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House GOP Frustrated on Sidelines of Cliff Negotiations

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Catholics United holds a press conference in front of the Capitol on Wednesday to rebut the GOP budget efforts in the ongoing fiscal cliff fight. The group says Republicans should side with the 98 percent of taxpayers who won’t be affected by “taxes on the rich.”

Speaker John A. Boehner and GOP leaders are considering throwing some red meat onto the House floor in the coming weeks as frustration mounts from members who are tired of sitting idle while high-level fiscal cliff negotiations continue between the Ohio Republican and the White House.

Boehner’s warning Wednesday that members should be ready to stay through Christmas to deal with any fiscal cliff measure has set off a round of griping from Republicans who already think that if they must be on Capitol Hill, they should at least have a proactive agenda.

As a result, leadership is considering bringing back to the floor a bill to replace the scheduled 10-year, $1.2 trillion sequestration cuts to defense and social programs — a bill that already passed earlier this year.

The lame-duck floor schedule has been conspicuously light, with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., scheduling low-wattage votes this week as Boehner and President Barack Obama trade fiscal cliff offers behind closed doors — keeping even other members of the GOP leadership in the dark.

“There is a little pushback on that. I think the members would rather this be an open debate,” Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana said Wednesday. “We’re voting on one bill today. The whole day we’re voting on one bill. On the rule. We voted on the journal last night. I mean, it’s comical. It really is. And it’s sad. Because we’re not in regular order. All the work’s being done behind the scenes by staff and then the speaker and the president.”

GOP Conference Chairwoman-elect Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said the sequester bill would help put the public’s focus back on the defense cuts, rather than revenue-raisers and the extension of tax rates that Obama wants to talk about.

Similarly, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a member of the GOP whip team, said the sequester has been underused as a means of leverage by the GOP, so bringing it to the fore again would be beneficial to the party.

“Our leverage in this debate is not taxes, it’s not the 98 percent, it’s the spending,” he said. “Democrats don’t want to lose the domestic spending, and, honestly, I don’t think any commander in chief would want to look at the defense cuts we’re seeing.”

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