House GOP sets up fiscal-cliff 'Plan B' vote for Thursday

House Republicans late Tuesday night took steps toward having two fiscal-cliff votes as early as Thursday.

One vote would be on "Plan B" from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to extend permanent tax relief for all income earned below $1 million, and the other vote would be on the Senate Democratic plan to temporarily extend lower rates for people earning under $250,000.

Republicans posted the texts of both legislative proposals on the House Rules Committee's website late Tuesday.

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The Rules Committee will meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday to approve a rule for considering both proposals, which could set up Thursday debate on the rule and both proposals.

Boehner put forward his Plan B as a backup plan to ensure Congress passes some form of tax relief by the end of this year, if talks with the White House fail to reach a larger deal. But he said he is still negotiating with the White House on a bigger package that includes spending cuts and possibly a deal to lift the debt ceiling.

Avoiding tax increases on the bulk of taxpayers would avoid a good chunk of the fiscal cliff — a tax increase on the middle class was seen by economists as the largest threat to GDP in 2013.

But Boehner's plan was immediately panned by the White House and other Democrats. Obama's latest offer in the talks with Boehner would raise tax rates on income above $400,000. 

It's also unclear whether Boehner's plan can attract enough House Republicans, although Boehner said Tuesday he expects to have enough votes to pass it. The bill would allow tax rates on annual income above $1 million to rise, something Republicans in the past have viewed as a tax hike. 

The bill also includes no new spending cuts or entitlement reforms, and does not turn off the "sequester" created in 2011 to force spending cuts. Both parties are now critical of those cuts and say they should be avoided. The first wave of sequester cuts — about $110 billion — is slated to begin in January. 

While many Republicans are not happy with the idea of any tax increase, Plan B has other elements in it that could help attract some GOP support. For example, it would permanently extend the current estate and gift tax levels, and permanently prevent the Alternative Minimum Tax from increasing the tax bill for thousands of middle-class families.