Boehner’s ‘Plan B’ vote draws fire from all sides
Bill raises taxes only on incomes above $1 million.
WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” on the budget talks, bringing to a vote his proposal to raise taxes only on incomes above $1 million, ran almost immediately into stiff resistance Tuesday.
Conservative Republicans pushed back against it, the White House rejected the approach and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called it “dead on arrival.”
Boehner’s decision, shared behind closed doors during a morning meeting of rank-and-file GOP lawmakers, was an abrupt shift after the Ohio Republican and President Barack Obama had narrowed their differences in talks that both sides described as optimistic. The proposed vote could come as soon as Thursday.
By calling up the legislation for a vote, the speaker is trying to build momentum toward a resolution as talks over a broader deficit deal continue. He wants to avoid having his party be blamed for a tax increase on most Americans in the new year, which would happen if no agreement is reached.
“We have to stop whatever tax-rate increases we can,” the speaker told lawmakers, according to prepared remarks supplied by a source familiar with the talk but not authorized to disclose it. “In the absence of an alternative, as of this morning, a modified Plan B is the plan. At the same time we’re moving on Plan B, we’re leaving the door wide open for something better.”
The speaker made it clear that he is not cutting off talks with Obama as they pursue a package to avert the “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts in the new year.
White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed the speaker’s Plan B in a statement, saying it “can’t pass the Senate and therefore will not protect middle-class families.” He added that Obama “is not willing to accept a deal that doesn’t ask enough of the very wealthiest in taxes and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors.”
Obama campaigned on extending tax breaks for household income of less than $250,000 a year, although he has sought compromise this week with Boehner, indicating a willingness to raise that threshold to $400,000.
Boehner is seeking to launch a legislative pingpong game between the House and Senate over the Plan B bill. If he is able to pass the measure in the House — which remains uncertain — Republicans expect that the Senate, controlled by Democrats, would likely amend it to reflect Obama’s priorities on taxes and stimulus spending on long-term unemployment insurance, and send it back to the lower chamber.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Boehner bill could not pass either chamber.
As Boehner outlined his strategy Tuesday, conservative Republicans bristled at being asked to raise the highest tax rates, now at 35 percent, to 39.6 percent for those earning more than $1 million a year. Tax rates on capital gains and dividends would also rise on those wealthy households.