House Republicans have decided to vote Tuesday night on Senate-passed legislation to avert the fiscal cliff — without any amendments.
The news that the Rules Committee will move the bill to the House floor in the evening comes after drama-filled day that nearly scuttled the bipartisan deal that passed the Senate by a 89-9 vote in the first few hours of 2013.
Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL) predicted that the fewer than half of all House Republicans would vote for the bill without an amendment to add spending cuts. He said Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated he would vote for it but said the speaker isn’t pushing GOP members to do so, saying they should vote their consciences.
Boehner probably won’t need half of his members because House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the legislation would garner strong Democratic support. The move still represents a landmark for the speaker, who has habitually refused to bring up legislation that lacks the support of at least half of his members. But by breaking his rule this time, Boehner insulates himself from the blame for the fiscal cliff.
The bill, if it becomes law, would avert most tax hikes on middle class earners and postpone automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs by two months.
During an early afternoon conference meeting, House Republicans tore into the bill, expressing concern with the absence of spending cuts. Chaos ensued, with rumors flying that the deal was dead and Democratic leaders demanding a floor vote. Later, at a second conference meeting early evening, Boehner gave his members an option: either we come up with 218 votes to tack on an amendment to the Senate legislation or it gets a vote as is Tuesday night.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.