In a sign of how cautiously leadership is treading, House Republicans will hold a rare second conference meeting Tuesday afternoon, giving leadership ample time to weigh their options and whip votes for a fiscal cliff plan that is expected on the floor later on.
GOP leaders met Tuesday morning in Speaker John A. Boehner’s office, and a GOP aide said that all options remain on the table, including amending the package (HR 8) that was passed by the Senate early Tuesday morning. The only thing that is certain is that the House will take up the bill in some form.
The conference met for the first time at 1 p.m. and votes that were originally scheduled to be held after the meeting were postponed until later in the afternoon.
“The purpose of this meeting is to review what the Senate has passed, discuss potential options, and seek member feedback. No decision on the path forward is expected before another member meeting that will be held later today,” a GOP aide said.
Aides said to expect a vote series this afternoon and this evening.
Already, however, Republicans’ opposition to the Senate-passed bill was stacking up. Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and his successor Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., would vote against the measure as-is, an aide said.
Hard-line conservative groups such as Heritage Action for America and the Family Research Council have come out against the legislation.
A chief concern is that the package does not include spending cuts or reforms to entitlement programs that Republicans say is requisite to a balanced plan.
“If there’s no spending cuts in it, that’s going to be a problem for me,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., told Fox News on Tuesday morning. “For those of us who are interested in cutting spending, it looks like there is nothing in the bill for us and that will make it very difficult to support the bill.”
House Democrats, meanwhile, huddled with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who negotiated the Senate-passed deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Many Democrats have already indicated that they would support the proposal if it comes to a vote. Among them was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II. His support is key because he may be able to bring several progressives along who otherwise are unhappy with the administration’s dealmaking.
On the other hand, Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., said the deal was lacking and left Democrats with no leverage heading into the debt ceiling showdown.
Boehner has said that he does not want to bring a deal to the floor unless a majority of his conference can support it. If enough GOP opposition emerges to put him below that threshold, he would be faced with a stark choice: He could amend the bill to please his conference, potentially sinking a deal, or he could allow a floor vote on the Senate plan that could garner more Democratic than Republican votes, potentially damaging his credibility in his conference.
Late on Monday evening after the contours of the Senate deal had taken shape, Boehner and his team released a statement that said, “The House will honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement if it is passed. Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend themeasure will not be made until House members — and the American people — have been able to review the legislation.”
The House’s path is made simpler since leadership has procedure on their side.
Clause 6(a)(3) of rule XIII gives House leaders same-day authority during the last three days of a Congress, meaning they can bring any legislation, including an amended deal, to the floor any time before noon on Thursday. The procedure has not been used since Dec. 31, 1970.
Chuck Conlon, Jonathan Strong and Alan K. Ota contributed to this report.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.