There’s lots of chatter about a deal forming between John Boehner and Barack Obama on the fiscal cliff, but it’s no sure thing yet, either. Carl Cameron reports that the Speaker is still working on a Plan B to bail Republicans out of the politically disastrous tax hikes on the middle class without giving away all the GOP leverage on the fiscal cliff. Boehner is talking with Republicans on Obama’s latest offer, but also on how to extricate from the situation if a deal fails to materialize:
Speaker of the House John Boehner is reportedly working on a “plan B” to stop automatic tax hikes on January 1st. Carl Cameron reported that the speaker is telling House Republicans behind doors that time is running out and the White House can’t bring itself to agree to a balanced approach.
In the absence of an alternative, Speaker Boehner says a modified plan B is the plan. That plan would a vote in the House to extend the Bush tax cuts on everybody making less than one million dollars. How this would be arranged with the Senate and President Obama is still up in the air.
The Washington Post also reports on efforts to craft a backup plan:
Boehner plans to continue negotiating with Obama in hopes of striking a broad agreement, senior aides said Tuesday morning, but at the same time feels the need to move forward on his “Plan B,” with precious days remaining until a series of tax increases and spending cuts takes effect.
“We’re leaving the door open wide for something better,” Boehner plans to tell fellow Republicans, according to prepared remarks provided by aides. “And I have been clear about that with the president. Plan B is Plan B for a reason. It’s a less-than-ideal outcome. I’ve always believed we can do better.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told his colleagues Tuesday morning that he is aiming to hold a vote on the proposal by the end of the week, according to aides familiar with the meeting.
In his prepared remarks, Boehner said the plan that Obama offered him on Monday evening “cannot be considered balanced.”
“We’re going to keep the door open in hopes the president can find a way to support a balanced approach.” There was no immediate comment from the White House.
Plan B would probably consist of holding tax rates firm on everyone below a million dollars in income and fixing the AMT yet again, a point rarely heard but of critical importance to about 26 million Americans who will get hammered by it otherwise. Boehner would hold off on a debt-limit increase, which Obama needs to get past the February-ish deadline on borrowing. Would the Senate pass such a bill? Probably not, but that would allow Boehner to paint Democrats as the party blocking middle-class tax relief, in order to get more spending.
I’m not sure that will make much difference with voters, especially after that dismal WaPo/ABC poll, but like Boehner says, it’s called Plan B for a reason.
Update: Boehner and Eric Cantor just held a press conference on this plan:
Rep. Eric Cantor addressed the press, as well, saying that “the president is not yet there; he has not yet come to where he needs to be” to allow GOP leaders to push through a bill that “addresses the problem.”
Fox News politics producer Chad Pergram offered some insight as to how this plan B would work:
“The House takes the Senate passed legislation which extends tax breaks for those who earn up to $200,000 or couples making up to $250,000, and amends it with Boehner’s plan to increase taxes on millionaires. They then send it back to the Senate. This is classic Congressional ping-pong. The understanding is that the House would move this bill on Thursday.”
He added that we should keep in mind that “this is a similar tactic Boehner used during the debt ceiling debate, demonstrating what can pass the House. He did this on the debt ceiling, putting out a couple of difference plans which would pass the House. Although the fly in the ointment is that many Republicans are going to be loathe to agree to any tax hike at all, ala the millionaires tax increase.”
I think the fact that we’re having press conferences like this plays hob with the notion that we’re getting closer to cutting a deal.