Pelosi, Dems urge Boehner to hold up-or-down vote on Senate 'cliff' bill

House Democratic leaders are urging Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring an up-or-down vote Tuesday on Senate-passed legislation to prevent a slew of scheduled tax hikes and spending cuts from taking effect this month.

ADVERTISEMENT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her deputies noted that Boehner had vowed to act on whatever budget package was sent over from the Senate. With the upper chamber having passed a bipartisan agreement by an overwhelming 89-8 vote early Tuesday morning, Democrats are now calling on Boehner to make good on that promise.

"Up until now, our Speaker has said when the Senate acts, we will have a vote in the House. That is what he said. That is what we expect," Pelosi said following a Democratic caucus meeting in which Vice President Biden briefed lawmakers on the deal he'd finalized with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) just a day earlier. 

"We're all very eager to see the form that the Republican leadership will put onto the floor today," she added. "The issue of whether we have an up-or-down vote shouldn't even be a question. We were told we would not have any legislation on the floor until, or unless, the Senate acted — and when they did, we would have a vote. And so we want to have that vote." 

The push comes as House Republicans, notably Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), are threatening to oppose the bill over what they say is a lack of spending cuts. Some say they want to try to amend the bill with more cuts and send it back to the Senate. 

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said the talks are in flux. 

“The Speaker and leader laid out options to the members and listened to feedback," Buck said in an email. "The lack of spending cuts in the Senate bill was a universal concern amongst members in today’s meeting. Conversations with members will continue throughout the afternoon on the path forward.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said few if any House Republicans would vote for the Senate-passed bill.

Pressed on whether GOP leaders will consider Pelosi's request for an up-or-down vote, Issa said, "I don't believe Pelosi has the right to ask for that vote."

He said Republicans have run a far more open House than when Pelosi was Speaker, claiming the chamber was run like a "dictatorship" between 2007 and 2010.

Democratic leaders, including Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), said they did not know how many votes they could deliver if the bill were brought to the floor. 

But the tone from the rank-and-file Democrats emerging from the caucus meeting seemed to indicate that a vast majority of them would support the bill.

"The difference between a divided government and dysfunctional government is the willingness to compromise," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee. "Not everybody gets 100 percent of what they want."

Several Democrats said they were heartened that Biden's pitch to the caucus included a strategic path forward when the sequester provisions of the Senate package expire in March, forcing negotiators back to the table.

"The thing that I was most impressed with is, he did not concentrate just on where we are, but where we're going," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said. "He's looking towards two months from now."

Dissenters, including Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), said they'd oppose the Biden-McConnell deal. But they also conceded that they are in the minority in their caucus.

"This was our maximum point of leverage and we conceded way too much," DeFazio said Tuesday. "I'm voting against it."

Lawmakers are trying to secure a deal before the markets, which are closed Tuesday for the New Year's holiday, reopen Wednesday morning.

"This is all about time," Pelosi said. "It's long overdue for us to have this solution."

— This report was originally published at 4 p.m. and last updated at 4:29 p.m.