Government Bytes


"Fiscal Cliff" Vote Reveals Party Divide

by Demian Brady / /

After the late night vote on the first day of the New Year, the House Republican caucus was deeply split. Speaker of the House John Boehner was only able to rally just over a third of his party to join most of the House Democrats in support of H.R. 8, the “fiscal cliff” bill. Data from NTU Foundation’s BillTally project shows that, on average, House Republicans who opposed the bill have larger cutting agendas than their colleagues. Meanwhile, those Democrats who opposed it have smaller net spending agendas than Democrats voting in favor. This is another example where BillTally has shown that those Members who oppose higher taxes generally tend to support less spending. 

Average Net Spending Agenda by Party in the House Vote to Approve "Fiscal Cliff" Deal
(in Billions of Dollars)
Average Increases
Average Decreases
Average Net Spending Agenda
Democrats in Favor
Democrats Opposed
Republicans in Favor
Republicans Opposed
Source: NTUF BillTally System

 NTUF’s unique BillTally program tabulates the cost or savings of each spending bill introduced in either the House or Senate and cross-indexes these figures with the sponsorship and cosponsorship records of every Member of Congress. BillTally thus produces for each Member of Congress the net spending impact of their legislative agenda. The numbers represent the annual change in federal outlays that would occur if all the legislation sponsored or cosponsored by that Member were enacted into law.

 Many Republicans opposed the bill because of the tax policies it permits and also because it includes significant spending increases with hardly any offsets. The Congressional Budget Office’s partial cost estimate of H.R. 8 shows that the bill enacts $223.5 billion in spending increases over the next five years and reductions amounting to only $12.8 billion.

 While the typical House Republican sponsors legislation that would lead to net spending reductions, those who opposed H.R. 8 back much larger budget cuts than their colleagues. The typical Republican voting for H.R. 8 would trim the $3.7 trillion federal budget by $74 billion while Republicans voting against the “fiscal cliff” package would cut it by $162.1 billion. 


Now that the nation has moved back from the edge of the fiscal cliff, it is about to bump into the debt ceiling. The limit on the amount of money that the federal government is able to borrow will be reached in just a few short months. While the tax side of the budget debate may or may not be concluded, the next Congress will be addressing spending issues. And there are a significant number of spending cut proposals that the 112th Congress has left on the table that could be used to reform the budget as part of the next round of high-stakes budgetary negotiations. Some of these bills are highlighted here.