House conservatives won't accept a "bad" deal on "fiscal cliff"

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have been keeping a tight lid on the specifics of their conversations regarding the "fiscal cliff." CBS News has learned some of the details of those talks. And, as Major Garret reports, their most recent exchanges have been "gentle" and "substantive."

It's unclear which job is more difficult for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, during the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations: configuring a deal with President Obama or convincing his conservative caucus to support a potential compromise.

Although they sounded sympathetic to Boehner, a group of conservative House Republicans told reporters that they remain skeptical about backing any "fiscal cliff" deal that compromised their principles of limited government and lower taxes.

"It's my opinion that a bad deal is worse than no deal at all," Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., told reporters today. "I would rather see - if cooler heads can prevail in January - that we wait...and [it] goes through the process that is open and transparent and includes the dialogue between the House and the Senate and the president."

After a difficult phone call last night between Boehner and President Obama, progress on a potential deal seems to have come to a halt. That notion became glaringly evident today when Boehner told his members not to make Christmas plans.

Both sides presented a new offer that was quickly rejected. Boehner's was similar to his first offer, aides say, and the White House's second proposal changed only slightly, offering $1.4 trillion worth of tax increases instead of $1.6 trillion.

To appease his Republican colleagues (and his own conservative principles), Boehner has been demanding more spending cuts from the president.

For instance, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said he won't compromise until the president offers $5 trillion worth of spending cuts. "[T]hen I will consider maybe compromising on some of the issues I have campaigned on," he said.

$5 trillion worth of spending cuts is more than the entire deficit reduction package of tax increases and spending cuts the president proposed (which already included $1 trillion of spending cuts already passed), and it is in line with the House-passed Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

"We're not doing the best job we can do," Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said, voicing highly critical observations about the top two negotiators. "We need people who are going to be bold. We need leaders...we need leaders on both sides and we don't have that right now."

Amash, who was kicked off one of his committee assignments by Republican leadership for some of his voting positions, said his constituents are not very happy with the House Speaker.

"If Speaker Boehner wants to come back to my district he's not going to be met with very much welcome," Amash said.

However, some conservative Republicans are not blaming Boehner and are sympathetic about the position he's in.

"I don't have faith in too many people in Washington, D.C., because there's not much courage in Washington, D.C., but I think Speaker Boehner's doing the best he can with the hand he's been dealt," Labrador said.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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