Tax Deal: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Photograph by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One on Jan. 2, 2013 upon arrival at Hickam Air Force Base near Honolulu, Hawaii.

Signed, sealed, delivered — it was the theme song of two presidential campaigns.

And yesterday, the president signed the tax bill sent to him by Congress and delivered his auto-penned signature — then went to dinner.

The “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” follows the president’s campaign pledge to avert income tax rate increases for most Americans, while taxing top-earners harder. It sets the threshold higher than he proposed it — at households earning $250,000 a year — making permanent the temporary rates on taxable income since President George W. Bush’s first term at or below $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for married couples filing jointly.

It permanently indexes the Alternative Minimum Tax exemption to the Consumer Price Index, extends emergency unemployment compensation benefits and federal funding for the unemployed for one year. It continues Medicare payment rates for physicians through 2013, extends farm bill policies and programs through September 30 and delays the Budget Control Act’s sequestration of spending that was set to start now for another two months — pushing the debate about the deficit, and federal debt ceiling, down the road this winter.

It also contains, as Richard Rubin notes today, a lot of special interest stocking stuffers such as the perennial tax break for Puerto Rican rum-makers.

The White House announced after midnight Washington time the signing of the bill. President Barack Obama, who has returned to vacation in Hawaii, received a copy of the bill for review in the afternoon, Hawaiian-Aleutian time, and directed that it be signed by auto pen, according to the White House

At about 6:50 pm, the president left for dinner with family and friend at one of his usuals Alan Wong’s, in Honolulu.

It sounds like a celebratory dinner — no word about Stevie Wonder in the Muzak — as the president returned to his vacation home just before 11 pm HAST.

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