In the end the GOP folded… lost their nerve. The measure has passed in the House. Very interesting commentary by Charles Krauthammer during the program. Here is the video stating the results of the vote with Bret Baier.
House Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to the Senate’s bill to avert the fiscal cliff, making it nearly certain that Speaker John Boehner’s chamber will amend the legislation and send it back to the Senate – a potentially serious blow to a package that appeared well on its way to becoming law. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the No. 2 House Republican, told GOP lawmakers that he was opposed to the legislation in its current form. Republicans are chiefly concerned with the lack of spending cuts in the tax bill.
Speaker John Boehner presented House Republicans with two ways to resolve the the impasse over the fiscal cliff in a closed meeting on Tuesday evening — amend the Senate bill with a package of spending cuts, or seek an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill.
House GOP leadership will seek to pursue the former strategy and advance an amended version of the deal passed by the Senate early Monday morning if they can obtain 218 votes through a whip check on Tuesday night. If so, they will move for a vote tonight.
“The Speaker and the [House Majority] Leader both cautioned members about the risk in such a strategy. They told them there is no guarantee the Senate would act on it,” a leadership aide said.
A Senate Democratic leadership aide said Monday evening: “We will absolutely not take up the House bill if they change the bipartisan agreement reached in the Senate.”
A carefully-crafted Senate compromise to avert the fiscal cliff is in jeopardy after House Republicans revolted Tuesday over the measure after Senate Democrats passed it early Monday morning.
On the floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) closed the Senate for the day without addressing the House situation.
“Everyone’s just as tired as I am, I’m sure,” Reid said. “So I appreciate very much the hard work. And we hope tomorrow will go well.”
House Republicans are seeking ways to tweak the legislation and send it back to the Senate because they believe it lacks sufficient spending cuts. But that would require the Senate to reconsider the measure before the new Congress is sworn-in on Thursday, something officials say is all but impossible because any member can object to scheduling a quick vote.
Democrats want to leave House Republicans with a take-it-or-leave it proposition, risking ending the 112th Congress on an ignominious note: With $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts about to hit the economy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who labored over the deal in a marathon negotiating session with Vice President Joe Biden, didn’t defend House Republicans.
House Republican opposition to the bill was overwhelming at a Tuesday afternoon House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol basement Monday, sources inside the room said. The bill would extend lower Bush-era tax rates for families making less than $450,000.
House GOP leadership dispersed from the meeting mulling how to proceed with the Senate bill, which passed shortly after 2 a.m. on Monday morning. Republicans are expected to meet again later Tuesday afternoon to try and settle on a decision.
But it is not at all certain whether the House will even vote Tuesday.
In a real sign of trouble, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, No. 2 in House leadership, opposes the package.
Amending the legislation — which also extends a number of expiring tax and spending provisions — would throw a big monkey wrench into the deal struck by Biden and McConnell. After an 89-8 Senate vote to pass it, President Barack Obama was already trumpeting victory.
An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office released Tuesday estimated the accord would add $4 trillion to the deficit over a decade. Many lawmakers are also concerned about the proposed two-month delay to automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. Several lawmakers suggested that removing so-called extenders — business tax provisions — could help lessen the cost.
But changing the bill and trying to send it back to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would be a legislative high-wire act of the first order. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership would have to find a way to get 217 votes for the altered package — and then hope the Senate goes along. Senate sources are warning that the upper chamber will not take up a House-amended bill.
Boehner seems to recognize the precarious position of his conference. He opened the GOP meeting Tuesday afternoon by pointing to the overwhelming Senate vote and telling lawmakers that they can’t add “poison pills” to the legislation — in other words, amending it in a way that would be roundly rejected by the Senate. Boehner suggested spending reductions from the president’s budget to offset the sequester delay.
Also, financial markets open on Jan. 2. Without a resolution on expiring income tax rates and the automatic spending cuts, markets could see steep losses — a concern voiced in a the GOP conference meeting on Monday.
One thing is clear: There is serious disdain among House Republicans for what the Senate did in the middle of the night.
Retiring Rep. Steve LaTourette (Ohio) asked House Republicans why the House would “heed the votes of sleep-deprived octogenarians,” according to a source in the meeting.
There is also some regret among Republicans about the party defeating Boehner’s “Plan B” before the holidays, which would have raised taxes on millionaires.
Defeated California Rep. Dan Lungren said at the meeting that “we harmed ourselves by undercutting our leader on Plan B,” according to a source present.
House Democrats, for their part, met with Biden in the Capitol at 12:15 p.m. It was Biden’s second appearance in the Capitol in as many days, after meeting with Senate Democrats late Monday before they passed his tax package. House Democrats said they would provide a good number of votes for passage.
The desire to amend the package wasn’t a surprise to leadership. On Monday night, Boehner promised that the House would consider the legislation, but said that “decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members — and the American people — have been able to review the legislation.”
As of Tuesday, when Bush-era tax rates officially expire, income above $250,000 will be taxed at a rate of 39.6 percent. So if GOP lawmakers were to vote for the Senate bill, it technically cuts taxes, instead of raising them on income above $450,000.
Until Thursday afternoon, when the 112th Congress ends, there are 241 Republicans in the House and 191 Democrats. The 113th Congress will have 233 Republicans and 200 Democrats.
For the time being, Congress has sent the nation over the fiscal cliff.
The $620 billion Senate deal would be a major breakthrough in a partisan standoff that has dragged on for months, spooking Wall Street and threatening to hobble the economic recovery. It would reverse the GOP’s two-decade refusal to raise tax rates, delivering a major win for President Obama, who has said he would sign it.
In addition to raising tax rates on annual family income above $450,000, the bill delays deep across-the-board spending cuts for two months, cancels pay raises for congressmen and averted a hike in milk prices by extending expiring dairy policy.
The bill contains winning items for both parties. Democrats get a year-long extension of unemployment benefits and business-friendly tax provisions. In a major win for the Obama administration, tax cuts for families first enacted in the 2009 stimulus — an expanded earned income tax credit, child tax credit and college tax credit — would be extended for five years.
The deal would also prevent rate cuts to doctors who treat Medicare patients, sources said. Dividends and capital gains on family income above $450,000 would be taxed at 20 percent, up from the current 15 percent rate.
But as big a deal as it was, it did little to address the nation’s long-term deficit problem or to defuse a potential crisis over raising the debt ceiling likely in February.
“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 before the vote.
The deal was crafted by McConnell and Biden — old friends from decades of Senate service — after two months of talk between other leaders collapsed.
Biden served as the conduit to the president and Democratic congressional leaders, while McConnell did the same for Republicans. It was the third year in a row that they played an instrumental role in a major policy battle — in 2010, they hashed out a tax deal, and in 2011, they coordinated the debt limit agreement.
McConnell and Biden negotiated by phone until about 12:45 a.m. Monday, then the president met with Biden in the Oval Office with other key aides until 2 a.m., talking over the emerging deal. When that meeting ended, White House legislative director Rob Nabors headed to the Hill to draft legislative language with Senate staff.
The direct negotiations started back up only a few hours later, when Biden and McConnell spoke before 7 a.m. and dragged on through the day, as Democrats and Republicans wrangled over how to pay for a short delay in the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester.
Shortly before 9 p.m. Monday, with only hours to spare before the deadline, Obama called Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to get their sign-off on the agreement, although they had been looped in all along.
Reid thanked McConnell for his work on the agreement and said it’s now up to Boehner to usher it through the House.
“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to make the grand bargain, as we have tried to do for so long, but we tried,” Reid said. “If we do nothing the threat of a recession is very real, and passing this agreement does not mean negotiations halt. Far from it. We can all agree there is more work to be done.”
It’s not the grand bargain that Wall Street and corporate CEOs wanted to see — and spent millions advocating . But it is still fairly broad in scope. And it reflects significant concessions by both sides, but particularly for McConnell.
McConnell’s first offer on Friday night was far from where the deal ended up, according to sources familiar with the talks. That proposal included raising the income threshold to $750,000, instituting means testing for Medicare, reverting to a less generous inflation calculator for government programs, no extension of middle class tax credits and continuing the current estate tax rates, which many Democrats opposed. None of those elements made it into the bill.
Three Democrats — Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Tom Carper of Delaware voted against the bill. They joined Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah in opposition.
Harkin said just prior to the vote that the deal fell short of his goal to help “real middle-class families.” Bennet is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — his role is to hang onto the Democratic majority in 2014, so his “no” vote is also significant.
Democrats needed Biden to make the final sell. He traveled to the Capitol around 9:15 p.m. with other top White House officials to press his former Senate Democratic colleagues to get behind the plan, which they did in big numbers.
Monday saw both sides hurrying to finalize an accord before 2013. The final sticking point was over delaying the so-called sequester, across-the-board spending cuts slated to begin Jan. 2. Those cuts will be replaced in equal parts by fresh government revenues and other targeted spending reductions.
— Seung Min Kim, Manu Raju and John Bresnahan contributed to this report
Correction: This story has been corrected to show that Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware was a “no” vote