House GOP leaders push Senate to act

House Republican leaders promised Wednesday that the lower chamber would consider any measures to avoid the "fiscal cliff," but first the Senate must pass something for their consideration.

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In a joint statement, top House Republicans struck a productive tone, vowing to contemplate whatever legislation the Senate approves, if the upper chamber is unwilling to take up prior measures passed by the House.

"If the Senate will not approve and send [House-passed bills] to the president to be signed into law in their current form, they must be amended and returned to the House. Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments," the statement read. "The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act."

The statement was issued by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.).

Their move to increase pressure on the Senate comes as talks to avoid the fiscal cliff of looming tax increases and spending cuts are stalled after President Obama and lawmakers left Washington D.C. for the holidays. And it follows a Gallup poll that showed a strong increase in approval for Democrats in how they have handled the negotiations; Boehner's approval rating only rose 1 percent.

The Republican leaders pointed to a pair of bills passed by the House earlier this year, which would extend all the Bush-era tax rates across income levels as well as replace immediate defense cuts with cuts elsewhere, as options for the Senate to consider. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Senate Democrats have already ruled out this approach.

The focus for coming up with some sort of fiscal-cliff compromise shifted to the Senate after Boehner failed to garner enough Republican support to advance his own alternative tax measure, dubbed "Plan B." That measure, which was also paired with legislation that would replace automatic defense cuts, would have extended lower tax cuts for all incomes under $1 million.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have argued that they too have passed legislation on the fiscal cliff, pointing to a Senate-passed bill that would have extended tax rates for incomes below $250,000.

With the standoff ongoing and days dwindling to address the fiscal cliff, House GOP leaders said they would continue to work on the issue, even as House lawmakers have yet to be summoned back to Washington. Members are to be given 48 hours notice, meaning a vote, if it occurs, wouldn't happen before the weekend. Senators are scheduled to be back on Thursday as is Obama.

"The lines of communication remain open, and we will continue to work with our colleagues to avert the largest tax hike in American history, and to address the underlying problem, which is spending," the statement read.