Archive for January, 2013

Obama’s Inaugural Speech: A Liberal Agenda

Monday, January 28th, 2013

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land – a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.

They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control – and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort – even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment – a moment that will define a generation – it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends – hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

The Attack on Labor

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The right-wing attack on American labor unions continued this year as Republican controlled Legislatures and Governors, led by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, continue the attack on hard working Americans. It was Round 3 of corporate America’s campaign to destroy the labor movement. Round 1 occurred in the summer of 1978. Round 2 was carried out in the 1980’s and led by Ronald Reagan.

The ultimate aim of the right-wing strategy is to crush worker’s rights, dismantle social “entitlement” programs and destroy the American middle class. Permitting employers to destroy workers’ right to organize, which was established by the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) during the New Deal era, would allow corporations to crush any worker protection and slash pay and benefits, thus greatly increasing business profits.

Under the Wagner Act, employers are required to bargain collectively with unions, which represent a majority of the employees in a designated bargaining unit. The legislation also forbids employers from interfering with the workers’ right to organize and established a variety of unfair labor practices that would subject employers to penalties for their violation.

Employers, through a variety of unfair labor practices have used anti-union lawyers and union-busting tactics to dismantle organized labor. Although it is unlawful to fire union activists or intimidate employees from associating with union organizers, many companies found it is cheaper to ignore labor law than it is to deal with a union.

Employers are using a variety of ways to delay or postpone union elections while crushing union attempts by the workers. These attempts have successfully destroyed powerful organized labor unions, and in turn, the standard of living of the American middle class.

In 1978, under the leadership of Rep. Frank Thompson, chairman of the House Labor-Management Subcommittee, legislation was presented that would have strengthened the procedures of the National Labor Relations Board so employers could not use the law as a shield for unfair labor practices and to delay and prevent union elections.

The bill was overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives in October 1977 and was sent to the Senate. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), brought the legislation to the Senate floor in May 1978. Conservative Republicans and a few Southern Democrats waged a filibuster supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and friends of Business.

A majority of Democrats and several moderate Republicans attempted to garner the needed 60 votes to end the filibuster and bring the bill to a vote. Two Liberal Democratic Senators were afraid to vote in favor of the legislation because of anticipated retaliation by the business communities in their states.

After six weeks, the Senate leadership attempted to end the debate. Robert Byrd, the Senate Majority Leader, attempted to deliver the vote of two Senators from the south. Senator Hollings of South Carolina cast the vote that killed the labor law reform and the bill died on the floor of the Senate on June 22, 1978.

This vote killed any hope of reviving a weakened labor movement and prepared the stage for Round 2. Regardless of the false outpouring praise for Ronald Reagan, he led Round 2 of the attack on labor and is the most anti-labor president in American History.

Reagan was the first president to attack labor’s firm legal standing that was gained through Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid-1930s as. After failed Republican policies that led to the Great Depression, organized labor flourished under the Roosevelt administration and built the great American middle class.

Reagan’s Republican predecessors were anti-labor but would deal with them as needed. Reagan on the other hand waged continuous war against organized labor. He had no fear of them or respect for them.

Polls at the time showed that nearly half of the Americans people opposed unions and almost half of those who belonged to the unions voted for him in 1980 and again in 1984.

Reagan was the hero of the anti-labor political right and corporate America. Although he had been president of the Screen Actors Guild, his pro-management sentiment crushed the strike-ending agreement in 1959 that greatly weakened the union. The union never recovered its power after his betrayal.

Reagan’s personal war on labor resumed in the summer of 1981, when he fired 13,000 striking air traffic controllers and destroyed their union. This act gave the signal to management that it was open season on organized labor and management followed suit — crushing union after union, during a wave of strikes, throughout his presidency.
Employers had no obligation to their workers, and employers got Reagan’s union busting message loud and clear – if faced with a strike — illegally fire your workers and replace them or better yet, ship the factories and jobs abroad. Reagon is the founding father of outsourcing.

Reagan lethal blow to labor came when he gave dedicated union foes direct control of the federal agencies that were designed originally to protect and further the rights and interests of workers and their unions.

Most devastating and important was Reagan’s appointment of three management representatives to the five-member National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which oversees union representation elections and labor-management bargaining.

One of the three became the new NLRB Chairman, Donald Dotson. He believed that “unionized labor relations have been the major contributors to the decline and failure of once-healthy industries” and have caused “destruction of individual freedom.”

A House subcommittee found, under Dotson, the board abandoned its legal obligation to protect collective bargaining, in what amounted to “a betrayal of American workers.”

Most of the complaints filed against employers under the Reagan era were responded to with employers firing union supporters and permanently replaced striking workers. Employers knew that “new anti-labor” NLRB was taking an average of three years to rule on complaints and in most cases that meant the discharged unionists would be reinstated with back pay. That’s much cheaper than operating under a union.

The NLRB stalled as long as possible before acting on petitions from workers seeking union representation elections and stalled for another year or two after such votes before certifying winning unions as the workers’ bargaining agents giving the companies ample time to deal with any act toward unionization.

On a second front against labor, Reagan’s Labor Department became an anti-labor department, ignoring violations by union-busting consultants who were hired by many employers to crush organized labor.

Union-busting was a major aspect of Reagan’s anti-labor policy. He eased child labor laws, attempted to lower the minimum wage for younger workers, eased anti-sweatshop laws, and cut back on job training programs for the unemployed.

He began the attack on federal employees that would be revisited in history under the Round 3 attack on working Americans by trying to replace thousands of federal employees with temporary workers who would not have civil service or union protections.

The Reagan administration all but dismantled programs that protected worker safety. He closed one-third of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s field offices, trimmed its staff by more than one-fourth and decreased the number of penalties assessed against employers by almost three-fourths.

Rather than enforce the law, under Reagan, the OSHA administration sought “voluntary compliance” from employers on safety matters – and generally didn’t get or expect it. This policy is alive today but has been modified repeatedly by Republicans to make OSHA regulations even weaker.

The attack on labor laws in the Reagan era would rear its ugly head again in Round 3 of the attack on labor. In 2007, the final push to return to a futile society began as corporations tried to return workers to the law of the business jungle that prevailed a half-century before.

Excessive corporate greed virtually destroyed America’s economy and financial markets as Republican “Trickledown economics” culminated in the corporate orgy of unfettered profits and total disregard for the American worker and the welfare of the nation.

In 2008 some of the same corporate and conservative strategists were developing a series of bogus grassroots groups, funded by rich corporate barons, under the banner of the new “Tea Party” rebellion. To just about everyone’s surprise, a loose-knit yet powerful grassroots movement of right-wing populists emerged as a peasant organization of the corporate power elites.

This movement was a racist based response to the election of the first African American president, Barack Obama. But the rich were masterful in manipulating these uninformed minions of the right into becoming the business pawns used to continue the assaults on organized labor.

It became clear as President Obama’s first administration progressed that there was a broad attack on working people, especially those in unions. Ultraconservative members of the House of Representatives, including members of the Tea Party Caucus, relentlessly began introducing legislation that would benefit the rich and powerful and slice up the economic safety net most industrialized nations consider part of basic human rights.

Public attention became focused on the attack on labor when Round 3 went into full swing with the attack on the working people in Wisconsin by its ultraconservative governor. Attention has become more focused on funders on the attack on organized labor, such as the Koch brothers and right-wing institutions but there is a larger process at work.

Over the past 20 years, right-wing corporate conservatives and economic libertarians have spent more than $170 million trying to convince us that labor unions are bad for America, and that government laws and regulations should not protect a worker’s right to organize a union without harassment and termination.

And this is just a drop in the bucket of the $1 billion spent by right-wing funders to shift wealth upwards and stomp on the basic human rights of (98%) most of us.

The most recent example of this movement occurred in Michigan where the Republican Governor made the state an open shop which greatly reduces the rights of people in the work place and places restraints on unions. Referred to as a “Right to Work State”, but in reality it is the furtherest thing from the truth — where in reality, workers have virtually have no rights related to work conditions and other work matters.

The coalition of foundations that fund conservative and right-wing think tanks and other institutions that attack organized labor have exploded in creation. No conservative group is more dangerous than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Through the corporate-funded ALEC, global corporations and state politicians have voted behind closed doors to rewrite state laws that govern the rights of all Americans. These so-called “model bills” reach into virtually every area of American life and directly benefits huge corporations and the rich.

In ALEC’s own words, corporations have “a VOICE and a VOTE” on specific changes to the laws that are then proposed in state governments. Republican controlled state governments proved to be the breeding ground for the implementation of ALEC created laws. ALEC was exposed after these laws passed in several red states.

Conservative foundations continue to fund groups such as the Teabaggers who are used as pawns beholden to the bidding of the rich and corporations. When resistance broke out in Wisconsin, it was the teabaggers who were shipped in from other states to protect the interest of the rich and corporations and challenge the protest of pro-labor forces.

Anti-labor campaigns by corporate interests are nothing new, and are frequently masked by rhetoric about freedom of choice for employees. The main framing of these anti-labor campaigns are built around the idea of a “Right to Work.” “Right to Work” meaning workers have no rights.

Corporations and the wealthy have portrayed themselves as friends of the working man and woman. Like most “Big Lie” campaigns, the truth emerges when history and outcome are compared to current rhetoric and promises.

The scary fact is that the American Middle Class goes the way of organized labor. As unions have declined, so has the American Middle Class. In reality, the attack on labor is an attack on the middle class. The last line of defense of the middle class and organized labor may have occurred in the Presidential Election of 2012.

The election of Mitt Romney would have all but sealed the fate of the middle class and organized labor in America. Maybe that is why organized labor fought so hard for President Barack Obama.

In the weeks since the election, the fight for the middle class and organized labor seems to have awakened both to the prospect of what could happen if the rich and corporations get their way.

Although, the fight is not over, the re-election of President Barack Obama may give the middle class and organized labor new breath in the battle for the survival of both.

Pelosi Delivers Democrat Votes to Evert Fiscal Cliff

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

130910_nancy_pelosi_ap_605WASHINGTON — House Republicans finally agreed to allow a vote on the Senate approved bill, to avert the Fiscal Cliff, after spending all day doing nothing, as the reality of the Fiscal Cliff loomed. Earlier today, the Republican members of the house seemed prepared to embrace the Fiscal Cliff and not vote on the bill supported by bi-partisan support in the Senate. By early evening, it became apparent that the votes did not exist to vote for an amendment to the Senate bill and the realization of the Fiscal Cliff brought a brief sense of reality to the Republican members.

A strong bi-partisan procedural vote of 408 votes were cast to proceed with the vote for the Senate bill. The vote occured in the late evening hours. The bill passed 257-167. Nancy Pelosi delivered 172 Democratic Yes votes; 16 Democrats voted No. 85 Republicans voted Yes and 151 voted No.

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican, and the No. 1 nemesis to the Speaker, indicated to his colleagues earlier that he could not support the legislation in its current form. Many other Republicans were voicing their objections to a plan that they saw as raising taxes while doing little to rein in spending. Canter continued to undermine Speaker John Boehner as everyone waited for the up or down vote promised by the Speaker. Minority leader Nancy Pelosi demanded the legislation passed by the Senate be brought to an up or down vote.

Aides said that Speaker John A. Boehner, who had pledged to put any measure the Senate passed on the House floor for a vote, was mainly listening to the complaints of his rank and file “do nothing” teabaggers and had not taken a firm position on the legislation, though he had clear reservations. In the end, the Speaker voted for the bill.

The situation loomed as another failed significant test for Mr. Boehner, who had been unable to pass his own proposal to increase taxes only on $1 million in income and above or control his members. He has said repeatedly that he would allow a vote on the Senate bill, but he has also said he did not want to pass a bill requiring a majority of Democratic votes. In the end, it did take Democrats to pass the bill. Public opposition from Mr. Cantor, once again, undermined the Speaker, who has up to this point [appeared] to side with Mr. Boehner in the fiscal fight, mystically managed to again complicate the Speakers position.

The 112th Congress comes to a close at 11:59 on Thursday.

It appeared that members favored amending the measure and sending it back to the Senate. Attempts included an Amendment to add 300 billion in spending cuts to the Bill. Mr. Boehner was unable to garner enough votes to support an Amendment. Harry Reed promised warned that he would not accept any changes to the bill; which passed 89-8.

Any failure to pass the measure before the 112th Congress ends as of noon Thursday and would have required the process to start over in the new 113th Congress, meaning the Senate would have to vote again with a changed membership due the departure of several veteran lawmakers and the arrival of newcomers from both parties as a result of victories in the November elections.

Failure to act put pressure on the House to approve the legislation since a defeat would essentially leave the House responsible for a steep series of tax increases and spending cuts that some economists warned could/would send the nation back into a recession.

The bill included the following highlights:

—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.

—Capital gains, dividends: Taxes on capital gains and dividend income exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families would increase from 15 percent to 20 percent.

—Alternative minimum tax: Permanently addresses the alternative minimum tax and indexes it for inflation to prevent nearly 30 million middle- and upper-middle income taxpayers from being hit with higher tax bills averaging almost $3,000. The tax was originally designed to ensure that the wealthy did not avoid owing taxes by using loopholes.

—Other tax changes: Extends for five years Obama-sought expansions of the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and an up-to-$2,500 tax credit for college tuition. Also extends for one year accelerated “bonus” depreciation of business investments in new property and equipment, a tax credit for research and development costs and a tax credit for renewable energy such as wind-generated electricity.

—Unemployment benefits: Extends jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed for one year.

—Cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors: Blocks a 27 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors for one year. The cut is the product of an obsolete 1997 budget formula.

—Social Security payroll tax cut: Allows a 2-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax first enacted two years ago to lapse, which restores the payroll tax to 6.2 percent.

—Across-the-board cuts: Delays for two months $109 billion worth of across-the-board spending cuts set to start striking the Pentagon and domestic agencies this week. Cost of $24 billion is divided between spending cuts and new revenues from rule changes on converting traditional individual retirement accounts into Roth IRAs.

—Continue Farm subsidy for grain that will prevent the price of milk doubling.

Fiscal Cliff Averted? Tentative Deal Reached

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

WASHINGTON — Tonight, last-minute negotiations between the White House, represented by Vice-President Joe Biden, and the Senate Republican leadership, secured a tentative agreement to avert going over the fiscal cliff. The measure will not pass in time for Congress to meet its Dec. 31 deadline.

The Senate, in a pre-dawn vote just two hours after the deadline passed to avert automatic tax increases, overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday morning at 2:42 a.m. that would allow tax rates to rise only on affluent Americans while temporarily suspending sweeping, across-the-board spending cuts. The vote was 89-8. Congress is expected to vote today.

Under the agreement, tax rates would jump to 39.6 percent from 35 percent for individual incomes over $400,000 and couples over $450,000, while tax deductions and credits would start phasing out on incomes as low as $250,000, a clear win for President Obama, who campaigned on higher taxes for the wealthy.

Just last month and for months, Republicans in Congress said they would never agree to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. Mr. Obama won re-election on the promise that he would raise those rates and raise them permanently.

Democrats also secured a full year’s extension of unemployment insurance without strings attached and without offsetting spending cuts, a $30 billion cost.

In an effort to win over other Democrats uneasy with the proposal, Vice President Joe Biden who bargained directly with Republican leaders, traveled to the Capitol tonight for a 90-minute meeting with his former Senate colleagues. As negotiators ended, officials said that the two top Democrats on Capitol Hill — Senator Harry Reid of Nevada and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California — had signed off on the agreement.

Negotiators agreed to put off $110 billion in across-the-board cuts to military and domestic programs for two months while broader deficit reduction talks continue. Those cuts begin to go into force on Wednesday, and that deadline, too, might be missed before Congress approves the legislation.

The nature of the deal ensured that the war between the White House and Congressional Republicans on taxes and spending will continue at least until the spring.

There appears to be something for everyone to hate in this bill but most agreements generally contain sour grapes for both sides.