* Some House conservatives leaning 'yes'
* Democrats stung by failure to extend jobless benefits
* vote could come Thursday
By David Lawder and Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Dec 11 Republicans in the U.S. House
of Representatives on Wednesday were falling in line behind a
bipartisan two-year budget deal, indicating that the normally
rambunctious group of lawmakers is not spoiling for a year-end
Despite conservative groups' denunciation of the plan and
public opposition from some members associated with the
conservative Tea Party movement, the Republican-controlled House
was planning to vote on Thursday to pass the deal,
Representative Kevin McCarthy, the third-ranking Republican told
A key House panel, on a 9-3 vote, cleared the legislation
for debate and votes in the full House. The
Republican-controlled Rules Committee refused to allow Democrats
to offer an amendment to extend federal unemployment benefits
that expire later this month.
The agreement, if approved, would be the first to bridge the
bitter partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats in
Washington that has paralyzed Congress since 2010. It is aimed
primarily at breaking a cycle of fiscal crises in Washington
following last October's chaotic 16-day closure of many federal
While it includes modest deficit reduction measures - $85
billion in savings over ten years and an easing of
across-the-board budget cuts known as the "sequester" - it
effectively concedes that larger scale savings of the sort
envisioned in various "grand bargain" proposals are out-of-reach
For some Republicans, it could have the added merit of
keeping the public's attention focused on President Barack
Obama's healthcare law and its rocky rollout instead of on
another budget battle in the midst of holiday season.
Republicans were hammered in public opinion polls for their
role in the October shutdown, but this faded quickly as the
media later shifted its focus to the Obamacare troubles.
The party's divisions, enflamed during the shutdown, were
still on display Thursday.
Organizations influential with House conservatives - such as
the Heritage Foundation, the Club for Growth and Americans for
Prosperity - continued denouncing the agreement.
In response, House Speaker John Boehner publicly lashed out
at some of the groups for opposing the deal even before it was
"They're using our members, and they're using the American
people, for their own goals," said Boehner. "This is ridiculous.
Listen, if you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this
agreement," Boehner said.
Club for Growth President Chris Chocola responded after
Boehner's comments: "This proposal swaps debt reduction today
and next year for the dubious promise of debt reduction a decade
In past budget battles, many conservative House Republicans
refused to back legislation negotiated by Boehner or his
Many say they will buck the leadership again this time. But
others were starting to fall in behind their leaders.
Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a Tea Party
favorite, told reporters he expects more than two dozen of his
fellow conservatives to vote against the deal, which would not
be enough to sink it if some Democrats vote for it.
"It's more spending," Huelskamp complained.
"I'm leaning yes," said Representative Tim Griffin, a
conservative Republican from Arkansas, who said it would avoid
future government shutdowns and "locks in some certainty, which
I think the economy needs and the American people need."
The deal is splitting possible Republican presidential
contenders as well. It was negotiated in part by House Budget
Committee Paul Ryan, the party's vice-presidential nominee in
2012 and a likely candidate again in 2016.
Others likely to compete with Ryan for the Republican
nomination remain opposed, including Senators Marco Rubio of
Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Despite the generally positive reception for the deal from
Republican leaders and most Democrats, the two parties are
unaccustomed to cooperating and the agreement inevitably will
remain fragile until it is done.
A complication arose on Wednesday, for example, as House
Republican leaders added a provision to the deal that would
temporarily forestall a reduction in payments to doctors by the
Medicare health program for the elderly.
This so-called "doc fix" is a perennial temporary adjustment
made in Congress to get around Medicare cost controls written
This angered Democrats, who have so far been thwarted in
their demands to add an extension of federal jobless benefits
due to expire at year's end.
"I think it puts at risk the whole bill and it surely puts
at risk my vote," said Democratic Representative Sandy Levin,
who is pushing for help for the 1.3 million long-term
With people set to lose those benefits while the jobless
rate remains at 7 percent, the Obama administration said the
economy could take a hit as long-term unemployed people have
less money to spend.
"It's absolutely unconscionable that we are - could possibly
even consider leaving Washington, D.C., without extending those
benefits," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters.
Passage of the agreement in the House before the chamber
recesses on Friday for the year would all but guarantee the same
in the Senate, probably next week.