A high-stakes, multi-layered game of chicken is underway in the Capitol, as House Republicans grapple with how to handle a fiscal cliff bill sent their way by an overwhelming bipartisan vote, even while it's wildly unpopular within their conference.
A vote that had been scheduled on the bill immediately to follow a
conference-wide meeting was postponed indefinitely, reflecting the
uncertainty surrounding the process. Republicans emerging from the
meeting said that the most likely scenario is that the House will amend
the bill to add spending cuts, then send it back to the Senate.
"I'll be shocked if this isn't sent back to the Senate,” said Rep.
Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), leaving the meeting. "I don't think that's out
of the realm of possibility," said a senior House GOP aide, confirmed by
other high-level aides.
They'll have no difficulty making life uncomfortable for Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who they blame for getting them
in this mess, said one GOP source close to the situation. "He jammed
the House. He's gonna get re-jammed," he said of the possibility the
House amends the bill and sends it back to the Senate.
But if House Republicans think they can put the onus back on the
Senate by amending the bill, they are wildly mistaken, a Democratic
Senate aide involved in the talks said. "They are full of hot air. Not a
chance we come back," he said.
Following the GOP meeting, Democratic and Republican leaders
conferenced by phone to swap notes, trying to determine who has what
votes. Democrats think they can get 140-150 members of their caucus, but
are not sure that the GOP side can get enough votes to pass the Senate
deal. Neither are the Republican leaders. Democrats don't want to be
blamed for going over the cliff, but GOP Tea Partiers may see it as an
act of courage to do so. POST