The Republicans said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid must move forward a bill to avert the so-called fiscal cliff or else he would be derelict in his duties, The Hill and Politico of Washington reported.
House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers said the Senate must either send the legislation to President Obama as it reads currently or amend and return it to the House.
"Once this has occurred, the House will then consider whether to accept the bills as amended, or to send them back to the Senate with additional amendments. The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass, but the Senate first must act. The lines of communication remain open, and we will continue to work with our colleagues to avert the largest tax hike in American history, and to address the underlying problem, which is spending," the representatives' statement read.
GOP leaders have promised Congress 48 hours' notice if they decide to convene the House. The earliest that could happen is Friday.
Democrats' insistence on maintaining lower tax rates for 98 percent of taxpayers is a reversal of their initial stance on the rates, experts said.
With the Jan. 1 deadline approaching, R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Business School who designed the tax cuts enacted during the administration of George W. Bush, told The Washington Post he finds it "deeply ironic" Democrats want to preserve the lower tax rates for the first $250,000 of income. He noted Democrats strongly opposed enactment of the cuts when they first were proposed a decade ago.
The tax cuts, which have been extended several times, are set to expire and coincide with across-the-board spending cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, pushing the economy over the "fiscal cliff" economists say could throw the country back into recession.
In the absence of action on the matter, in a few days tax rates will go up on all income levels and federal spending cuts will kick in.