WASHINGTON -

After exhaustive negotiations that strained the country's patience, the House approved a bill to avert a dreaded fiscal cliff -- staving off widespread tax increases and deep spending cuts.

The 257-167 vote late Tuesday night included 172 Democrats and 85 Republicans in favor of the bill; 16 Democrats and 151 Republicans voted against it.

Just hours earlier, House Speaker John Boehner pitched to fellow Republicans the idea of amending the Senate-approved bill to add a package of spending cuts. He cautioned about the risk in such a strategy, saying there is no guarantee the Senate would act on it.

But by the end of the night, he was among the Republicans who voted for the bill as written.

President Barack Obama said he will sign the bill into law, but did not say when. After the vote, he flew to Hawaii to rejoin his wife and daughters on their winter vacation.

Had the House not acted, and the Bush-era tax cuts that were set last decade expired fully, broad tax increases would kick in. In addition, $110 billion in automatic cuts to domestic and military spending would take place.

The combined effect could have dampened economic growth by 0.5%, possibly tipping the U.S. economy back into a recession and driving unemployment from its current 7.7% back over 9%.

While the package provides some short-term certainty, it leaves a range of big issues unaddressed.

It doesn't mention the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling that the United States reached Monday.

It also temporarily delays for two months the so-called sequester -- a series of automatic cuts in federal spending that would have taken effect Wednesday and reduced the budgets of most agencies and programs by 8% to 10%.

This means that, come late February, Congress will have to tackle both those thorny issues.

Obama warned Congress that he will not tolerate another act of prolonged brinksmanship.

"While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up through the laws that they've passed," he said after the Tuesday night vote.

"We can't not pay bills that we've already incurred. If Congress refuses to let the United States government the ability to pay these bills in time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic -- far worse than the impact of the fiscal cliff."

How they voted: House | Senate

A partial victory

The plan approved Tuesday maintains tax cuts for individuals earning less than $400,000 and couples earning less than $450,000. It would raise tax rates for those over those levels -- marking the first time in two decades the rates jump for the wealthiest Americans.

While the deal gives Obama bragging rights for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, it also leaves him breaking a promise.

Obama had vowed to raise tax rates for the top-earning 2% of Americans, including those with household income above $250,000 and individuals earning more than $200,000.

Raising the threshold for higher tax rates shrinks the number of Americans affected.

While nearly 2% of filers have adjusted gross incomes over $250,000, only 0.6% have incomes above $500,000, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Some House Republicans weren't exactly overjoyed in voting for the plan.

"I'm a very reluctant yes," said Rep. Nan Hayworth, an outgoing Republican representative from New York.

"This is the best we can do given the Senate and the White House sentiment at this point in time, and it is at least a partial victory for the American people," she said. "I'll take that at this point."

Conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist, whose Americans for Tax Reform pushes candidates to sign a pledge never to raise taxes, said the plan preserves most of the Bush tax cuts and wouldn't violate his group's beliefs.