Boehner not worried about losing Speaker's gavel after scrapped vote

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday said he was not concerned about losing his Speakership, a day after House Republicans refused to support his fallback plan to avoid most of the fiscal cliff.

“No, I’m not,” Boehner said in response to a question at a Capitol press conference, where he was joined by his chief lieutenant, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

The Speaker suffered the most embarrassing defeat of his two-year tenure on Thursday when he was forced to cancel a planned vote on legislation that would have allowed tax rates to rise on family income over $1 million.

Boehner, who sent the House home for Christmas, said it was up to President Obama and the Democratic-led Senate to act to prevent a set of painful tax increases and spending cuts from taking effect beginning Jan. 1.

He said he would continue working with the president and other congressional leaders on a broad deficit reduction agreement, but he said plainly he did not know what it would be. “How we get there, God only knows.”

In response to direct questions, Boehner refused to rule out an eventual House vote on legislation that would garner mostly Democratic votes. The Senate earlier this year passed a bill extending tax rates for family income up to $250,000, but Boehner said it was invalid because legislation that raises revenue cannot, under the Constitution, originate in the Senate.

“There is no Senate bill that has come to the House,” he said. “As we all know, the Senate bill had a blue-slip problem and continues to sit in the United States Senate. So we don’t have a Senate bill.”

The Speaker reiterated that the House in August passed legislation to extend all current tax rates and replace the automatic spending cuts, but the Senate has already rejected that proposal.

Boehner insisted he was not walking away or abandoning the possibility of a year-end deal, even though the House has recessed for Christmas. “We’re prepared to come back if needed,” he said.

In brief remarks, Cantor echoed Boehner’s message.

The Speaker attributed Thursday’s setback to “a perception” that his proposal raised taxes, an assessment he said he did not share. The legislation did not explicitly increase tax rates, but for years before the November election, Republicans, including party leaders, had argued that such proposals when offered by Democrats were de facto tax hikes.

Boehner said he was “proud” of his members and did not interpret the rejection of his bill as a personal rebuke.

“Listen, you’ve all heard me say this, and I’ve told my colleagues, if you do the right things everyday for the right reasons, the right things will happen,” he said. “While we may have not been able to get the votes last night to avert 99.81 percent of the tax increases, I don’t think … They weren’t taking that out on me. They were dealing with the perception that someone might accuse them of raising taxes.”

And with that, Boehner reportedly offered a hearty “Merry Christmas, everyone!” and left the room.