House Republicans wanted the Bush tax cuts to be extended. But they had also wanted big spending cuts. To many of them, the bill looked like a massive failure of will.
"To pass something at 2 o'clock in the morning, when the senators didn't even get a real good chance to look at it, we're tired of that," said Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., elected in 2010 and defeated in November. He faced the prospect of casting his final vote in Congress on this package.
"I think it's important to do it right. There's a lot of us who feel that way. This is what we did with Obamacare — now look what we're living with," Walsh said, referring to the health-care law. "We don't want to do that again."
The bill that McConnell and Biden crafted was also not small in a physical sense. It ran to more than 30,000 words of small type. And many of those words had nothing to do with the marquee controversies of the fiscal cliff.
Instead, McConnell and Biden had included Capitol Hill's version of stowaways: "riders," unrelated provisions, attached to this bill because somebody in power wanted badly for them to pass.
"It's a train, leaving the station, as they used to say," said Roberton Williams of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. "Climb aboard and go for a ride."
There were dozens of rider provisions that had nothing to do with the cliff. The renewable-energy industry got one worth $12 billion over 10 years. The owners of motorsports racing tracks got one that will cost $78 million. A $1 million break will help coal mining operations on Indian lands.
Another oddball provision dealt with excise taxes on imported rum, which the U.S. government mainly funnels to the territorial governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This deal said that arrangement would continue.