(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans Tuesday morning that even as he tries to strike a deal with the president to avert the fiscal cliff, he is also moving on a Plan B.
Boehner’s Plan B is essentially what ABC reported as the “Doomsday Plan” a couple weeks ago — the House would pass an extension of the Bush Tax cuts for everybody except the very rich. In this case, Boehner’s proposal would allow the tax cuts to expire on everybody making more than $1 million. The White House would get nothing else — no debt ceiling increase, no unemployment extension.
This does not mean that Boehner is breaking off talks with Obama on a larger deal, but it is a fallback plan and a way to put some added pressure on the White House as Boehner seeks more concessions from Democrats on taxes and spending.
In a paper statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says Boehner’s Plan B cannot pass. He calls it the “farthest thing from a balanced approach,” and "a shame if Republicans abandoned productive negotiations due to pressure from the Tea Party."
After Boehner tried to sell his rank and file Members his Plan B proposal to address some elements of the fiscal cliff, the speaker proceeded to pitch the press his plan to extend tax cuts for everyone except those making more than $1 million per year.
“We all know that every income tax filer in America is going to pay higher rates come January the 1st unless Congress acts,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said after months of steadfastly resisting tax rate increases. “It's important that we protect as many American taxpayers as we can, and our Plan B would protect American taxpayers who make a million dollars or less and have all of their current rates extended.”
Boehner said he hopes to continue working with the president on a “broader agreement” that reduces spending and includes revenue, “but at this point, having a backup plan to make sure that as few American taxpayers are affected by this increase as possible, moving down that path is the right course of action for us.”
“Our hope continues to be to reach an agreement with the president on a balanced approach that averts the fiscal cliff,” he said. “What we've offered meets the definition of balance, but the president is not there yet.”
Boehner said he expected the House to act by the end of the week on his Plan B proposal.
“We do not have a balanced plan when the president’s calling for $1.3 trillion in revenue and only willing to put $850 billion worth of cuts over 10 years,” Boehner scoffed.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor stood by the speaker, telling reporters that the leadership is “committed to trying to minimize the impact [of tax hikes] on hardworking families and small businesses.”
With the country reeling from another highly publicized mass shooting, the speaker admitted the optics of vicious partisan battle in Washington during the holidays is not in the best interests of Congress.
“This is a difficult time for Americans,” Boehner said. “That’s why while we continue to have conversations with the White House. I continue to have hope that we can reach an agreement. It’s not a time to put Americans through more stress.”
Boehner said that the Plan B, which is still being crafted into legislative form, would not address the sequester cuts -- the first $109 billion which is set to take effect Jan. 2, and it would not address a looming inevitability to increase to the debt limit.
“I have made it clear to the president that I would put a trillion dollars' worth of revenue on the table if he were willing to put a trillion dollars of spending reductions on the table,” the speaker said. “That, at this point, would be my version of a balanced approach, as he called for.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney released the following statement:
The President has put a balanced, reasonable proposal on the table that achieves significant deficit reduction and reflects real compromise by meeting the Republicans halfway on revenue and more than halfway on spending from where each side started. That is the essence of compromise. The parameters of a deal are clear, and the President is willing to continue to work with Republicans to reach a bipartisan solution that averts the fiscal cliff, protects the middle class, helps the economy, and puts our nation on a fiscally sustainable path. But he is not willing to accept a deal that doesn’t ask enough of the very wealthiest in taxes and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors. The Speaker’s “Plan B” approach doesn’t meet this test because it can’t pass the Senate and therefore will not protect middle class families, and does little to address our fiscal challenges with zero spending cuts. The President is hopeful that both sides can work out remaining differences and reach a solution so we don’t miss the opportunity in front of us today.
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