Democrats press Boehner to return to deficit negotiations

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Friday it is "utterly irresponsible" for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to make Democrats accountable for passing legislation that avoids the automatic spending cuts and tax-rate expiration known as the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year.

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"That is the Speaker throwing up his hands and abdicating responsibility to come to the negotiating table, sit with President Obama, work out the remaining, really short distance they had to go," she said on CNN's "Starting Point." 

"It's really challenging to understand why, instead of continuing to do the hard work of the last few steps that they had to take to get to a deal, that instead the Speaker decided to jam us and put something on the floor that he couldn't even pass out of his own caucus because they're so extreme," she continued.

The bill that Boehner put on the floor this week was a fallback plan known as "Plan B," which would have extended the current tax rates for individuals making less than $1 million, and allowed rates to rise on those making more. 

He was forced to yank the bill before a vote on Thursday night because he did not have the votes to pass it, with much of the Republican Conference opposed to allowing any rates to rise. 

Obama and the Democrats have refused to make any deal that does not allow rates to rise on wealthier taxpayers, but rejected the $1 million offer in Boehner's bill.

Boehner is now putting pressure back on the White House and Democratic-controlled Senate to act before the end of the year. On Friday, he rejected the idea that he is walking away from negotiations, but characterized the differences between negotiating positions as far apart.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the House Democratic whip, said in a separate appearance on CNBC that Boehner's failure proved he cannot achieve his goal without bipartisan support. 

"All along, Mr. Boehner is saying the White House won't compromise," Hoyer said. "John Boehner could not get his own bill through with a Republican majority [in the House]."

Boehner held his ground in a press conference, noting that the House already passed a bill that extended all of the George W. Bush-era tax rates, which are set to expire at the end of the year. Democrats want to extend only the rates applying to the middle class. 

The Senate has approved legislation that extends tax rates on annual income below $250,000, which would allow rates on higher income to increase. Republicans say that number hits small-business owners.

Hoyer pressed Boehner to make further concessions, arguing that the Speaker's failure to convince his own party to agree to allow rates to rise on individuals making more than $1 million proves he must bow to Democrats' demands to allow rates to rise on a lower income bracket in order to get Democratic votes. 

Although Boehner's failure to get enough GOP votes for his "Plan B" legislation was a setback, Hoyer said Boehner "is still the Speaker" and should take responsibility.

"Last night he said, 'Well, the responsibility is on somebody else.' That's not true. He's still the Speaker of the House," Hoyer said. "I hope John Boehner doesn't give up the leadership. Frankly, I think John Boehner sincerely wants to get to a [compromise]."

The House is in recess until Christmas or until "needed," Boehner said. Hoyer said he regretted that many House members left town, and pointed out that Democratic leadership is still in Washington. (The House Republican leadership is as well.)