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House Republicans grit teeth and prepare to vote

January 01, 2013|By Lisa Mascaro and Kathleen Hennessey
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner arrive at the U.S. Capitol for a second Republican Caucus meeting on Tuesday.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner arrive at the… (Jacquelyn Martin, Associated…)

WASHINGTON – House Republicans, facing a political dilemma without good options, prepared Tuesday to vote on a Senate-passed bill to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff even as conservatives within the party denounced the measure because of its tax increases.

At an early evening meeting of the Republican caucus – the second such session of the day – House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio outlined two options to his colleagues, according to lawmakers who were present.

One was to take up the Senate bill and amend it by adding a package of spending cuts. Amending the bill would almost certainly kill it. If that happens, tax increases on nearly all Americans and deep federal spending cuts would take effect. Senate leaders have indicated they would not consider further amendments to the bill that was negotiated between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. That measure passed the Senate early Tuesday, 89 to 8.

QUIZ: How much do you know about the fiscal cliff?

Republican leaders planned to do a count of their House members to see whether a majority would support a bill with spending cuts added. Several Republicans indicated that they did not expect to find a majority. Some conservatives said they would vote against the bill even with the added spending cuts because it allows taxes to rise for some Americans. Other Republicans indicated they would vote no because the amendments would kill the bill.

If not enough Republican votes exist for an amended bill, Boehner told colleagues, he would bring the Senate bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote. If that happens, the bill is expected to pass with a majority of Democrats and some Republicans in favor.

The likely outcome was bitter for many Republicans, but members were coming around to the view that they had little choice, Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, an ally of Boehner’s, said in an interview on CNN.

“We’ve been whupped in this round,” the Ohio Republican said. "I think there's a growing sense that, nobody's singing Kenny Rogers, but you do have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. We've been beaten [in] this fight."

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