It was refreshing to see Sen. Mitch McConnell put his considerable abilities into unifying, rather than dividing or distracting.
McConnell played a critical role — maybe even the critical role — in crafting the compromise that averted what many economists said would have been a disaster for the recovering economy.
Kudos to McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, for helping avoid what, as he correctly said, would have been a self-inflicted wound.
Even though Republicans could brag that the deal protects almost 99 percent of U.S. households from automatic income tax increases, Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset was the only other Kentucky Republican who joined McConnell in voting for it.
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Sen. Rand Paul was one of five Republicans and three Democrats in the Senate who voted no.
Also voting against the compromise hammered out by McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden were House Republicans Ed Whitfield of Hopkinsville, Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green and Thomas Massie of Lewisburg, elected in November to fill a vacant seat.
Democrats Ben Chandler of Versailles and John Yarmuth of Louisville voted for the compromise. (Republican Andy Barr of Lexington replaces Chandler today as the 113th Congress convenes.)
Paul and the other three Kentucky kamikazes were willing to take the cliff dive by immediately ending all the Bush tax cuts and taking a meat ax to defense-industry and other government jobs.
Sucking that much money out of a fragile economy could have plunged the nation and the world back into recession and sent unemployment spiraling upward again.
The four Kentucky Republicans issued statements decrying the lack of spending cuts in the deal; Paul also bemoaned raising taxes even on the top 1 percent.
The agreement extended Congress' self-imposed deadline for across-the-board spending cuts by two months.
It's true we have tough decisions to make about how to balance what we want from government with what we're willing to pay in taxes. We also must rein in health care costs to protect Medicare for the future.
It's also true that the public heartily endorses taxing more of the wealthiest Americans than Congress just approved. Congress should consider reforms to simplify the tax code and broaden the tax base.
As Congress approaches future fiscal cliffs — most immediately, decisions about spending cuts and the debt ceiling — let's hope McConnell's rational desire to avoid self-inflicted wounds prevails.
Remember it was a Tea Party-inspired tantrum in the summer of 2011 over whether to pay the government's bills that created this fiscal cliff, sent the stock market into a tailspin and resulted in the U.S. government's first credit downgrade.
During the first Obama administration, McConnell made a name for himself as obstructionist-in-chief.
The Senate minority leader could do the country and his self-immolating party a favor by continuing to engage in the kind of pragmatic statesmanship that he's shown in the last few days.