Boehner holds press conference to explain Plan B failure

After last night's dramatic rejection of Boehner's Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, DC, December 21, 2012 ― House Speaker John Boehner’s Plan B failed to gather enough GOP support last night to make it to the House floor. Boehner had sounded confident earlier that the proposal would pass the House, thus putting pressure on the Senate and President Obama, but it was increasingly clear that House Republicans weren’t sold. The plan would have extended tax cuts that are due to expire at the end of the year for everyone earning under $1 million. The income tax rate of those earning over $1 million would rise to just over 39 percent.

At 8 p.m. Eastern, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced that Plan B would not go up for a vote because it lacked sufficient GOP support. The House went into recess for the holiday, and Boehner announced that it would now be up to the Senate to craft legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.

White House press secretary Jay Carney declared that the collapse of the Speaker’s efforts puts new emphasis on the need for new talks between Boehner and President Obama. “The president will work with Congress to get this done, and we are hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that protects the middle class and our economy,” said Carney.

For his part, Boehner didn’t sound eager to take up talks again. “For weeks, the White House said that if I moved on rates, that they would make substantial concessions on spending cuts and entitlement reforms. I did my part. They’ve done nothing.”

Boehner’s decision on Tuesday to bring Plan B up for a vote had effectively ended negotiations between him and the President. At a press conference he held this morning to discuss last night’s rejection of Plan B, Boehner denied walking away from talks with the President. He’d felt the need to act on Plan B because he was worried that time was short. Stopping an across the board tax hike demanded immediate action.

Explaining his inability to get his caucus to support him, Boehner noted that the perception had been created among House Republicans that voting for his measure would be voting to raise taxes. He was unable to overcome that perception, and realized that it was pointless to pursue a vote. Using a lifeguard analogy, he said that if there are a hundred people drowning and you can jump in to save 99, you do it. His caucus didn’t see it that way.

There has been speculation that last night’s failure and his inability to get his party to support him signals the end of Boehner’s speakership. Asked whether he was concerned about losing the speakership, he replied, “No. We couldn’t get [the] votes last night, members were afraid that they’d be accused of raising taxes.” He said that if you do what you have to for the right reasons, you don’t worry about the consequences.

Last night’s events demonstrate that Boehner will be unable to get any bill past House Republicans that includes a tax increase. Any solution that he works out will require that he get Democrats to join him. Their failure to approve Plan B has created a wedge that will send some Republicans in the direction of the Democrats. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), for instance, said that he sides with Democrats on the $250,000 income threshold for tax hikes.

While Boehner failed to get Plan B passed, the House did approve (215-209) another measure that would change the automatic spending cuts that will kick in if the fiscal cliff is reached. Cuts to the military would be replaced with cuts elsewhere in the budget. The measure is already effectively dead; the White House immediately announced that it would veto the bill, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that it would never come up for a vote.



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Jim Picht

James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics and Russian at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, La. After earning his doctorate in economics, he spent several years working in Moscow and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union for the U.S. government, the Asian Development Bank, and as a private contractor. He returned to Ukraine recently to teach principles of constitutional law and criminal procedure at several Ukrainian law schools for a USAID legal development project. He has been writing at the Communities since 2009.

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