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Bill to avert fiscal cliff heads to House

Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Now in the spotlight, House Republicans plan a closed-door meeting today to decide their next move after the Senate overwhelmingly approved compromise legislation avoiding a fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies.

The Senate endorsed the legislation early today, 89-8. That vote came hours after Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky sealed a deal.

It 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 measure 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.

House Speaker John Boehner pointedly refrained from endorsing the agreement, though he's promised a vote on it or a GOP alternative right away. But he is expected to encounter opposition from House conservatives, and it's unclear when the vote would occur.

Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., arrived at the Capitol in late morning, and both bid "Happy New Year" to greeters but didn't say anything substantive.

Boehner plans to brief his caucus this afternoon. Biden has scheduled a separate meeting with House Democrats to reprise his role of Monday night when he promoted compromise to Democrats before that chamber voted.

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