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Cantor opposes Senate deal

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va. leaves a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

After a two-hour meeting in which House Republicans debated the "fiscal cliff" deal passed by the Senate, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) emerged and told reporters that he opposes the Senate's deal, likely killing chances for a fast House passage of the bill without changes.

Members said no decisions have been made about how to proceed. They were told leaders would discuss the input of rank-and-file members and gather the group again later Tuesday to discuss a plan to move forward.

They said Cantor and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) mostly listened to members, who expressed grave doubts about the deal because it would raise taxes without cutting spending.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Cantor "forcefully" expressed his opposition during the closed door meeting. Boehner did not take a position, indicating he was not happy but wanted to listen to the views of the conference.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said he believed a "consensus" was developing that the GOP should amend the Senate's plan to attach additional spending cuts. "I would be shocked if the bill did not go back to the Senate," he said.

That move would ensure no resolution to the "fiscal cliff" crisis by the time financial markets open Wednesday. Members said some in the room cautioned colleagues they must accept the deal or risk damaging the economy and their own reputations. But, Bachus said, a prevailing view among others was that Congress must get a handle on government spending or "doom the markets."

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner, said "the Speaker and Leader laid out options to the members and listened to feedback. 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.”

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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