US Congress clears tax cut deal to hand Obama a big win

barack-obamaWashington, Dec 17 : In a major victory for US President Barack Obama, the US Congress has approved a $858 billion deal brokered by the White House and opposition Republicans to extend Bush era tax cuts for two years.

In a midnight vote, the lame duck House of Representatives passed the measure by a 277 to 148 votes in the face of tough opposition.

As many as 138 Republicans joined 139 Democrats voting in favour while only 36 Republicans opposed. A test vote to approve terms of debate was passed 214 to 201 a few hours earlier.

Obama is expected to sign the bill, which sailed through the Senate 81 to 19 Wednesday, as early as Friday.

"The vote sealed the first major deal between President Obama and Congressional Republicans as Democrats put aside their objections and bowed to the realignment of power brought about by their crushing election losses," the New York Times said.

The bill "also will guarantee unemployed workers in hard-hit states up to 99 weeks of jobless benefits through the end of next year," and will "create major new incentives for business and consumer spending in 2011," according to the Washington Post.

Commenting on the outcome, the USA Today suggested Obama could be on track to "be the new Comeback Kid", with the vote putting him "on the verge of a political rebound".

To get the measure passed, it noted, the House Democratic leaders had to navigate "a revolt by liberal members that threatened to derail the measure".

During the debate, Republicans said the measure "would aid job creation", while Democrats said it "provides too many tax breaks to the wealthy".

The Los Angeles Times said Obama, "by emerging as a mediator," showed "a way of doing business that many voters were expecting but didn't see during most of his first two years."

As a result, White House aides now feel they have "a little wind at our back", a senior White House official was quoted as saying.(IANS)