Boehner Has Stunning Setback With Pullback of Plan B Vote

December 20, 2012 11:26 PM

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Effort to raise taxes on wealthy upset tea party Republicans in major rebuke to Speaker

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In a major blow to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), leaders pulled back the "Plan B" tax measure from the floor when it became clear the GOP conference would not support it and Democrats vowing to block the measure.

Boehner issued a statement Thursday night pushing responsibility to find the way forward squarely on to President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff," Boehner said in a statement. "The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act."

Boehner said that there were not enough votes to pass the bill, there would be no further votes before Christmas and that he would give a statement to the press on Friday.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), one of four Republicans recently purged from House committees by the leadership, said this was a bad time to ask conservatives for support. "I’m glad that enough of my colleagues refused to back down from the threats and intimidation, thus preventing the conference from abandoning our principles."

Some Democratic members appeared to gloat over the misstep by House Republicans. "They’re wasting time," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). "Boehner just walked away from the table. I don’t know when or if he will come back. The speaker has set us on a course to go over the cliff."


Members of both parties said Obama and Boehner were not that far apart in offers they traded last weekend and Monday. About $200 billion in revenue and $70 billion or more in spending cuts separated them.

Boehner informed his members that he would call Obama to see about the way forward, but most observers say Boehner already low leverage has been diffused.

"It weakens the entire Republican Party, the Republican majority. It’s the continuing dumbing-down of the Republican Party and we are going to be seen more and more as a bunch of extremists that can’t even get a majority of our own people to support policies that we’re putting forward," said Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio). But he predicted that, ultimately, the situation would not cost Boehner his job, blaming instead the entrenched wing of the conference who refused to vote for the plan. "It’s like saying that the superintendent of an insane asylum should be discharged because he couldn’t control the crazy people. That’s nuts," he said.

Comments: Turmoil is the current word regarding the House of Representatives. It now is clear that Boehner will not get any deficit plan through the House without relying on Democratic votes. However, some say President Obama may still have to tweak his plan in order to get it through a vary wary House, but some say the White House may have to settle for less than it wanted in order to get a deal. It is evident how hard it is for House leaders to persuade Republicans to accept any negotiated proposal that would bring in more revenue without accompanying cuts in entitlement spending. Some observers say the Democratic fallback plan, first suggested by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), is to go over the cliff and have taxes increase for all taxpayers and then reduce those taxes for all but the wealthy in the first bill to be voted on in the new Congress in 2013.

GOP leaders sent their members home until after Christmas. An aide said Boehner will not resume talks with the president but will wait for Reid and Obama to propose a way to avoid the fiscal cliff. Democratic aides said the Senate will begin its holiday recess after finishing its work on Friday, and will reconvene Dec. 27. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Reid was unlikely to engage in direct negotiations with Boehner and would focus on trying to promote talks between Boehner and the White House.


Bottom line: Republicans say President Obama was not serious about cutting spending. In fact, he wanted to spend additional money on infrastructure and unemployment benefits. To pass anything in the House, these observers say, something different must come from the White House regarding entitlement spending reductions – at least on a one-to-one ratio with revenue and perhaps a deal tilted more toward spending cuts. Republicans made a strategic mistake by limiting the vote on taxes. President Obama, meanwhile, is likely concerned that the House action unless something changes will make it very difficult to push through his second-term agenda in the years to come, including other contentious and important issues like immigration and tax reform.



NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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