Washington » The Senate-approved compromise to avert the "fiscal cliff" ran headlong into opposition from the No. 2 House Republican and other GOP lawmakers Tuesday, raising questions about how — and in what form — Congress might be able to give final approval to the measure.
"I do not support the bill," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters after Republicans held a lengthy closed-door meeting to gauge support for the compromise. Participants in the extraordinary New Year’s Day meeting said there was widespread criticism that the bill did not contain enough spending cuts.
Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio said the overwhelming sentiment among House Republicans was to amend the bill to incorporate more spending cuts and send it back to the Senate. Several lawmakers and aides said such a move was likely, and on balance the GOP reaction seemed to seriously complicate efforts to enact a new law before the current Congress expires on Thursday.
Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Tuesday morning tweeted his opposition to the bill, "Without substantial, real first year cuts in spending I can’t vote for the bill passed by the Senate late last night."
"The speaker and leader laid out options to the members and listened to feedback," said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting. Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward."
Exiting the meeting, Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said he was among lawmakers who wanted the deal to include more spending cuts.
"I’d be shocked if this does not go back to the Senate" with changes by the House, Bachus said.
Boehner has pointedly refrained from endorsing the agreement, though he’s promised a vote on it or on a GOP alternative right away.
The speaker reportedly offered fellow Republicans two options, including allowing a vote on the Senate version if Republican House members can’t show they have a majority vote to amend it with spending cuts, two leadership aides said.
Boehner cautioned members during their private caucus that there is a risk in amending the bill with spending cuts and sending it back to Senate.
A Senate Democratic aide said the Democratic-run Senate would not immediately return to take up any changed House version of the legislation. He spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly address the matter as the House Republicans considered their next move.
Vice President Joe Biden tried rallying House Democrats behind the deal in a separate meeting. When that session ended, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other top Democrats called on Boehner to allow the House to vote on the Senate-approved accord.
"That is what we expect. That is what the American people deserve," Pelosi told reporters.
The two closed-door gatherings of House lawmakers came just hours after the Senate used an overnight vote to easily approve the bipartisan compromise, which would negate across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies.
In a New Year’s drama that climaxed in the middle of the night, the Senate endorsed the legislation by 89-8 early Tuesday. That vote came shortly after Biden pushed Democratic senators to back the agreement that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had brokered hours earlier.
The measure would prevent middle-class taxes from going up but would raise rates on higher incomes. It would also block spending cuts for two months, extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevent a 27 percent cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and prevent a spike in milk prices.
The bill ensures that lawmakers will have to revisit difficult budget questions in just a few weeks, as relief from painful spending cuts expires and the government requires an increase in its borrowing cap.
As the House staged a rare New Year’s Day session, it was clear that there were divisions among lawmakers from both parties.
Rep. James Moran, D-Va., called it "a bad deal for America." Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., said approving it would "show the American people that this Congress isn’t broken."Next Page >
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.