Senior Dems say 'cliff' bill likely to pass House with their support

A pair of senior Democrats on Tuesday predicted the House would pass the Senate’s "fiscal cliff" legislation on the strength of Democratic support, despite concerns among some that the bill falls short of fixing the nation’s fiscal problems.

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“There are a lot of good things in this bill that make sense and that, I think, it will ultimately earn the overwhelming majority of House Democratic votes," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC.

“Predicting what the House Republicans will do, particularly with some of their more extreme Tea Party members, is a challenge that I won’t take on. But I can tell you that House Democrats are ready to make sure that we avoid those tax increases on the middle class, that we ensure the wealthiest American pay a bit more.”

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a chief deputy minority whip, said he remained personally unsure whether he would support the compromise bill, which the Senate passed early Tuesday in an 89-8 vote. 

But House lawmakers could decide it’s better to accept a flawed bill on taxes and spending than see the nation go over the cliff, he said.  

“I think it will pass. That’s my guess, because I think there will probably be enough Democrat support for it,” Welch said on MSNBC. 

“It’s just a question of, pick your poison. Do you want to avoid the cliff? There’s some benefit in doing that,” Welch added. “Do you want to do something that has some bipartisan support? There is some benefit in that. But as a fiscal package going forward to stabilize this country, it falls well short.”

The Senate bill extends the Bush-era income tax rates on family incomes up to $450,000 and postpones sequester cuts on domestic and military spending for two months.

The House will reconvene at noon on Tuesday, but it was unclear late Monday whether the GOP leadership would take up the Senate bill as it stands or move to amend it. 

“You know, a lot of the Republicans who are going to consider this vote in the House, they are going to vote against this because the districts they ran in, and won in, they promised to lower taxes, not raise taxes,” Welch said. 

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a conservative, told CNN on Tuesday he would vote no on the legislation. 

“This deal will increase spending and it does nothing for our fundamental overspending problem,” Huelskamp said. 

“I don’t know if it is going to pass the House.”

The deal was negotiated between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Biden after several other efforts to strike a compromise failed. 

Welch said the last-minute brinkmanship that produced the legislation illustrated the depth of dysfunction in Congress.

Voters are “really fed up with our inability to get things done,” he said. 

“Obviously the better approach would have been what the president wanted, and what frankly what Speaker [John] Boehner indicated he wanted, which was a grand bargain,” Welch added. “The reality of this town and this dysfunctional Congress at the moment is that seems to elude us.”

Welch said he was “in the process of deciding” whether he would vote for the legislation. 

“I really want to fully evaluate it. Really, if I vote for it, it’s not because I am excited about it. It's not because I have any illusion it is the grand bargain that the president seeks.”


—This report was originally published at 9:28 a.m. and last updated at 11:30 a.m.