Despite some skepticism from the media, Congress avoided going off the so-called "fiscal cliff" with a late-night vote in the House on New Year's Day.
The deal avoids middle-class tax increases and deep spending cuts that were due to go into effect at the start of the new year.
To avoid the fiscal cliff, President Barack Obama needed some help from the Republicans. They grudgingly obliged. Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, both voted for the legislation, which passed the Senate by an 89-8 vote. Johnson's vote may have been the most surprising. He has opposed tax increases and been a critic of spending plans that don't reduce the national debt, which is more than $16 trillion.
However, Johnson rightly saw that although it wasn't the legislation he preferred, "I supported the compromise bill that protects 99 percent of Wisconsinites from an income tax increase."
In the House, Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Sherwood, voted for the legislation, too. He and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, were the only Republican members of the state delegation to back the bill.
"Although this bill is far from ideal, and there is still much to be done, this legislation will provide tax certainty to millions of Americans and hardworking families," Ribble said in a statement. "This bill also averts the dairy cliff by protecting dairy farmers, manufacturers, and consumers from substantial market uncertainty and higher retail prices."
Their votes were a welcome sight. The need to remove some of that uncertainty and not increase taxes on the majority of state residents should have outweighed some of the other concerns. The effect of that uncertainty on a slow-to-recover economy should have prompted earlier action.
Perhaps had Congress made some headway sooner in the process instead of waiting until the last minute, Ribble and Johnson wouldn't have had to back what they see as flawed legislation. When you wait that long, you're often left taking the best that you can get and moving on. We only wish they had negotiated with the same urgency earlier.
The bad news is that sequestration hasn't been dealt with. The $109 billion across-the-board cuts for the Pentagon and federal agencies have been delayed for two months and will be an issue for the 113th Congress, which is sworn in today.
Though the 112th Congress didn't have much to recommend it, we're not overly optimistic the 113th will do much better. Talk to us in two months, when hopefully we're not dealing with the last-minute negotiations to avoid huge spending cuts.