Congress’ OK of fiscal cliff deal gives Obama a win, prevents GOP blame for tax boosts
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress’ excruciating, extraordinary New Year’s Day approval of a compromise averting a prolonged tumble off the fiscal cliff hands President Barack Obama most of the tax boosts on the rich that he campaigned on. It also prevents House Republicans from facing blame for blocking tax cuts for most American households, though most GOP lawmakers parted ways with Speaker John Boehner and opposed the measure.
Passage also lays the groundwork for future battles between the two sides over federal spending and debt.
Capping a holiday season political spectacle that featured enough high and low notes for a Broadway musical, the GOP-run House voted final approval for the measure by 257-167 late Tuesday. That came after the Democratic-led Senate used a wee-hours 89-8 roll call to assent to the bill, belying the partisan brinkmanship that colored much of the path to the final deal.
‘‘A central promise of my campaign for president was to change the tax code that was too skewed towards the wealthy at the expense of working middle-class Americans,’’ Obama said at the White House before flying to Hawaii to resume his holiday break. ‘‘Tonight we’ve done that.’’
The bill would boost the top 35 percent income tax rate to 39.6 percent for incomes exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, while continuing decade-old income tax cuts for everyone else. In his re-election campaign last year Obama had vowed to boost rates on earnings at somewhat lower levels — $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families.
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Despite deal avoiding fiscal cliff, taxes to increase for vast majority of American households
WASHINGTON (AP) — While the tax package that Congress passed New Year’s Day will protect 99 percent of Americans from an income tax increase, most of them will still end up paying more federal taxes in 2013.
That’s because the legislation did nothing to prevent a temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax from expiring. In 2012, that 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax was worth about $1,000 to a worker making $50,000 a year.
The Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan Washington research group, estimates that 77 percent of American households will face higher federal taxes in 2013 under the agreement negotiated between President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans. High-income families will feel the biggest tax increases, but many middle- and low-income families will pay higher taxes too.
Households making between $40,000 and $50,000 will face an average tax increase of $579 in 2013, according to the Tax Policy Center’s analysis. Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 will face an average tax increase of $822.
‘‘For most people, it’s just the payroll tax,’’ said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.
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Highlights of congressional legislation to avert ’fiscal cliff’
Highlights of a bill Congress passed Tuesday aimed at averting wide tax increases and budget cuts scheduled to take effect with the new year. The measure would raise taxes by about $600 billion over 10 years compared with tax policies that were due to expire at midnight Monday. It would also delay for two months across-the-board cuts to the budgets of the Pentagon and numerous domestic agencies.
The House and Senate passed the bill Tuesday and sent it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Highlights include:
—Income tax rates: Extends decade-old tax cuts on incomes up to $400,000 for individuals, $450,000 for couples. Earnings above those amounts would be taxed at a rate of 39.6 percent, up from the current 35 percent. Extends Clinton-era caps on itemized deductions and the phase-out of the personal exemption for individuals making more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $300,000.
—Estate tax: Estates would be taxed at a top rate of 40 percent, with the first $5 million in value exempted for individual estates and $10 million for family estates. In 2012, such estates were subject to a top rate of 35 percent.
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NY-area lawmakers: House GOP plans to adjourn Congress without permitting vote on Sandy aid
WASHINGTON (AP) — New York-area lawmakers in both parties erupted in anger after learning the House Republican leadership decided to allow the current term of Congress to end without holding a vote on aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said late Tuesday he was told by the office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia that Speaker John Boehner of Ohio had decided to abandon a vote this session.
Cantor, who sets the House schedule, did not immediately comment. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters that just before Tuesday evening’s vote on ‘‘fiscal cliff’’ legislation, Cantor told him that he was ‘‘99.9 percent confident that this bill would be on the floor, and that’s what he wanted.’’
A spokesman for Boehner, Michael Steel, said, ‘‘The speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month.’’
In remarks on the House floor, King called the decision ‘‘absolutely inexcusable, absolutely indefensible. We cannot just walk away from our responsibilities.’’
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Stampede after New Year’s fireworks show kills 61, injures more than 200 in Ivory Coast
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — A crowd stampeded after leaving a New Year’s fireworks show early Tuesday in Ivory Coast’s main city, killing 61 people — many of them children and teenagers — and injuring more than 200, rescue workers said.
Thousands had gathered at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan’s Plateau district to see the fireworks. It was only the second New Year’s Eve fireworks display since peace returned to this West African nation after a bloody upheaval over presidential elections put the nation on the brink of civil war and turned this city into a battle zone.
With 2013 showing greater promise, people were in the mood to celebrate on New Year’s Eve. Families brought children and they watched the rockets burst in the nighttime sky. But only an hour into the new year, as the crowds poured onto the Boulevard de la Republic after the show, something caused a stampede, said Col. Issa Sako of the fire department rescue team. How so many deaths occurred on the broad boulevard and how the tragedy started is likely to be the subject of an investigation.
Many of the younger ones in the crowd went down, trampled underfoot. Most of those killed were between 8 and 15 years old
‘‘The flood of people leaving the stadium became a stampede which led to the deaths of more than 60 and injured more than 200,’’ Sako told Ivory Coast state TV.
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Storm impeding probe, salvage of Shell oil drilling ship that grounded off Alaskan island
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — High seas and strong winds prevented crews from boarding an oil drilling ship to check for any damage after the large vessel went aground off an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska.
A Coast Guard plane and a helicopter flew over the Kulluk on Tuesday, but severe weather did not permit putting marine experts on board the drilling rig, which had grounded on a sand and gravel beach in stormy seas.
Federal on-scene response coordinator Capt. Paul Mehler said the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig is carrying about 143,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid, and appeared stable.
‘‘There is no sign of a release of any product,’’ Mehler said during a news conference.
A team of company, Coast Guard and local officials said they were mobilizing spill response equipment and preparing a plan in the event of a spill in the Partition Cove and Ocean Bay areas of the island. The area is home to at least two endangered species, as well as harbor seals, salmon, and sea lions.
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Doctors using blood thinners in effort to dissolve clot in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s head
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to recover in a New York hospital where she’s being treated for a blood clot in her head.
Her doctors say blood thinners are being used to dissolve the clot and they are confident she will make a full recovery. Clinton didn’t suffer a stroke or neurological damage from the clot that formed after she suffered a concussion during a fainting spell at her home in early December, doctors said in a statement Monday.
Clinton, 65, was admitted to New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Sunday when the clot turned up on a follow-up exam on the concussion, Clinton spokesman Phillipe Reines said. The clot is located in the vein in the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear. She will be released once the medication dose for the blood thinners has been established, the doctors said.
In their statement, Dr. Lisa Bardack of the Mount Kisco Medical Group and Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi of George Washington University said Clinton was making excellent progress and was in good spirits.
Clinton’s complication ‘‘certainly isn’t the most common thing to happen after a concussion’’ and is one of the few types of blood clots in the skull or head that are treated with blood thinners, said Dr. Larry Goldstein, a neurologist who is director of Duke University’s stroke center. He is not involved in Clinton’s care.
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Pa. governor to announce plans to sue NCAA over stiff Penn State sanctions after sex scandal
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit against the NCAA over stiff sanctions imposed against Penn State in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The news conference announcing the filing in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg was set to be held at the university’s State College campus.
A person associated with the university and knowledgeable about the matter told The Associated Press that it is an antitrust action. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the lawsuit hasn’t been filed.
The university agreed in July to the sanctions, which included a $60 million fine that would be used nationally to finance child abuse prevention grants. The sanctions also included a four-year bowl game ban for the university’s marquee football program, reduced football scholarships and the forfeiture of 112 wins but didn’t include a suspension of the football program, the so-called death penalty.
In announcing the news conference, Corbett, a Republican, did not indicate whether his office coordinated its legal strategy with state Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, who is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 15.
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Defense dominates: No. 8 Stanford holds off Wisconsin 20-14 in 99th Rose Bowl
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Andrew Luck, Toby Gerhart and coach Jim Harbaugh started Stanford’s improbable football renaissance, yet they never stood in the center of the Rose Bowl with the West Coast’s most coveted trophy raised above their heads.
In fact, the last Stanford team to do what the Cardinal did Tuesday night had a defense known as the Thunderchickens.
Forty years after Stanford’s last Rose Bowl victory, the favored Cardinal lived up to the legacy created by Luck, Harbaugh and every Thunderchicken that came before them by winning the bowl game that matters most to any Pac-12 team.
Stepfan Taylor rushed for an early touchdown, Kevin Hogan passed for 123 yards and No. 8 Stanford’s defense shut out the Badgers in the second half of a 20-14 victory in the 99th Rose Bowl.
‘‘I had heard that 1972 was our last win,’’ said Hogan, the freshman quarterback who won Stanford’s last five games. ‘‘It’s been too long since we’ve had one at The Farm. It’s a great feeling.’’
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LA photographer hit by car, dies after trying to take pictures of Justin Bieber’s Ferrari
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police say a paparazzo was hit by a car and killed after taking photos of Justin Bieber’s white Ferrari on a Los Angeles street.
Los Angeles police Officer James Stoughton says the photographer, who was not identified, died at a hospital shortly after the crash Tuesday evening. Stoughton says Bieber was not in the Ferrari at the time.
The sports car was parked on the side of Sepulveda Boulevard near Getty Center Drive after a traffic stop. The photographer was struck as he walked across the boulevard after taking pictures.
Stoughton says no charges are expected to be filed against the motorist who hit the man.
A call to a spokesperson for the singer was not immediately returned Tuesday night.