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House GOP Leaders Not Preparing Ground Ahead of Fiscal Cliff Deal House GOP Leaders Not Preparing Ground Ahead of Fiscal Cliff Deal

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House GOP Leaders Not Preparing Ground Ahead of Fiscal Cliff Deal

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, as House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and House Speaker John Boehner listen. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)  (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

photo of Chris Frates
December 11, 2012

It's no secret in Washington that Democrats and Republicans are starting to come to grips with the "contours of a deal" that avoids the fiscal cliff. But despite an emerging consensus, House Republican leaders have not yet begun taking the temperature of their rank and file or gaming out the vote.

GOP leadership aides say that neither Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor nor Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy have begun to run scenarios or take a preliminary accounting of where the votes might lay for a deal.

"We're not sowing ground to get the votes on a deal. We're using our time to raise public awareness and pressure the White House on the importance of spending cuts and protecting small business from tax rate increases," said Erica Elliott, a spokeswoman for McCarthy, whose job is to count votes.

Of course, the public lack of preparedness could be a negotiating tactic. But it could also signal just how far apart congressional Republicans and the White House are on a deal.

Indeed, Boehner took to the House floor Tuesday to call on President Obama to propose specific spending cuts, a tactic designed to cool the mounting speculation that a deal is in sight.

"Part of the point the statement the speaker just made was to remind the president that time is not really on our side here," a GOP leadership aide said. "This isn't something we can do at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31."

Later Tuesday afternoon, Boehner sent another offer to Obama, but his office did not disclose the details.

Republicans point out that they can only do so much before there's a deal to pitch to their members. And, after two years of votes, GOP leaders generally know where their members are on tax and spending issues.

"You can't whip silence," one senior GOP aide said. "You got to have something to talk about. You can't whip a hypothetical."

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