Not so fast: House Republicans want more spending cuts in ‘fiscal cliff’ bill
WASHINGTON — House Republicans are signaling that the “fiscal cliff” legislation passed by the Senate early Tuesday isn’t going anywhere until more spending cuts are included in the bill.
“It was way past those senators bed time and they were blurry-eyed when they were reading it, so we’re trying to fill in the gap where they may have missed a few things,” Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia said Tuesday afternoon after leaving a meeting of the Republican Conference in the capitol.
“Our sense, at least in the House, was that a number of the Republicans who voted for it must have been drunk because it really was a number that wasn’t reflective of where we thought some of these people were gonna be in a bill like this,” said Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio, only partly joking.
In an attempt to avert the automatic tax increases for all taxpayers this year, senators rang in 2013 by passing legislation that extended tax breaks for individuals making less than $400,000 per year, and couples making less than $450,000 a year.
The bill also tackles the alternative minimum tax, preventing it from hitting the middle class, as well as the estate tax. It pushes the sequester back two months, and contains offsets to compensate for that.
But their Republican colleagues across the capitol made it clear on Tuesday that the bill does not include enough spending cuts relative to the tax increases.
“As you know, we’ve been very clear about spending cuts are very, very important and we’re very disappointed that the Senate has punted on the Senate cuts,” Kingston said.
“There’s a lot of discontent in the room at the moment,” said LaTourette, adding later that the “overwhelming sentiment was that we needed to at least attempt to address spending.”
“The discussion was, there are some good things in this bill. As a Republican, the fact that you could lock in permanently things on the alternative minimum tax and estate tax and dividends and rates are good things,” LaTourette said. “The fact that you could fix the dairy problem for a short run are good things.”
“The bad part — and now it’s a balancing act — is that it increases spending and doesn’t do anything to help us with our debt and our deficit,” he said. “So that’s the box we find ourselves in.”
Several Republicans said they expected they would amend the bill and send it back to the Senate.
Alabama Rep. Spencer Bachus told reporters Tuesday that he predicts the House will send it back to the Senate, with some spending cuts.
“I would be shocked if this bill doesn’t go back to the Senate,” he said.
“There’s going to have to be some changes to the bill in respect to spending,” Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is opposed to the bill passed by the Senate, he told reporters after the meeting. But he and Speaker of the House John Boehner haven’t made clear yet what action the House will take on the legislation.
“The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting,” Boehner press secretary Brendan Buck said after the GOP meeting. “Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward.”
Another meeting of the House Republican Conference is expected later in the afternoon, and that, Rep. Dana Rohrbacher of California said, will be where “the decision-making phase” begins.
There is a sense among Republicans that they need to balance the desire for spending cuts with the need to pass a bill soon.
“We have to try to work within the urgency that we feel, that we all know is there, and try to accomplish something,” New York Rep. Nan Hayworth said.
LaTourette said that lacking any other option, he would vote for the bill as is, because he would be less happy if the House were to “hold hostage the majority of Americans and increase their taxes.”
But he made clear that that he would do so with a very heavy heart.
“The frustration in the room is, we’ve been to this play a number of times where we always say, ‘Well, we’re all about spending cuts and we’re gonna get them next time, next time, next time.’ Well, there never is a next time.”
Democrats are on board with the bill, they said this afternoon after a closed door caucus meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, who negotiated the deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Nancy Pelosi tweeted that a “strong majority of House Ds support bipartisan Senate bill” and that she was “confident it will pass if @SpeakerBoehner allows up/down vote.”
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