Fiscal Cliff Talks: ‘Plan B’ Vote Postponed in House in Major Setback for Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to ram a “fallback” plan through the House on Thursday – a relatively tiny tax increase on millionaires and billionaires – and failed.

Speaker John Boehner answers questions from reporters during his weekly press briefing at the U.S. Capitol. December 20, 2012. Photo: Speaker John Boehner/Flickr

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) failed to muscle a controversial fiscal cliff fallback through the House Thursday night, suddenly pulling the bill after spending almost a week on a plan that Democrats called a waste of time.

Boehner’s “Plan B”  is, actually, killed by the failure to bring the measure to a vote  and moves the nation one large step closer to the so-called fiscal cliff looming on Jan. 1.

Boehner tried to ram a “fallback” plan through the House on Thursday – a relatively tiny tax increase on millionaires and billionaires – and failed. His rambunctious Republicans, who see opposition to all tax hikes as a matter of bedrock principle and of political survival, refused to go along.

At least two dozen House GOPers refused to support leadership—either out of dogged anti-tax principles or fear of a primary challenge, or both. Plan B failed, and House Republicans are in a flutter.

The Reuters writes that president Barack Obama and his Democrats who control the Senate take the opposite view – tax hikes on the wealthy are a condition for their support of a fiscal cliff bill.

If there is to be a resolution it will largely depend on an improbable scenario – Democrats in the House teaming up with less militant Republicans to back away from the fiscal cliff.

The House did pass one part of Boehner’s fallback — a bill to cut spending by $200 billion, mostly by slashing domestic programs, including favorite GOP targets such as health care and food stamps. That measure now appears doomed.

If a fiscal cliff deal isn’t struck by the end of the year, President Barack Obama will be in such a strong bargaining position that Republicans will be forced to accept the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for income above $250,000, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), an arch conservative, predicted Thursday, as the Huff Post reported.

Burton told reporters that he’d be voting for House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B,” which would end the tax cuts only for income over a million dollars, because the alternative would be much worse for Republicans.

However, Obama has vowed to veto the plan, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will not bring it up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled chamber. White House spokesman Jay Carney called it a “multi-day exercise in futility.”

Still, passage of Plan B could give Boehner the political cover he needs to strike a deal that would break with decades of Republican anti-tax orthodoxy.

The Huff Post writes that if Boehner’s bill had passed, it would have marked a shift in the GOP’s absolute opposition of all tax hikes, and offered a ray of hope that the two sides could come together.

With time running out, however, it would be difficult for Democrats and Republicans to agree on a plan that Boehner could get his stalwart Tea Party members to sign.

Obama and Boehner will need to engage in more political theater to get lawmakers in both parties to sign on to the painful concessions that will have to be part of any deal to avert the cliff and rein in the national debt, analysts say.

The problem with Plan B was its stark imbalance of risk and benefit. If it passed—sure, maybe Democrats are put in the slightly awkward position of rejecting legislation some of them once favored, says the American Conservative.

Maybe Obama’s White House is compelled to tilt further in your direction once negotiations resumed. Maybe the media and general public won’t blame you—or blame you as harshly—in the event that we do go over the cliff.

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