House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says he opposes the bipartisan compromise that passed the Senate in the middle of the night to avert the "fiscal cliff."
According to the New York Times, in a real sign of trouble, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, said he couldn't back the legislation in its current form.
"I do not support the bill," Cantor said walking out of a closed-door conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol in which House Republicans discussed the "fiscal cliff" deal passed in the Senate overnight, according to CBS News.
He wasn't alone.
“I personally hate it,” said Representative John Campbell, Republican of California.
As the Times explains: "With just two days to go before a new Congress convenes, the House has essentially three choices: reject the bill, pass it as written by the Senate after what is certain to be a robust, even rancorous debate, or amend the bill and quickly return it across the rotunda to the Senate."
Out of these choices, it's almost certain that House Republicans will attempt to tweak the legislation and send it back to the Senate because they believe it lacks sufficient spending cuts.
“I am halfway through reading it and haven’t found the cuts yet,” said Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who generally votes against budget bills. “It’s part medicinal, part panacea, and part treating the symptoms but not the underlying pathology.”
Legislative high-wire act
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, Politico writes.
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 — all by Noon on Jan. 3. At that point, the government technically transitions to the 113th session of Congress, wiping clean the legislative slate.
Again, the Times notes, that the situation loomed as a significant test for Boehner, who had been unable to pass his own proposal to increase taxes only on $1 million in income and above. He has said repeatedly that he would allow a vote on the Senate bill, but he has also said he did not want to pass a bill with predominantly Democratic votes.
But a defeat on the strong, bipartisan 89-to-8 vote in the Senate about 2 a.m. on Tuesday that, Vice President Joe Biden brokered with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in a marathon negotiating session, means the House would be left responsible for about $500 billion in sweeping tax hikes on all Americans and deep spending cuts that some economists warn could send the nation back into a recession.
Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., told CBS news on her way out of the afternoon meeting, "What we want is to do what's best for the American people. When you talk about balance, you've got to provide responsible spending restraint for the long term. This bill doesn't have that."
Biden joined Democrats for a midday meeting on Capitol Hill in a closed-door meeting for about 90 minutes today seeking to shore up support for the plan.
Few Democrats, if any, suggested a Democratic rebellion was in the works. Democrats expect almost all of their members to vote in favor of the deal, though their caucus is not thrilled with the Senate bill, either. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., on the House floor today called the expected vote on the measure a "hold-your-nose vote."
But Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., told CBS News that Biden, who walked them step by step through the negotiations, the legislation and the path forward on future deficit confrontations, pointed out a number of the positive aspects of the legislation. "I mean this is the first broad based tax increase that we've seen in a generation. That's no small consequence," Blumenauer said.
Republicans are expected to meet again later Tuesday to try and settle on a decision.