WASHINGTON (AP) -- Squarely in the spotlight, House Republicans planned a closed-door meeting Tuesday to decide their next move after the Senate overwhelmingly approved compromise legislation negating a fiscal cliff of across-the-board tax increases and sweeping spending cuts to the Pentagon and other government agencies.
In a New Year's Day drama that climaxed in the middle of the night, the Senate endorsed the legislation by 89-8 early Tuesday. 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 was expected to encounter opposition from House conservatives, and it was unclear when the vote would occur.
Boehner planned to brief his caucus in early afternoon Tuesday and Biden scheduled a separate meeting with House Democrats to reprise his role of Monday night when he promoted compromise to Democrats before that chamber voted.
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 about the Senate-passed bill.
One of the more conservative House Republicans, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, had no such reticence to speak.
"It's three strikes in my book and I'll be voting no on this bill,'' he told CNN Tuesday morning, saying the legislation would impose a hardship on small businesses around the country and falls short of addressing the need for cuts in spending.
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.
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.