At a second conference meeting Tuesday afternoon House GOP leaders attempted to talk their members off a ledge by offering them a stark choice: First, the House could amend the Senate's fiscal cliff bill, tack on more than $300 billion domestic spending cuts, and toss it back into Harry Reid's lap. That would be on the condition that 218 Republicans committed to voting for the amended bill.
Beneath that level of support, leaders said, they'd put the Senate bill on the floor for a clean up or down vote and let fate dictate the outcome. But, before asking members to commit in either direction, leaders warned the conference that amending and passing the Senate bill would be tantamount to killing it. The subtext was clear -- House Republicans would take the blame for the ensuing economic fallout.
The appeal seems to have worked.
After the meeting, members across the conference spectrum, including ones who will surely vote against the final bill, predicted to reporters that Republicans would reject a kill-the-bill approach. From there, members headed upstairs to the House floor for a series of unrelated votes, during which GOP leaders surveyed their members to gauge support for the death-by-amendment route.
Leaders are currently assessing that survey, and we'll report their findings.
If the amendment option dies, it likely sets up a clean vote on the Senate bill late Tuesday or Wednesday that could pass -- if it passes -- with a minority of Republicans voting yes.