Jan 2 2013
Lower-house Republicans have abandoned demands to change Senate-backed emergency legislation to prevent widespread tax rises and painful spending cuts, clearing the way for a final, climactic vote before US financial markets reopen.
The late-night decision capped a day of intense political calculations for conservatives who control the House of Representatives.
They had to weigh their desire to cut spending against the fear that the Senate would refuse to consider any changes they made in the "fiscal cliff" bill, sending it into limbo and saddling Republicans with the blame for a whopping middle-class tax increase.
Adding to the Republican discomfort, one Senate Democratic leadership aide said majority Leader Harry Reid would "absolutely not take up the Bill" if the House changed it.
The legislation cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate on an 89-8 vote on Tuesday, hours after veteran negotiators Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell sealed a deal.
The number two House Republican, Eric Cantor, had emerged from a party meeting on Tuesday night to say: "I do not support the Bill." Politicians indicated they wanted more spending cuts in the largely tax-focused legislation and wanted to send it back to the Senate.
After intensive deliberations - a pair of rank-and-file meetings sandwiched around a leadership session - the Republican high command in the House canvassed Republican House members to see if they wanted simply to vote on the Senate measure, or whether they wanted first to try to add spending cuts totalling about 300 billion dollars over a decade.
The cuts had passed the House twice earlier in the year but are opposed by most, if not all, Senate Democrats. "We've gone as far as we can go," said Republican Rep Jack Kingston of Georgia. "I think people are ready to bring this to a conclusion and know we have a whole year ahead of us" for additional fights over spending.
House Democrats met Mr Biden privately for their review of the measure and the party's leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, said afterwards that House speaker John Boehner should permit a vote. "That is what we expect. That is what the American people deserve," she said.
If the Senate Bill is not passed by the House it would mean that any fiscal deal would have to start all over when a new Congress, with dozens of new members, is seated on Thursday. And any change in the legislation would require the Senate to re-pass the measure before it could go to President Barack Obama for his signature. House approval of the existing Bill would move it straight to the President.