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Cantor Confident in Plan B's Passage as House Readies Vote

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Republicans will move forward with a vote Thursday evening to pass Speaker of the House John Boehner’s so-called “Plan B” option -- a permanent extension of the current tax rates for taxpayers making up to $1 million, while also replacing the first year of cuts in the sequester set to take effect on Jan. 2.

While Republicans voted months ago to replace the sequester and extend all of the current tax rates, Cantor, R-Va., said the votes Thursday will show Republicans are “taking concrete action to avoid the fiscal cliff.”

“Our members understand that the nation faces the largest tax increase in its history come January 1, 2013,” he said. “We protect 99.81 percent of American taxpayers from a tax increase in these very difficult economic times. We hope that the Senate will take this bill up along with the Spending Reduction Act and get the job done in lieu of or absent any kind of agreement coming from the White House.”

Cantor said the sequester replacement, formally known as the Spending Reduction Act of 2012, creates about $200 billion in additional savings for deficit reduction and is “designed to stop fraud, to eliminate waste, and frankly to replace the sequester that is indiscriminate in its cuts.”

The president has threatened to veto the legislation, and if the Senate does take up the bill to stave off a looming tax hike, Democrats will surely amend it to enact more amicable terms.

“We are committed in the House, as you know, to address the underlying problem, which is the spending and that’s why we’re bringing this bill forward,” Cantor said. “Absent a balanced offer from the president, this is our nation’s best option and Senate Democrats should take up both of these measures immediately.”

But even if the bill moves on to the Senate, Cantor promised to keep House Republicans in town until the stalemate over the fiscal cliff is broken.

“We’re committed to fixing the problem here so we can get on about a growing economy. We also realize that the president’s unwillingness or inability to come to a balanced agreement with our speaker presents us with very little option other than to try and work hard to avoid a tax hike on so many millions of Americans,” he added.  “This is just the beginning and a down payment for our – what I hope will be fruitful bipartisan discussions next Congress trying to address the spending problems.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., laid a firm line in the sand Thursday afternoon: the Senate will not take up Boehner’s Plan B bill if it is passed through the House of Representatives Thursday night.

“Speaker Boehner's plans are nonstarters in the Senate,” Reid said. “President Obama said he will veto it. The House Republicans know that the bill has no future. If they don't know it now, tell them what I said.”

Earlier in the week Reid suggested that if the House passed the bill the Senate would just amend it and send it back to the House. But Thursday, the message was clear -- they won’t take up the bill at all.

“This is absolutely senseless, that the speaker is doing what he's doing. These are gyrations I've never seen before,” Reid said.

Added Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., “it will not come up for a vote in the Senate. ...This idea of passing Plan B is dead on arrival.”

Instead Senate Democrats on Thursday called on Boehner to either take up the Senate’s passed bill to extend the Bush-era tax rates for family income below $250,000 or resume talks with President Obama working toward a Grand Bargain.

“We think the grand bargain would be so much easier,” Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y.,  said. “The speaker is actually choosing the path of most resistance. Please take the deal, Mr. Speaker. “

Schumer said that “ping-ponging bills” between the two chambers in Congress is not what the country needs right now.

“We'd say to Speaker Boehner, get over to the Oval Office, go there and work together with the president for the good of the country.”

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