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Rules Panel Prepares for Possible Meeting on Last-Ditch Cliff Measure

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Dreier, the Rules Committee chairman, said he and other party leaders are taking steps in advance in case an agreement can be worked out to extend the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and avert the automatic spending cuts under the 2011 debt deal.

A Boehner aide said the speaker had made clear in the White House meeting Friday between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders that a legislative package that won Senate passage would get House consideration, with action to accept or amend the measure. Still in question is whether House members would have time to bring amendments to the floor, opening the door to changes that could scuttle an agreement with provisions unpalatable to Democrats.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Boehner had been clear at the White House about the need for Senate-initiated legislation and that “he’s not going to bring up anything unless something comes over from there.” She said the session was “constructive” but stopped well short of saying whether Democrats would agree to provide support for the legislation or any rule developed to structure floor debate.

If there are snags in negotiations or other delays, Dreier said, a floor vote would be possible as late as the final hours of the current Congress. “It’s conceivable that we could meet on the morning of Jan 3. I hope not. But it’s conceivable,” he said.

The 113th Congress would start officially at noon on Jan. 3.

Dreier said he believed the key to winning support from House Republicans would be language dealing with spending cuts. “There’s got to be a focus on spending reduction. That’s the big key. There’s all this talk about taxes, concern about the sequester, unemployment benefits, all important things,” Dreier said. “But we’ve got to have some kind of commitment to spending reductions.”

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