House Republicans are fired up to prevent President Barack Obama from raising tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, even if that means dashing their Christmas holiday plans and working through New Year's Eve. • That commitment was particularly apparent at a lunch-time gathering of conservatives Wednesday.
"A bad deal is worse than no deal at all," said Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo. "I would rather see us go into next year if the president and the speaker cannot come to a deal."
The House GOP's resistance to compromise comes as influential Republicans elsewhere, including some in the Senate, have indicated now may be the time to fold the cards on taxes.
The split within the GOP has dogged House Speaker John Boehner since becoming the GOP leader almost two years ago. But the outbursts from his right flank also provide the Ohio Republican with the political cover he needs to angle for the best deal.
"The president and I had a pretty frank conversation about just how far apart we are," Boehner said Wednesday, after a private meeting with the House GOP caucus. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia was at his side, a show of unity from a high-ranking conservative.
Republicans, including Boehner and his top lieutenants, want far more in spending cuts than the president has been willing to consider in exchange for any new tax revenue.
Failure to strike a compromise would result in a $2,200 tax hike on the average family in the new year if the current income tax rates expire, as they are scheduled to do.
"We're going to stay here right up until Christmas Eve, throughout the time and period before the new year, because we want to make sure that we resolve this in an acceptable way for the American people," Cantor said.
Democrats have delighted in highlighting the challenges Boehner faces in assembling a majority, even as their own party faces similar divisions over several of Obama's key budget proposals.
Still, with the prospect that the nation could veer off the "fiscal cliff," which could seriously jar the economy, even some at the lunch hinted at a compromise.
"What we're saying is that it's ridiculous for Republicans to be accepting any increased rates if there's no real cuts," said freshman Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. With "real cuts in spending," he said, "all of us would have to reconsider our positions."