It’s going to be another long night. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor walked out of the GOP House conference meeting today saying that he does not support the Senate bill and a number of House Republicans have expressed serious concern with the lack of balance in the bill with regard to spending cuts. CBO figures put the ratio at 41:1—tax increases to spending cuts.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said after today's first conference meeting that the lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill "was a universal concern amongst members in today's meeting."
"The Speaker and Leader laid out options to the members and listened to feedback," Buck said. "Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward."
On Monday, Speaker Boehner said that “decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will mot be made until House members—and the American people—have been able to review the legislation.” The Speaker was reportedly “shocked” so many Senate Republicans voted for the bill but didn’t say what course of action the House should take just yet. After the Republican meeting, however, Rep. Spencer Bachus said he would be very surprised if the bill didn’t go back to the Senate, which would further complicate matters, of course. Senate Democrat leaders are already saying they will reject any efforts by the House to amend the deal and House Democrats think holding an up-or-down vote on the bill “shouldn’t even be a question.”
"The House Republicans have two choices: cut their losses and pass the deal now, or else put up a fight they cannot win and pass the same deal a few days from now after being further humiliated," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
Another senior Democratic aide said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will not reconsider the bill, which passed by a vote of 89 to 8.
"We're done," said the aide.
House Republicans will reconvene around 5 p.m. today.
The House must act by Thursday at noon, when the 112th Congress adjourns. Once the 113th Congress begins, the Senate would have to re-pass its legislation. Lawmakers said they were also aware of the potential for a significant negative reaction in financial markets on Wednesday if a deal to prevent tax increases is scuttled.
Economists have said the U.S. economy could tip back into recession if the full slate of tax increases and spending cuts that comprise the fiscal cliff take effect because of congressional failure.