By Justin Sink - 12/20/12 06:09 PM EST
Speaker John Boehner moved to his "Plan B" proposal on the fiscal cliff because he didn't have support for a plan he offered to the White House, according to a senior administration official.
The official said Republicans have told the White House that Boehner concluded he could not get enough support for the plan he offered the president over the weekend, and then shifted to Plan B, which would permanently lock in tax rates on annual income under $1 million. Tax rates for individuals and couples on annual income above $1 million would be allowed to expire.
“This is stupid and untrue," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "Once the White House leaked their latest offer, the Speaker’s office immediately briefed reporters to explain how absurdly unbalanced it was. The Speaker was clear that he could not support the president’s plan, let alone recommend it to members of the House.”
A separate GOP leadership aide indicated to The Hill that the White House official was correct in the assessment that Boehner didn't have enough support from GOP colleagues for his own proposals offered in negotiations with the president.
At a Thursday press conference, Boehner refrained from directly answering a question about whether this was true.
"The president knows that I've been able to keep my word on every agreement we've ever made," Boehner said. "The fact is that his plan is not balanced and as a result time's running short and I'm going to do everything I can to protect as many Americans from an increase in taxes as I can."
The back and forth highlights how negotiations on a fiscal deal have taken a turn for the worse. The comment from the senior administration official touched at a sore point for Boehner — his control over his own members. Boehner is furiously whipping votes on Plan B, as a loss on the floor would be a political blow to his leadership of the conference.
GOP leaders have emphasized their unity in the current talks, and Boehner's Plan B has been backed by his lieutenants as well as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the party's 2012 vice presidential candidate.
Boehner in talks with Obama proposed $1 trillion in new tax revenues, up from $800 billion in his initial proposal. That included an increase back to Clinton-era tax levels for those making over $1 million per year, in addition to closing deductions and loopholes. He also asked Obama to accept $1 trillion in spending cuts and reforms to entitlement programs, but was willing to raise the debt ceiling.
The president rejected Boehner's proposal, and countered with an offer that would have raised $1.2 trillion in new revenues from an increase in tax rates on those making more than $400,000 per year. Obama wanted a two-year hike to the debt ceiling, but in a concession to Boehner offered to change the way inflation is calculated on government programs, including Social Security. That would have raised $130 billion and angered liberal Democrats.
Boehner then moved to Plan B, which the House is scheduled to vote on Thursday.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday vowed the GOP would have enough votes to pass the Plan B tax plan.
“We’re going to have the votes to pass both the permanent tax relief bill as well as the spending reduction act,” Cantor told reporters.
Republicans have scrambled to get support even behind the package, with Democrats holding the line against the bill and some Republicans defecting on the principle that they would not vote for something that would raise taxes.
Senate Democrats have already signaled they would not take up the bill, and the White House has threatened a veto.
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Thursday called Plan B "a multi-day exercise in futility at a time that we do not have the luxury of exercises in futility."