Dec 20, 2012 No Comments ›› Dinah Tellya
Excerpted from Fox News: House Republicans on Thursday passed the first of two bills aimed at averting the looming fiscal crisis, approving a plan that would replace sweeping cuts to defense and other programs with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
The bill narrowly passed, on a 215-209 vote.
Up next, though, was supposed to be a highly controversial bill that would prevent tax hikes for everyone except those making more than $1 million, but in a sign of potential turmoil in the Republican caucus, the House abruptly recessed Thursday evening.
The tax vote is expected to be close, as House Speaker John Boehner already lost 21 Republicans on the first bill. The recess could mean Boehner is still trying to rally support.
Together, the bills amount to what Boehner is calling a “Plan B.”
Still, Democrats in both chambers, as well as President Obama, are adamantly opposed to both proposals — leaving uncertain how and whether lawmakers can avert tax hikes scheduled to take effect in two weeks. Without a deal, middle-class Americans could see an average tax hike of $2,000 next year.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that the Senate will not take up the House bills. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated that “the president would veto it if it got to his desk.”
Carney derisively described the votes Thursday as a “multi-day exercise in futility.”
Boehner, in response, said he’s not convinced the bills will die in the Senate.
Boehner and Obama had until early this week been engaged in seemingly productive talks toward a compromise package. The move to draft a “Plan B” could be aimed at strengthening Boehner’s negotiating position, as he tries to extract more spending cuts and more modest tax rate hikes from the White House as part of any deal. But Democrats were so angered by the new proposal that the future of talks is unclear.
On the sidelines, senior administration officials were claiming Thursday that Boehner turned to “Plan B” because he concluded he couldn’t garner enough support for Obama’s counterproposal in the House. That proposal would raise taxes only on income above $400,000, though Carney indicated that might not be Obama’s final offer.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, who caught wind of the allegations, called the theory “stupid and untrue.” He said Boehner was always clear “that he could not support the president’s plan, let alone recommend it to members of the House.”
Boehner claimed Thursday that the problem is Obama is “unwilling to stand up to his own party” and demand serious spending cuts. “I did my part — they did nothing,” Boehner said, referencing his willingness to discuss raising tax rates.
Boehner on Wednesday put the onus on the president to get Democrats on board with “Plan B.”
“Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American,” Boehner said, during a press conference that lasted less than a minute. “Then the president will have a decision to make. He can call on the Senate Democrats to pass that bill or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”
Senior administration officials accuse Boehner of at least temporarily derailing fiscal talks with the “Plan B” move. During his own press conference Wednesday, Obama urged Republicans to “peel off the partisan war paint.”
Republicans, though, said the White House was being unreasonable.
Republican House leaders said it’s important for Washington to have an alternative plan just in case Boehner and Obama cannot come to an agreement.
Complicating the situation are the growing demands and red lines of the Democratic and Republican bases.
Rank-and-file Democrats and liberal advocacy groups have grown increasingly vocal about a proposal that would reduce cost-of-living increases in Social Security. Obama recently agreed to put that on the table.