Fiscal deal in flux as GOP seeks path forward in House
NBC's Domenico Montanaro reports that there are still some hard sells to be made to the party's bases to avert the fiscal cliff, particularly conservative Republicans who are unhappy because they feel there are not enough spending cuts.
The fate of legislation to remedy the fiscal cliff was in doubt late Tuesday after House Republicans balked at approving bipartisan, Senate-passed legislation to handle its most severe consequences.
Conservatives in the House voiced their disapproval of a new proposal, which passed the Senate 89-8 in a 1:53 a.m. vote, that would allow taxes to rise on individual income over $400,000 and household income over $450,000, while staving off a series of automatic spending cuts — known as the "sequester" — for two months.
Republicans were left late Tuesday to consider whether they had the votes to amend the legislation — considered a dealbreaker to Democrats in the Senate — or bring up the Senate bill for an up-or-down vote. The maneuver could allow the GOP to register its frustration with the deal while avoiding political fallout.
Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, explains why some House Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor, are not in favor of a Senate-backed fiscal bill.
The rejiggered strategy came amid complaints from House conservatives that the Senate-passed bill doesn't include enough cuts to spending.
- "The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward.”
- As of late afternoon Tuesday, the lower chamber was considering amending the legislation late Tuesday — a proposition considered a dealbreaker to Senate Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., adjourned the chamber until Wednesday at noon.
- But Senate Democrats said that the legislation was essentially a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. If the House were to change the fiscal deal, Democrats in the Senate said they would not consider it.
NBC's Luke Russert explains why House Speaker John Boehner's Tuesday meeting with House Republicans is critical to the Senate-approved fiscal deal.
"There is no time left to ping-pong proposals. The speaker was kept appraised throughout the negotiations," a Senate Democratic aide told NBC News. "If House Republicans mess with this agreement that got 88 votes in the Senate, they will be solely responsible for the largest tax hike in American history."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meanwhile called for a "straight up-or-down vote" on the Senate proposal.
The process to address the fiscal cliff would then restart on Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress, and 60 full hours past the deadline at which the fiscal cliff first took effect.
The standoff over the fiscal cliff, itself the byproduct of past disagreements and impasses, was symptomatic of the 112th Congress, which had been defined by intractability fueled by sharp, ideological flanks in both parties.
As the nation prepared for the beginning of the 113th Congress on Thursday, little was poised to change. Though Democrats made slight gains in November's election, Republicans maintain control of the House; Democrats keep their grip on the Senate.
Republicans' threat to torpedo the Senate deal was additionally reminiscent of other battles from throughout the two years. While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., managed to reach an accord with Vice President Joe Biden and the Obama administration, the Tea Party-infused House judged it insufficiently conservative. All but seven Senate Republicans backed the proposal, and Biden had to spend two hours late on New Year's Eve convincing Democrats of the plan's merits, as it is.
But a familiar divide within the GOP pitting the establishment-minded dealmakers against the more ideologically directed and recently elected conservatives re-emerged on Tuesday. This divide almost resulted in a government shutdown and a default on the. national debt in 2011. It again threatened Tuesday to allow the painful, across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts to play out just as the U.S. economic recovery showed signs of accelerating.
NBC's Chuck Todd, Mike Viquiera and Frank Thorp contributed reporting.