WASHINGTON (AP) - Even as House GOP leaders shopped a Senate-approved "fiscal cliff" compromise to rank-and-file colleagues on New Year's Day, they heard concerns that the accord lacked sufficient spending cuts.
U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, the no. 2 House Republican, says he opposes the Senate bill.
Cantor said House leaders were looking for "the best path forward" and that no decisions had been made.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden tried rallying House Democrats behind the deal in a separate meeting.
The two closed-door gatherings of House lawmakers came just hours after the Senate used an overnight vote to easily approve the bipartisan compromise, which would negate across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, met with other GOP lawmakers to gauge support for the accord. An aide said Republican leaders would not decide their course until a second meeting later in the day, suggesting that it might take time for Boehner and others to chart a course and to hold a vote.
Boehner has pointedly refrained from endorsing the agreement, though he's promised a vote on it or on a GOP alternative right away.
Exiting the House GOP meeting, Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said he was among lawmakers who wanted the deal to include more spending cuts.
"I'd be shocked if this does not go back to the Senate" with changes by the House, Bachus said.
In a New Year's drama that climaxed in the middle of the night, the Senate endorsed the legislation by 89-8 early Tuesday. That vote came shortly after Biden pushed Democratic senators to back the agreement that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had brokered hours earlier.
The measure would prevent middle-class taxes from going up but would raise rates on higher incomes. It would also block spending cuts for two months, extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, prevent a 27 percent cut in fees for doctors who treat Medicare patients and prevent a spike in milk prices.
The bill ensures that lawmakers will have to revisit difficult budget questions in just a few weeks, as relief from painful spending cuts expires and the government requires an increase in its borrowing cap.
As the House staged a rare New Year's Day session, it was clear that there were divisions among lawmakers from both parties.
Rep. James Moran, D-Va., called it "a bad deal for America." Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., said approving it would "show the American people that this Congress isn't broken."
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said that while he might vote for it, "I won't do it thinking we've accomplished anything here today, other than the smallest finger in a dike that in fact has hundreds of holes in it."
Leaving the meeting of House Democrats, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., expressed support for the agreement.
"I am one of the most progressive members and I'm going to vote for it," he said.
The measure is the first significant bipartisan tax increase since 1990, when former President George H.W. Bush violated his "read my lips" promise on taxes. It would raise an additional $620 billion over the coming decade when compared with revenues after tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003, during the Bush administration. But because those policies expired at midnight Monday, the measure is officially scored as a whopping $3.9 trillion tax cut over the next decade.
Allowed to lapse was a 2 percentage point cut in the Social Security payroll tax first enacted in late 2010 to help prod consumer spending and goose the economy. It meant an extra $1,000 in the wallets of typical families earning $50,000 annually.
An extension of the cut — which temporarily reduced the tax to 4.2 percent — lacked strong support from both parties, including the White House.
President Barack Obama praised the agreement after the Senate's vote.
"While neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted, this agreement is the right thing to do for our country and the House should pass it without delay," Obama said in a statement. "This agreement will also grow the economy and shrink our deficits in a balanced way — by investing in our middle class, and by asking the wealthy to pay a little more."
The sweeping Senate vote exceeded expectations — tea party conservatives like Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., backed the measure — and would appear to grease enactment of the measure despite lingering questions in the House, where conservative forces sank a recent bid by Boehner to permit tax rates on incomes exceeding $1 million to go back to Clinton-era levels.
In the Senate, three Democrats and five Republicans voted against the legislation.
"Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members — and the American people — have been able to review the legislation," said a statement by Boehner and other top GOP leaders.
Lawmakers hope to resolve any uncertainty