"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," he added. "The House will take this action on whatever the Senate can pass – but the Senate must act."
Meanwhile, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who had called the Senate back into session on Thursday, blasted Boehner and a "dysfunctional Republican caucus" for the deadlock.
“It’s obvious what’s going on. He’s waiting until Jan. 3 to get reelected to speaker, because he has so many people over there that won’t follow what he wants,” he said in a floor speech opening the Senate.
The way to avert the fiscal cliff is for the House to pass a bill that extends the Bush tax cuts for all but those families earning more than $250,000 in income, he added. The bill passed the Senate last July with no Republican votes.
So, with just five days to go before some $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts take hold, congressional leaders are hunkering down in bargaining positions back to where they were before the August break. But at the same time, leaders on both sides of the aisle say that there is flexibility in the system to come to terms even after the Jan. 1 deadline expires.
One approach is for Congress to pass a stopgap measure akin to a “continuing resolution,” which is used to continue spending at current levels until Congress can complete work on a new spending bill, said House minority whip Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland, after a briefing with reporters on Thursday.