House GOP remains in the dark on 'fiscal cliff'

House Republicans remained mostly in the dark about a possible tax deal in the Senate to prevent the "fiscal cliff," as party leaders offered no new details during a closed-door meeting Monday evening, lawmakers said.

ADVERTISEMENT
“Absolutely none,” Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), said as she emerged from the Capitol meeting, which lasted about a half hour. “It was like a Seinfeld episode. It was a meeting about nothing.”

Republican leaders instructed rank-and-file members to stay close to the Capitol and in “a good state of mind” as they celebrate New Year’s, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) said.

Leaders also briefly updated members on legislation to extend farm programs and provide relief to states damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The House is unlikely to vote on any fiscal cliff package that may emerge from the Senate on Monday night, but leaders are telling lawmakers to stay on call just in case and are not ruling out the possibility.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would not comment on the fiscal cliff state of play as he left the meeting. Boehner has ceded the spotlight to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after he failed to win support for his own “Plan B” measure before Christmas.

The House was voting on unrelated measures Monday evening. It is set to return Tuesday at noon, members said.

The agreement between McConnell and Vice President Biden would extend Bush-era income tax rates on individual income up to $400,000 and on family income up to $450,000, according to a senior GOP aide. It will adjust the estate tax rate to 40 percent, up from 35 percent, but maintain the exemption for all inheritances below $5 million, the aide said.

It would not include new spending cuts, although it remained unclear whether automatic cuts from sequestration would be kept or delayed. 

Based on what they had heard, some House Republicans were not enthused.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that the deal as being described is not something he would support.

"There are a lot of problems with that," he said, adding he will withhold final judgment until he sees the full deal.

LaTourette said he might vote for it but he found it "disgusting" that President Obama would not stand up to Democrats and demand spending cuts in the package. 

- Erik Wasson and Alexander Bolton contributed