House Republicans balk at fiscal cliff deal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives looked set to end the "fiscal cliff" crisis in a vote on Tuesday night on a bipartisan deal meant to prevent Washington from pushing the world's biggest economy into recession.

After a day of deliberation, there appeared to be enough Republicans in the House ready to back a Senate bill that would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and close a crucial chapter of the budget dispute that has consumed Washington for months.

"We've gone as far as we can go and I think people are ready to bring it to a conclusion," Republican Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia said. "We fought the fight."

Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, a Republican, predicted the House would back the Senate bill, which also postpones for two months $109 billion in spending cuts on military and domestic programs set for 2013.

Lawmakers have struggled to find a way to head off across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts that began to take effect at midnight, a legacy of earlier failed budget deals that is known as the fiscal cliff.

Strictly speaking, the United States went over the cliff in the first minutes of the New Year because Congress failed to produce legislation to halt $600 billion of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled for this year that started kicking in on January 1.

While many Republicans were uneasy with the tax hikes and wanted more spending cuts in the bill, they seemed to realize that the fiscal cliff would begin to damage the economy once financial markets and federal government offices returned to work on Wednesday. Opinion polls show the public would blame Republicans if a deal were to fall apart.

The House Republicans had earlier considered adding $330 billion in spending cuts over 10 years to the Senate bill, which raises taxes on the wealthiest U.S. households by $620 billion over the same period.

But Senate Democrats refused to consider any changes to their bill, which passed 89 to 8 in a rare display of unity early Tuesday morning.

(Additional reporting by Rachelle Younglai, Thomas Ferraro and David Lawder; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Beech)

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