WASHINGTON — The day after the Speaker of the House John Boehner’s “Plan B” bill disintegrated when it became clear he did not have the votes within his own conference to pass it, the speaker blamed the bill’s collapse on a “perception created” that the bill would have raised taxes, a perception Boehner said he did not agree with.
The House was slated to vote Thursday evening on Plan B, which would have extended the current tax rates for everyone making less than $1 million.
When the time came for the vote, it became clear that there were not enough votes within the Republican conference to pass the bill that the Republican leadership had been pushing all week, and that Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had confidently declared they would have the votes to pass hours before it fell apart.
Asked what went wrong, Boehner blamed it on the perception of some of his members that they would have been raising taxes.
“Listen, there was a perception created that that vote last night was going to increase taxes,” he said. “Now I disagree with that characterization of that bill, but that impression was out there. Now we had a number of our members who just really didn’t want to be perceived as having raised taxes, that was the real issue.”
A number of conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth, ForAmerica and FreedomWorks went on the offensive this week after Plan B was announced, urging members not to vote for it, and saying to vote for it would be betraying core conservative principles.
The speaker said that the bill falling apart last night was not a condemnation of his speakership by Republican members, but merely a condemnation of the bill.
“While we may have not have been able to get the votes last night to avert 99.81 percent of the tax increases, I don’t think, they weren’t taken that out on me,” Boehner said. “They were dealing with the perception that somebody might accuse them of raising taxes.”
Asked whether he was concerned for his speakership, or if he ought to be, Boehner simply replied: “No, I am not.”
Where fiscal cliff negotiations will go from here remains to be seen.
Boehner said he was absolutely not walking away from talks, saying that had not been his intention in introducing Plan B, and that “nobody ought to read anything into” the fact that the House was heading home for Christmas now.
“I’m interested in solving the major problems that face our country and that means House leaders, Senate leaders, and the president are going to continue to have to work together to address those concerns,” he said.
“The president knows that I’ve always been able to deliver on any promise that I’ve made with him,” he said. “The concern that I had is that time was running short, and the idea that taxes ought to go up on every American taxpayer I thought was wrong. And trying to address the tax issue I thought was very important to do it now, so that we don’t have taxes going up on every American, and hurting our economy.”
He put the onus moving forward on Senate Democrats and the president.
“At some point the United States Senate has to do something,” he said, saying that the House had passed a bill to extend all current tax rates earlier this year, and noting that on Thursday night they passed a bill to avert the sequester, neither of which the Senate has taken up.
“At some point we’re going to have to address the spending problem that we have. But we can’t cut our way to prosperity. We need real economic growth. And many any of us believe on both sides of the aisle that a fundamental reform to our tax code will help us get our economy moving faster and put more Americans back to work and more Americans on the tax roll,” Boehner said.
“How we get there, God only knows,” Boehner said. “But all I’m telling you is Eric and I, and our team here, are committed to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol, and the White House.”