Saturday, May 25, 2013
By LORI MONTGOMERY and ROSALIND S. HELDERMAN
The Washington Post
(Continued from page 2)
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, center right, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., center left, head for a Republican conference meeting to discuss the "fiscal cliff" bill Monday in Washington.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden make a statement regarding the passage of the fiscal cliff bill in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House Tuesday.
The Associated Press
Hours later, Pelosi indicated via Twitter that a "strong majority" of Democrats supported the legislation and that she was "confident" it would pass if Boehner held a vote.
But it was a different story among House Republicans, who at first appeared to strongly oppose it. In the early afternoon, Republicans gathered for the first of two lengthy closed-door briefings in the basement of the Capitol.
There, Boehner told members that he wanted to hear their views but would not take a position. Cantor, meanwhile, "forcefully" aired concerns that the measure would raise taxes but not cut spending, said Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. Afterward, Cantor emerged and told reporters: "I do not support the bill."
That view was widespread in the room, where House members vented their frustrations at the Senate for foisting the arrangement upon them. Many rose to say they should take advantage of the legislative process, tack on billions in new spending reductions and force the Senate to respond.
"We should not take a package put together by a bunch of sleep-deprived octogenarians on New Year's Eve," retiring Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, said in a dig at Senate leaders. LaTourette, who has championed ambitious deficit-reduction efforts, faced the prospect of casting his last vote in Congress for a measure that would sharply deepen deficits.
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said a consensus was developing that Republican should amend the Senate's plan. "I would be shocked if the bill did not go back to the Senate," he said.
The negative reaction threatened to plunge Washington back into the high-stakes, last-minute drama that has characterized both the fiscal cliff negotiations and a series of other recent confrontations between the two parties over spending and taxes, including the fight over raising the federal borrowing limit in the summer of 2011.
Senate Democrats and administration officials warned that the Senate would reject any move to amend the measure. The House would be responsible for a dive over the cliff hours before U.S. financial markets were set to open Wednesday after the New Year's holiday.
For hours, there was no decision on how to proceed. As leaders huddled, rank-and-file members returned to their offices and were greeted with confusing messages from conservatives and constituents.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who has opposed any deal to raise taxes, voiced support for Cantor. But conservative writer William Kristol -- who is close to Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee -- wrote a blog post titled "Say Yes to the Mess."
"Politically, Republicans are escaping with a better outcome than they might have expected, and President Obama has gotten relatively little at his moment of greatest strength," Kristol said, advising House Republicans to take the deal.
Shortly before dinner, Republicans gathered behind closed doors again to settle on a new plan: Leaders would survey members about the spending-cut package to determine if it could pass. If not, they would allow the Senate bill to move ahead.
Around 8 p.m. EST, they announced a decision. The Senate bill would receive a vote, with the expectation that Democrats and Republicans would join forces to approve the measure.
During floor debate, Camp said Republican members should support the bill because it would make "permanent tax policies (that) Republicans originally crafted" under President George W. Bush.
Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, countered that Democrats should back the bill because it would let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy, breaking the "iron barrier" to tax increases since 1993.