WASHINGTON — Speaker of the House John Boehner sent the House home for Christmas Thursday night, opting not to bring his “Plan B” bill to the floor when it became clear that he did not have the votes within his own caucus to pass it.
It is a major defeat for Boehner and the House Republican leadership, who have spent the past two days pushing hard for the bill at the expense of negotiations with President Barack Obama. Thursday morning, Cantor confidently declared “we’re going to have the votes to pass” Plan B. Boehner made an equally confident declaration Wednesday that, “Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American.”
Evidently, they spoke too soon.
“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 Thursday night. “Now it is up to the president to work with [Senate Majority Leader] Senator [Harry] Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt. The Senate must now act.”
Boehner introduced Plan B on Tuesday as a back-up measure, to avert a tax hike if his negotiations with Obama continued to stall. It would have extended tax cuts for Americans making less than $1 million. The president quickly announced he would veto it, and Democratic senators declared it would be “dead on arrival” if it made it to the Senate.
The House was set to vote on the bill around 7:30 p.m. Thursday, but it became clear that Boehner did not have the votes in his own caucus to push the bill through. The “Spending Reduction Act” was added to the agenda by the Wednesday night rules committee and was intended to deal with the sequester and balance Boehner’s tax hike with some spending cuts. It passed by a narrow 215-209 votes, with one member voting present.
At 7:45, GOP leadership called an unscheduled conference meeting.
Even before the meeting began, members were pessimistic about the possibility of a vote. Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, asked by reporters if she thought they could get the bill done, shook her head. Rep. Virginia Foxx, asked the same thing, grimaced.
During the meeting, it was officially established that they did not have the necessary votes.