After "Plan B" meltdown, few options left for Boehner

But the White House still says it's confident there can be a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff"

By Jillian Rayfield
December 21, 2012 6:56PM (UTC)
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After conservatives revolted and killed John Boehner's "Plan B" proposal to avert the "fiscal cliff," things are not looking great for Boehner and his options in the negotiations.

House Republicans canceled the vote over the proposal last night after they failed to collect enough votes. Had it passed, "Plan B" would have partially averted the cliff by allowing taxes to increase only for those making over $1 million a year, though both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the White House said they would not let the proposal make it much farther.


"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 after the proposal collapsed.

So where can Boehner go from here?

From the New York Times, one option is that Boehner works with Obama to pass something without the support of the more conservative members of his caucus:


Democrats — and some Republicans — hoped the demise of the Boehner backup plan will usher in a last and final round of negotiations between the speaker and President Obama over a broad deficit reduction deal that raises more than $1 trillion in taxes over 10 years while locking in another $1 trillion in savings from entitlements like Medicare and other federal programs.

“The math changes” with a bipartisan deal, said Representative Steven C. LaTourette, a retiring Republican moderate from Ohio, who predicted Mr. Boehner could win at least half of House Republicans. “If there’s a negotiated settlement with the president, the speaker will put it on the floor and we’ll see where the chips fall.”

Or, Richard Cowan from Reuters says, he could just give up entirely:

Boehner's only other apparent option - one that he hinted at late on Thursday following the collapse of his bill - would be to walk away and leave the problem on Democrats' doorstep.

"Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff," Boehner said in a statement referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Brian Beutler of TPM suggests another possibility:

But if a last ditch effort fails, or he chooses to rebuff Obama, he’ll set one of two unpredictable chains of events into motion.

He can still bring Senate-passed legislation to the floor, which would lock in the Bush tax cuts for income up to $250,000. That bill would face stiff resistance from many corners of his conference, but would likely pass with overwhelming Democratic support. it would leave unresolved issues like the sequester, Medicare physician reimbursement, expiring emergency unemployment benefits, annual appropriations, and the debt ceiling. And it would still leave him wounded leader, in a tough spot with his members.

Or he could turn toward the cliff, take the country over, try to breathe life back into his speakership, and grapple with the messy consequences next year.

Salon's Steve Kornacki sums it up:

The most likely scenario now is that January 1 will come and go, the Bush tax cuts will expire for all Americans, and President Obama and Democrats will then introduce a bill to restore the Bush rates for most people – maybe using the $250,000 income threshold that Obama stuck with until this week. Maybe then, when the vote really would be for a tax cut, Republicans will sign off on it. But for now, that’s not where they are.

Meanwhile, Boehner will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. this morning, and Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will speak at 1 p.m. The House will not meet again until after Christmas.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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Barack Obama Budget Showdown Fiscal Cliff House Republicans John Boehner Plan B