Negotiations to resolve upcoming tax hikes and spending cuts had their bleakest day in weeks on Tuesday.
Still, those involved in talks between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said they held hope that the snag was simply the usual negotiation histrionics and won’t prevent a deal before the so-called fiscal cliff.
In a breach of bedrock conservative principles, House Speaker John A. Boehner laid out a proposal Tuesday to allow tax rates to rise for Americans making more than $1 million a year.
Boehner and Obama remain in talks, aides in the House and in the Obama administration said. But bickering and acrimony was on the rise.
A flurry of new proposals, hastily offered press releases, and emotional caucus meetings on Tuesday had folks on Capitol Hill legitimately worried that they will burn through Congress’s traditional Christmas deadline for resolving legislative standoffs without reaching an agreement.
After important concessions in recent days from both President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Republicans moved to increase pressure on the Democrats by vowing to vote in the House on a “Plan B” back-up measure that would largely disregard the progress made so far.
House Republicans were still meeting to discuss the matter on Tuesday evening.
A Republican leadership aide stressed that Boehner wasn’t closing the door on larger talks with the White House. “This is a dual track thing,” the aide said.
Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, spoke on Tuesday, a day after top Republicans rejected the latest White House offer to avert some $600 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts looming at year’s end, known as the fiscal cliff.
Instead, Republicans plan a vote on a bill to raise taxes on income above $1 million while extending low rates for other taxpayers.
“The Democrats have one negotiator: the president. And we have one negotiator, and that’s the speaker,” Cantor (Va.) told colleagues at a GOP meeting at the Capitol last week, urging them to unite behind Boehner (Ohio) in the talks.
In the “fiscal cliff” drama, Cantor has been casting himself as a supportive bit player to Boehner, a contrast from the debt-ceiling showdown of 2011.
At that time, Cantor had a starring role as a lead negotiator in high-level talks with Vice President Biden and as a chief antagonist to Obama, tangling with the president in one tense White House exchange, reports the Washington Post.
As the Huff Post writes, the White House on Monday night made its third offer to Boehner, raising the income level for tax increases to $400,000 from $250,000. It called for $800 billion in savings, including $290 billion in interest savings, $100 in defense cuts, and $130 billion in savings that would come from adjusting the inflation index for Social Security benefits.
Analysts said Obama and Boehner may strike a compromise at $500,000 or close to that, though time was running short.
Boehner told reporters that he planned to move a “Plan B” bill to the House floor, possibly this week, in a move that could spur forward his talks with Obama. The House is controlled by Republicans and the Senate by Democrats.
If the back-up plan fails, Republicans supporting it could afterward tell constituents back home that at least they voted for it and, in doing so, did their best to try to block Obama’s agenda, the Reuters says.
Even as he presented the Plan B measure, Boehner said he would continue to negotiate with Obama on a broader agreement.