In a shocking development, John Boehner’s Plan B, or Doomsday Plan, was defeated by his own party on Thursday night, leaving the nation on course to go over the fiscal cliff in about 10 days.
Stories were coming out on Friday about a dramatic meeting in the House basement on Thursday night and a Republican party too split to agree on tactics. So Plan B never made it to the floor for a vote.
Accounts indicate there was a yelling match at one point during the meeting and that a somber Boehner said a prayer.
Boehner and House compatriot Eric Cantor issued statements saying it now was up to the Senate Democrats to find a solution by January 1.
Prior to the politically risky vote on Thursday night, Senate Democrats said they would oppose the bill, and President Barack Obama said he would veto it.
Now, the issue won’t be taken up until December 27 at the earliest. Boehner sent his House members home for the holidays, with notice that they would have a 48-hour warning to return to the Hill if a vote comes up before January 1.
Senate leader Harry Reid said on Thursday that Senate Democrats would likely be gathered back in Washington on December 27.
Originally called the Doomsday Plan, the measure backed by Boehner called for higher taxes on millionaires and other measures that would increase tax revenues, in exchange for deep spending cuts.
The theory was the bill would guarantee that taxes wouldn’t go up for 98 percent of Americans on January 1, so the Democrats would be forced to agree to a compromise, and then negotiate on other points like the debt ceiling.
Majority leader Eric Cantor seemingly had the votes on Thursday, telling reporters that it would be up to the Democrats to prevent a gigantic tax hike.
“Senate Democrats should take up these measures immediately,” Cantor said in the Capitol. “And the president has a decision to make, he can support these measures, or be responsible for reckless spending and the largest tax hike in American history,” Cantor said.
Instead, Boehner and Cantor were left empty handed, as more conservative House members failed to agree to the tax measures.
The latest Boehner measures didn’t take into account a key Obama request: a two-year deal to raise the debt ceiling.
Late on Thursday, the White House said it would work with Republicans on a compromise measure.
“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 White House press secretary Jay Carney.
Polling numbers from Pew showed that more Americans were in the camp of President Obama about the fiscal cliff.
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“When it comes to the reaching an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff, 55 percent say Obama is making a serious effort to work with Republicans. But just 32 percent say Republican leaders are making a serious effort to work with Obama on a deficit deal,” Pew said on December 13.
“By a 53 percent to 33 percent margin, the public sees the Republican Party, rather than the Democratic Party, as ‘more extreme in its positions,’” Pew said.
Now, the ball is in the Democrats’ court. They would need to get a significant number of House Republicans to support a bill that originates in the Senate.
The House has about 240 Republicans at the moment, and it will have 234 as the new term starts in January, compared with 200 Democrats. So the Obama team needs to get about two dozen moderate Republicans to go along with a revised measure.
There was also talk on Friday that President Obama would change his holiday plans and stay in Washington to oversee new fiscal cliff talks.