House Approves Rule to Allow Vote on Plan B

In a procedural vote Thursday afternoon, the U.S. House voted to allow consideration of the budget plan known as "Plan B" and put forward by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as a way to avert the dreaded fiscal cliff. The final vote is expected to take place later Thursday evening.

The vote was 219-197, with 13 Republicans voting against the measure. If passed later Thursday night, the bill would allow taxes to increase on those earning $1 million or more annually and a second bill would avoid the deep cuts in defense that will occur if the sequester takes place.

However, even if the bill passes the House, it is doubtful it will be passed into law since if would have to pass a Senate controlled by Democrats and then signed by President Obama, who has firmly stated he would veto the bill.

The White House issued a statement soon after Thursday's procedural vote, making it clear Obama did not believe the bill was what the country wanted.

"The Congressional Republican 'Plan B' legislation continues large tax cuts for the very wealthiest individuals – on average, millionaires would see a tax break of $50,000 – while eliminating tax cuts that 25 million students and families struggling to make ends meet depend on and ending critical incentives for our nation's businesses. It would also cut off a vital lifeline of unemployment assistance to 2 million Americans fighting to find a job just a few days after Christmas, while deeply cutting Medicare.

"The President urges the Republican leadership to work with us to resolve remaining differences and find a reasonable solution to this situation today instead of engaging in political exercises that increase the possibility that taxes go up on every American."

Nonetheless, House Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) encouraged members to vote in favor of the bill even though it will not be the final version.

"I don't think that anyone is convinced that the bill that we're going to pass here is the one that's going to end up being the agreement, but it's very important in the negotiating process for work to proceed, and for institutions to stake their position," Dreier said on the House floor.

One reason the bill does not appeal to Democrats is because they say the sequester replacement bill would spare defense cuts at the expense of much needed social programs.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) was critical of the sudden process by which the GOP brought the bill to the floor.

"The process that brought us here has been equally shameful, more befitting a developing country than the greatest democracy on Earth," she said. "Last night we saw one of the greatest miscarriages of the democratic process in my time on the Rules Committee."

In a letter to lawmakers on Thursday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce gave its blessings to Plan B citing the need to keep the economy moving forward.

"Maintaining economic growth is an absolute prerequisite to addressing our deficit and debt problems," Chamber Executive Vice President R. Bruce Josten wrote in the letter. "Going over the fiscal cliff and allowing the largest tax increase in our history would certainly severely hamper if not totally eliminate economic growth for the near term."

However, the politically powerful Club for Growth reiterated its opposition to the plane and urged lawmakers to vote against it.

Speaker Boehner called on the Senate to schedule a vote on his plan if it passes the House late Thursday. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated he had no plans to comply with Boehner's request.

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