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Why House Republicans might vote against Obama tax deal

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the GOP-Obama tax deal Wednesday. But in the House, both parties are balking, which means conservative 'blue dog' Democrats could be crucial.

By Staff writer / December 15, 2010

Sen. John Cornyn (R) of Texas (l.) discusses the $858 billion tax-cut bill with Sen. John Thune (R) of South Dakota during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Hyungwon Kang/Reuters

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Washington

After a rare deal between the Obama White House and Republican leaders, the Senate on Wednesday voted 81 to 19 to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, including to the highest tax brackets, and fund measures to boost the economy and unemployed workers.

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The size of that bipartisan vote – also rare in the typically gridlocked Senate – gives the tax deal a significant boost as it moves to the House, as early as Thursday. But elements of the package have sparked grass-roots revolts on both sides of the aisle, leaving the outcome on the House side still in flux.

The uproar on the Democratic side of the aisle flared up immediately. The House Democratic caucus voted to reject the deal on Dec. 9 during a closed meeting that many described as angry and intense. But a two-hour meeting Tuesday night ended with no plan of action, signaling that many lawmakers may now see the outcome as inevitable.

Opposition to the deal appears to be growing on the Republican side, as conservative critics blast the impact of the $858 billion deal on the federal deficit and the credibility of GOP campaign promises to curb spending in Washington.

“This is a huge lame-duck deal,” says Rep. Steve King (R) of Iowa, who says that Republicans should block the tax deal and bring the issue up again in January. “The voice of the American people was heard on Nov. 2. They voted for no new taxes, debt, or deficit, and their voices should be heard,” he adds. “This deal disenfranchises 87 freshman Republicans, and their voice ought to be heard.”

Conservative support wanes

Moreover, support among conservatives outside of Washington is also waning. A new poll, released Wednesday, signals that public support for the deal among Republicans has dropped from 70 percent last week to 61 percent this week, according to Rasmussen Reports. Democrats still back the plan by a 46 to 35 percent margin, little changed from a week ago.

“A 9 percent drop in a week is pretty significant,” says president and CEO Scott Rasmussen. He says the shift reflects the fact that “the deal has been talked about more and more.”

Conservative critics, notably Charles Krauthammer, say that Republicans gave up too much to the president by backing new social spending without demanding offsets. “Republicans are far more concerned about restraining spending than they are about cutting deficits,” Mr. Rasmussen adds.

House Republican leaders are not asking their caucus to unite on this issue, as they have on other key votes of the 111th Congress. GOP leadership aides say they do not expect all their members to support the bipartisan deal.

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