- (Photo: REUTERS)
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suffered a political setback on Thursday night when after passing the first of two bills known as "Plan B," he was unable to muster enough votes from members of his own party for the second portion of the plan. It is unclear where this leaves the discussion between the White House and House Republicans.
"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass," Boehner said in a statement. "Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff."
Frustrated with the lack of process in his talks with President Obama, Boehner came up with a plan that would allow a tax increase but only on those making $1 million of more annually. The bill that passed would avoid deep defense cuts that would occur if the sequester takes place.
However, President Obama threatened to veto the bills and Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stated he would not allow the plan to be voted on by the Senate.
After passing the bill to avoid defense cuts without 21 Republican members, Boehner and his leadership team sensed a problem within their own ranks on the millionaires tax increase when at least 40 Republicans let it be known they opposed the measure.
Boehner and his Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called a special caucus meeting to see if they could come up with the necessary votes. However, within minutes of the 8 p.m. meeting dejected Republicans filed out of the basement room knowing the bill was dead.
Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) was concerned that the financial markets would not react well to the chaos amid growing concern the nation will go over the so-called fiscal cliff.
"This is a bad night for the country," he told reporters.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney declared that Boehner's inability to pass his plan should help jump start negotiations with the White House.
"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," he said.
During this fall's presidential campaign, Obama called for higher taxes on families making over $250,000 annually but did not discuss what types of spending reform he would agree to offer. That has been a major sticking point between Obama and Boehner.
When it appeared no compromise was near, Boehner devised Plan B as a way to force the Senate and the White House to come back with a credible alternative or pass the House plan. Then Republicans could come back after the first of the year with more leverage to address the nation's rising debt limit.
But some of the House members who rejected raising taxes felt the speaker needed to get feedback from the more conservative members of the caucus before moving ahead with his own plan.
"The speaker should be meeting with us to get our views on things rather than just presenting his," said Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who recently lost a committee post for often not following leadership directives.
Yet Boehner maintains he has done his part in helping to avert the crisis and that the problem is that Obama is "unwilling to stand up to his own party" and demand serious cuts in entitlement programs.
"I did my part – they did nothing," said a frustrated speaker of the House.
Members were sent home for the Christmas break and were advised they would be given 48 hours' notice if they were called back to Washington over the holiday period.