House Republicans' 'fiscal cliff' gripe: When will we ever get spending cuts? (+video)
What riles House Republicans isn't the taxes on the rich in the Senate's 'fiscal cliff' bill, it's the absence of significant spending cuts. But changes at this late date could scuttle the bill.
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What it does not do is make significant spending cuts – a key campaign promise for most House Republicans, especially those in the freshman “tea party” class. It delays the first installment of the sequester – the $110 billion set to kick in this year – for two months.Skip to next paragraph
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“I’m not willing to sacrifice the right answer for the politically expedient answer, not yesterday and not today,” says freshman Rep. Rob Woodall (R) of Georgia, who is calling for deeper spending cuts.
On Dec. 21, Speaker Boehner was forced to abandon his own “Plan B” to resolve the fiscal cliff, which proposed extending tax breaks on income below $1 million. At least 50 members of the GOP caucus opposed that move, some say considerably more. “We weren’t within two or three,” quips Rep. Tom Cole (R) of Oklahoma, the deputy whip.
But his approach to the caucus now is on a different basis, say Republicans exiting the closed caucus meetings Tuesday. Boehner is telling Republicans that this is not his plan, it is the Senate’s bill, and it’s up to House Republicans to work together to find the best way forward.
“The question is: Do we fight it now or do we wait for the debt limit?” says Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) of Alabama, noting that the debt limit must be raised again early in 2013. “I think we need at least to make a statement [on spending cuts], but we need 218 votes and are concerned about the [stock] market.”
Democrats, too, are worried about aspects of the Senate bill, especially extending tax breaks for income up to $450,000 and sheltering estates worth $5 million from the estate tax. On tax breaks, most Democrats favored a cutoff at $250,000. On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden met behind closed doors with House Democrats to beef up support.
“The United States Senate voted in an uncharacteristically, very strong, bipartisan way – 89 votes in favor of compromise legislation,” she said. “That was historic. That legislation was sent over to the House, up until our speaker has said: 'When the Senate acts, we will have a vote in the House.' That is what he said. That is what we expect.”