By Bob Cusack - 12/21/12 02:12 PM EST
The House GOP’s failure to secure the votes to pass the Plan B tax bill is a devastating blow to the party and significantly decreases Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) negotiating leverage.
The tactical blunder came at the worst time for Republicans — at crunch time in the fiscal-cliff drama, when the spotlight was on them.
Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). The minority leader and minority whip kept their side in line, forcing Republicans to push the bill over the top by themselves. They didn’t get close.
President Obama. The White House now has even more leverage in the wake of Plan B’s death. Still, Obama needs to get Boehner to put a bipartisan bill on the floor before Dec. 31. Earlier this month, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) suggested that such a measure could pass with 180 Democrats and 50 Republicans backing it. At the time, that breakdown seemed highly unlikely. Today, it seems plausible.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). GOP leaders kicked Huelskamp and other conservatives off key committees, penalizing them for not being part of the team. Since then, Huelskamp has attracted a slew of media attention — something that will surely help his campaign war chest and his political aspirations down the road. Huelskamp crowed after Boehner pulled the bill on Thursday.
Club for Growth and Heritage Action. Both conservative groups came out against Plan B, breaking with Americans for Tax Reform, which said the bill did not raise taxes. However, Republican operatives say because Plan B died, the fiscal-cliff bill that will be signed into law will be more liberal.
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.). History says that it is going to be very difficult for Democrats to win the House in 2014. For the most part, presidents in their second terms don’t fare well in midterms. In 2006, for example, President George W. Bush’s party lost the House and Senate. As head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Israel is aiming to buck history — and the GOP just gave him a gift. Polls show that most people would blame the Republicans if there is no deal on the fiscal cliff before Jan. 1.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his lieutenants. Boehner and his team thought they could get Democratic votes for Plan B. That was a major error in judgment; House Democrats were never going to help Boehner increase his leverage against their own president. GOP leaders scrambled to sweeten the bill for conservatives, but the effort was doomed from the start. The other puzzling decision was the attempt to pass Plan B. There had been progress between Obama and Boehner earlier this month, with the president lifting his income threshold from $250,000 to $400,000 and putting Social Security on the table. There have been claims that Boehner didn’t have a lot of votes to pass a bipartisan cliff bill. In five prior fiscal votes this Congress, defections ranged from 54 to 101. But every time, Boehner got the majority of the majority, and that appeared to be within reach on the fiscal cliff — before he introduced Plan B.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 vice presidential candidate fought for Plan B with members but failed to sway many votes. In the process, he may have hurt his credentials with conservatives ahead of a possible run for the White House in 2016.
Senate Republicans. They didn’t make the call on Plan B, but they will suffer because of its failure. In all likelihood, Obama will get more of what he wants in the negotiations, and that could cause major friction between House and Senate Republicans.
Grover Norquist. Americans for Tax Reform, headed by Norquist, gave Republicans cover by saying Plan B did not raise taxes and would not violate the ATR pledge. That didn’t move many conservatives, who stood strong in opposition.
This story was updated at 9:39 a.m.