WASHINGTON - Republican Sen. Marco Rubio broke with his party Tuesday and voted against a bipartisan compromise to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of tax hikes and spending cuts.
Rubio was one of only eight senators who voted against the deal, which passed with 89 votes and had the support of many staunch fiscal conservatives. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voted for it.
The measure passed around 2 a.m., two hours past the fiscal cliff deadline. Three senators did not vote. The House could vote on the legislation Tuesday.
Democratic and Republican leaders described the compromise as an imperfect but necessary agreement to prevent serious economic harm to families, businesses and the economy.
But Rubio, R-West Miami, said the deal would raise "job-killing taxes" and would do little to rein in the nation's spiraling debt, now above $16 trillion.
"Rapid economic growth and spending reforms are the only way out of the real fiscal cliff our nation is facing," he said in a statement issued after the vote. "But rapid economic growth and job creation will be made more difficult under the deal reached here in Washington."
Under the deal, tax rates would remain unchanged for the middle class and rise at incomes over $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples.
Those thresholds are higher than the ones President Barack Obama had campaigned on his way to winning re-election. It's unclear how many people in Florida would be affected by the new thresholds because the IRS web site does not break down taxpayers that way.
It does show Florida residents filed more than 52,000 tax returns in 2010 reporting an income of $500,000 or more.
The deal also would defer $24 billion in spending cuts aimed at the Pentagon and domestic programs. That would allow the White House and lawmakers to regroup before plunging quickly into a new round of budget brinkmanship.
Republicans are certain to demand action to rein in the cost of Medicare and other government benefit programs.
Rubio said the compromise measure's tax increases would saddle thousands of small businesses with higher taxes.
"(They'll) be forced to decide how they'll pay this new tax and, chances are, they'll do it by firing employees, cutting back their hours and benefits, or postponing the new hire they were looking to make."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had a different take.
"Each of us could spend the rest of the week discussing what a perfect solution would have looked like, but the end result would have been the largest tax increase in American history," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "It took an imperfect solution to prevent our constituents from (experiencing) very real financial pain. But in my view, it was worth the effort."
As negotiations on the deal neared a conclusion Monday, Nelson, D-Orlando, spoke on the House floor on the need for compromise.
"People want us to come together and stop this bickering and the excessive partisanship," he said. "I think ideological rigidity and excessive partisanship are impediments to getting people to come together with common-sense decisions for solutions."