House Republicans faced blistering criticism from all sides Tuesday as they once again threatened to scuttle a bipartisan package blessed by the White House and Senate Republicans — but they remained undaunted, and many even said they relished the fight even as the deal ultimately headed toward passage.
“I know the president won his election, but I also won my election,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Republican.
Hours earlier, the Senate overwhelmingly backed an agreement to let taxes rise on the wealthiest, and to extend many of President Obama’s key stimulus spending programs. And House Democrats said they, too, were ready to follow suit and approve the deal.
But House Republicans balked, leaving the deal — and the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts, expanded unemployment benefits, and Medicare doctors’ payments — in flux.
Rep. Mike Conaway, Texas Republican, feigned disbelief when asked whether he was worried that amending the package might unwind a bill crafted and passed in agonizing fashion.
“Am I, as a House Republican, worried about a deal struck by the President and the Senate?” Mr. Conaway asked. “No.”
It’s the latest in a long line of roadblocks that House Republicans have put in the way of Mr. Obama’s agenda since they took control of the chamber two years ago.
Republicans have become the chief targets for Mr. Obama and fellow Democrats, who have compared them to an unruly mob unwilling to compromise.
Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter, New York Democrat, lambasted the Republican majority from the House floor Tuesday evening, calling the process an “utter disgrace” and saying it illustrated “a need for the majority to come back to the bargaining table in good faith.”
But House Republicans declared that they weren’t going to cave to Democrats’ demands, nor were they going to accept a bill just because it was blessed by Senate Republicans.
Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican, said Mr. Obama campaigned and won re-election on a platform of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but that spending cuts were supposed to be part of that package.
“The president will take to the cameras, and he’ll say that we’re going to stand in the way of progress for the nation and all that,” he said. “So every time we use a leverage point, the president uses that against us, as he did the other day — puts his supporters behind him, applauding him on everything he says, and so obviously, he’s able to push his will. The problem is, we’re going [in] the wrong direction. I think everyone in this country knows that we can’t continue spending irresponsibly as we have.”
House Republicans were particularly angry that they are being caught in a year-end jam. They say they passed bills months ago to avert the fiscal cliff — the combination of tax increases and spending “sequesters” due this week — and said it’s the Senate that’s been dragging its feet.
But in mid-December House Republicans seemed to blunder when their leader, Speaker John A. Boehner, tried to power through his Plan B, a combination of some small tax increases and a full replacement of the sequesters. A conservative rebellion forced Mr. Boehner to shelve the plan and punt over to the Senate, which acted early Tuesday morning, with little more than two full days to go before the current Congress dissolves.
“What the Senate amended has been sitting over there for months,” Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican, said of the bill the Senate sent over at 2 a.m. Tuesday. “And so the fact that they decided to finally get off their keisters and send us something, and now we have 45 hours to act — I don’t think that reflects badly on the House.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the overwhelming 89-8 Senate vote should have persuaded the House GOP it was fighting a bad fight.
“Tell me when you’ve had that on a measure as controversial as this,” she said.