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As leaders wrangle over a potential deal to avert the fiscal cliff, many rank-and-file members are quietly resigned to compromise and are holding back from criticizing the ongoing talks.
It’s a distinct change of tone from the fiery summer of 2011, when lawmakers of both parties were unrestrained in voicing their discontent. The four party caucuses met Tuesday to review the current offers on the table and to map out backup plans in case talks between President Barack Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, collapse, as they did two summers ago.
But with less than two weeks until the automatic spending cuts and tax increases are scheduled to take effect, many lawmakers seem flexible about what they might accept.
“Most of my colleagues realize that we’re in negotiations. Neither of us are going to get everything we want,” Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., said upon exiting his party’s weekly meeting, where the White House’s top legislative aide, Rob Nabors, briefed members.
“We clearly need to raise revenues. We clearly need to find ways to save money in entitlement programs,” Carper continued, noting that Obama is committed to doing both. He said he believes his colleagues could support a deal that has taxes and additional spending cuts.
The same even-keeled approach, at least publicly, was on display in the House. Boehner huddled with his caucus twice to outline his decision to vote later this week on measures that would raise taxes on the wealthy. After the first session, members were more subdued than usual, according to aides and lawmakers.
“The comments were pretty mellow, all the way around,” Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said.
According to House Republican aides, GOP leaders are planning to bring their “plan B” to the floor as soon as Thursday. Under that proposal, the House would vote on two amendments: One that would allow tax rates to go up on those making more than $250,000 — as Senate Democrats have called for — and one that would allow tax rates to go up on those making more than $1 million. The latter would also include extensions of the estate tax and a fix to make sure the alternative minimum tax does not hit middle-income taxpayers.
At the evening meeting of House Republicans, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia suggested allowing members to vote on every tax bracket, choosing which Bush-era tax rates they would like to extend. But leadership was lukewarm to the measure, according to a source in the room.