U.S. House Republicans emerged from a lengthy caucus meeting this afternoon declaring their opposition to the “fiscal cliff” deal that hastily passed the Senate overnight with an 89-8 vote. After hearing a festivus-style airing of grievances against the deal — struck by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — House leaders are still trying to figure out what to do with it. Many Republicans want to amend it to include more spending cuts.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said: “The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting. Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward.”
Lawrenceville Republican Rep. Rob Woodall was walking the halls clutching a report from the Congressional Budget Office that illustrated members’ concerns. According to the nonpartisan CBO, the deal would add $3.97 trillion to budget deficits in the next decade as compared with current law. Current law, of course, includes big tax hikes and spending cuts that lawmakers say they do not want. And the vast majority of that deficit impact ($3.63 trillion) comes in the form of tax cuts that Republicans generally like.
But Republicans want cuts from other programs to offset the impact of the spending provisions, which include extending long-term unemployment, maintaining Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors and putting off the across-the-board “sequester” cuts for two months.
Coweta County Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland said he was surprised at how overwhelming the Senate vote was and that he could not support the bill unless it’s changed.
“That was kind of a shock to us that they didn’t stand for some spending cuts, so we’re dealing with that right now,” he said.
Woodall added, “I don’t think there’s anyone in the seventh district of Georgia who wants me to trade away good policy for America in the name of expediency because the Senate has run us up against this deadline.”
House Democrats did not share those misgivings, for the most part, after being wooed by Biden. Atlanta Democratic Rep. David Scott — who like the vice president also spent his childhood in Scranton, Pa. — said Biden “has his own way of presenting things and did a great job.” Scott said he was backing the deal.
“We’ve got the kind of deal that Americans can be proud of because there is a very, very serious hunger among the American people to see Democrats and Republicans come together on something,” he said. “And we’ve got something here.”
For House Republicans looking to tweak the bill and send it back, the Senate is in session but not all senators are in town. Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson slept from 2:45 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., then caught a flight back to Atlanta. Calling from his Cobb County home, where he was preparing to watch the Georgia Bulldogs in the Capital One Bowl, Isakson said it was not hard for him to support the deal, which both he and Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted for.
“The net effect of that vote was a $3.7 trillion reduction in taxes for 99 percent of American taxpayers,” Isakson said.
“There was a lot in it for everybody but the main thing that’s been missed by most of the media … these are all permanent changes. Congress would have to pass an act to change the taxes put in place.”
He had not spoken to his House GOP colleagues, but predicted that they would like it, too.
“They’ll have a lot more time to absorb the final deal than we did and I think as they absorb it they will recognize the value,” Isakson said.
That prediction has not come true so far.
- By Daniel Malloy, Political Insider