(NEW YORK) — Top House Republicans Tuesday opposed a bipartisan compromise that passed the Senate in the wee hours of New Year’s Day to avert the “fiscal cliff,” as new studies conclude that the compromise on taxes and spending would add trillions to the U.S. deficit.
If House Republicans tweak the legislation, as they seem likely to do, there’s no clear path for its return to the Senate before a new Congress is sworn in Thursday.
GOP leaders emerged from a morning conference meeting disenchanted by the legislative package devised by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Biden early Tuesday morning, with several insisting they cannot vote on it as it now stands.
“I do not support the bill,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said as he left the meeting. “We’re looking for the best path forward. No decisions have been made yet.”
It’s almost certain that Republicans will attempt to amend the bill in order to win over the support of more conservatives.
House Speaker John Boehner refused to comment on the meeting, but his spokesman said “the lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting.”
“Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward,” Brendan Buck said in a statement.
As lawmakers wrestled with the legislation, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, two bipartisan groups that evaluate the cost of bills, said the measure would add roughly $4 trillion to the federal deficit in the next 10 years.
The impasse once again raised the specter of sweeping tax hikes on all Americans and deep spending cuts taking effect later this week.
“This is all about time, and it’s about time that we brought this to the floor,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said after emerging from a meeting with Democrats.
“It was a bill that was passed in the U.S. senate 89-8. Tell me when you’ve had that on a measure as controversial as this?” she said of the overwhelming vote.
Pelosi could not say, however, whether the measure had the backing of most House Democrats. “Our members are making their decisions now,” she said.
Biden, who brokered the deal with McConnell, joined Democrats for a midday meeting on Capitol Hill seeking to shore up support for the plan.
While Congress technically missed the midnight Dec. 31 deadline to avert the so-called cliff, both sides have expressed eagerness to enact a post-facto fix before Americans go back to work and the stock market opens Wednesday.
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