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House Democrats Reject Bringing Tax Deal to Floor

Updated: 1:22 p.m.

The House Democratic Caucus voted Thursday morning against bringing up the tax cut deal negotiated earlier this week by President Barack Obama unless changes are made.

“The House will not take it up in its current form,” said Rep Peter DeFazio, who made the motion for the Caucus vote. The voice vote was virtually unanimous, according to DeFazio.

“We have tremendous concerns about what was given away by the White House” to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Oregon Democrat added.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a press release shortly afterward, saying leaders will try to improve the package that includes a two-year extension of Bush-era tax cuts and a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits.

“We will continue discussions with the president and our Democratic and Republican colleagues in the days ahead to improve the proposal before it comes to the House floor for a vote,” she said.

“Democratic priorities remain clear: to provide a tax cut for working families, to create jobs and economic growth, to assist millions of our fellow Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and to do this in a fiscally sound way.”

Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) also told reporters of several changes the House wants, including a less generous estate tax exemption and tax breaks for green jobs.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who wrote the resolution, said he believes Pelosi will not defy Members’ will and bring a bill to the floor without fixes.

“I don’t think there is any doubt she will follow the Caucus,” the Texas Democrat said.

Earlier Thursday, Obama called the tax deal an “essential priority” and said its passage will determine whether the economy “moves forward or backward.” If the package fails to advance by the end of the year, “Americans would see it in smaller paychecks that would have the effect of fewer jobs,” Obama said during remarks at the White House. 

A White House spokeswoman suggested the House Democratic revolt is all part of the negotiation process.

“The House and Senate are working through the normal process of bringing a bill forward, and we are confident that the major components of the tax framework that we fought for will remain in the final package brought to the floor and ultimately passed by Congress,” the spokeswoman said.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said he was “proud” to vote against the deal, calling it a “hastily produced package.”

“The House was not consulted during the negotiations that produced this package, and our support cannot be taken for granted now or in the future,” the Arizona Democrat said in a statement. “A vision of America that prioritizes the pocketbooks of the wealthiest two percent at the expense of the other 98 percent is not a vision the voters support, and I believe Democrats need to stand against it at all costs.”

A smattering of House Democrats have backed the package in recent days, and one, Rep. Shelley Berkley urged support for it in the Caucus and urged support for the president.

“I think we have to start talking practically,” the Nevadan said, noting that a big tax hike is imminent and will hit everyone unless a deal goes through. The Bush tax rates will go up on Jan. 1 if they aren’t extended.

She dismissed the resolution as a means for people to vent their frustration, but in the end the Senate is likely going to pass the bill and not allow any amendments. “It means nothing,” she said.

Reid said the Senate could take up the package as early as Thursday but said he’s still talking to Members who feel it’s moving too quickly. “We’ll see what we can do to make sure that people feel they’ve had an opportunity to look at this legislation, to make a considered decision on what should be done with their vote on this very, very important piece of legislation,” Reid said during remarks on the floor.

In terms of future votes, he added, “We’re in a normal situation here in the Senate: a state of flux.”

The White House announced the deal Monday night after negotiating for days with Senate Republicans. 

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

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