With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) standing by his side, President Barack Obama signed the $858 billion tax cut package into law on Friday and touted the bill’s passage as a sign that bipartisanship can happen in the next Congress.
It “makes sense” that lawmakers in both parties should be willing to work together to move the economy forward, Obama said during remarks at the bill-signing ceremony. “What happened with this economic package was a good example of that.”
The event put on full display the rapidly changing dynamic in Obama’s relationship with Capitol Hill: None of the House Democratic leadership was in attendance and only one Senate Democratic leader, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), was there. Instead, a smattering of rank-and-file Democrats attended, along with a handful of Republicans. The president thanked McConnell and other Republicans in attendance for working with Democrats to expedite the package through Congress, “even thought it caused occasional political discomfort.”
The bill’s passage is a victory for Obama, who has wasted little time since the November elections trying to recast himself as a bipartisan president. He took significant heat from liberals throughout the tax cut debate for backing a deal that includes perks for the wealthy, but he has maintained that the bill’s expected boost to the economy is more important than fighting to keep those provisions out.
The nature of compromise is “yielding on something each of us cares about to move forward on what all of us care about,” he said. “This is progress and that’s what [people] have sent us here to achieve.”
Obama briefly shook hands with McConnell after signing the bill but otherwise had no exchange with the GOP leader. Friday’s bill-signing ceremony is the first McConnell has attended since Obama took office.
Vice President Joseph Biden also hailed the significance of the bipartisan tax bill becoming law, though he was careful in his choice of words.
“This is a, I wasn’t going to say a big deal, but an important deal. I can no longer say ‘big deal,’” Biden said, drawing laughter with his reference to the signing ceremony for the health care bill, during which a microphone caught him whispering to Obama that it was “a big f---ing deal.”
“Thank God my mother wasn’t around,” he said.