, puts off large cuts in federal spending and increases taxes. But it delays efforts to revamp entitlement programs.

The New York Times: Amid Pressure, House Passes Fiscal Deal
Ending a climactic fiscal showdown in the final hours of the 112th Congress, the House late Tuesday passed and sent to President Obama legislation to avert big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs. ... In approving the measure after days of legislative intrigue, Congress concluded its final and most pitched fight over fiscal policy, the culmination of two years of battles over taxes, the federal debt, spending and what to do to slow the growth in popular social programs like Medicare (Steinhauer, 1/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Congress Passes Cliff Deal
But the compromise bill, which blocked most impending tax increases and postponed spending cuts largely by raising taxes on upper-income Americans, left a host of issues unresolved and guaranteed continued budget clashes between the parties. ... At the same time, the bill defers some of America's toughest spending problems—in particular the ballooning cost of health care—and it doesn't come close to the kind of $4 trillion deficit-reduction deal the country's leaders had hoped to negotiate (Hook, Boles and Hughes, 1/2).

USA Today: Divided GOP House Approves Senate 'Fiscal Cliff' Plan
A divided Republican House passed the Senate's "fiscal cliff" agreement Tuesday night, following a tense day of GOP protests that the plan does not do enough to rein in federal spending. ... Spending cuts totaling $24 billion over two months aimed at the Pentagon and domestic programs would be deferred. That would allow the White House and lawmakers time to regroup before plunging very quickly into a new round of budget brinkmanship certain to revolve around Republican calls to rein in the cost of Medicare and other government benefit programs (Davis and Jackson, 1/2).

Los Angeles Times: 'Fiscal Cliff' Plan Clears House With GOP Divided
Speaking at the White House before leaving to rejoin his family on vacation in Hawaii, Obama called the compromise "just one step in the broader effort" to reduce the deficit, and specifically pointed to spending on Medicare for an aging population as the major force driving the red ink. "I am very open to compromise," he said. But, he added, "we can't simply cut our way to prosperity" (Mascaro and Hennessey, 1/1).

Politico: The Fiscal Cliff Deal That Almost Wasn't
But the failure to address several big issues sets up another fiscal showdown in late February, when the two-month delay in the sequester coincides with the deadline to raise the country's $16.4 trillion debt limit. The pact also does little to reduce trillion-dollar-plus deficits, shore up entitlement programs, overhaul the tax code or stimulate the U.S. economy — the casualty of a polarized political culture that scorns compromise (Bresnahan, Budoff Brown, Raju and Sherman, 1/2).

The Associated Press: Congress OKs Cliff Deal, Signaling Future Fights
"Now the focus turns to spending" and overhauling the tax code, [Speaker John] Boehner said in a written statement after the vote. He said the GOP will fight for "significant spending cuts and reforms to the entitlement programs that are driving our country deeper and deeper into debt," a reference to costly benefit programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid (Fram 1/2).

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