By Erik Wasson - 12/18/12 03:59 PM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wasted no time on Tuesday rejecting a new "Plan B" floated by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to avoid the "fiscal cliff."
Boehner is bringing a bill to the floor that would extend current individual income tax rates for those earning below $1 million per year.
“Speaker Boehner’s Plan B is the farthest thing from a balanced approach. It will not protect middle-class families because it cannot pass both houses of Congress. The Senate bill is the only Plan B that can be signed into law and prevent taxes from rising by $2,200 on the average middle-class family,” he said.
Reid said that Boehner should focus on completing a grand bargain with the White House.
“Now is the time to show leadership, not kick the can down the road. Speaker Boehner should focus his energy on forging a large-scale deficit-reduction agreement. It would be a shame if Republicans abandoned productive negotiations due to pressure from the Tea Party, as they have time and again,” he said.
Boehner's office said that most Senate Democrats have already voted for a bill to extend rates for those making less than $1 million, making Reid's rejection nonsensical.
“For years, Washington Democrats — led by Sen. Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi — have been calling for a bill to stop the tax hikes except on millionaires. They even voted in favor of it," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. "To oppose it now would make them entirely responsible for the tax hikes that tens of millions of Americans face in less than two weeks. They know that, and the president knows that.”
The White House on Monday night gave Boehner a new compromise offer with fewer tax increases and with cuts to entitlement benefits such as Social Security. The White House says this offer is a balanced approach of $1.2 trillion in taxes and $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Boehner uses different math, excluding interest payments and including stimulus spending, to say the deal is $1.3 trillion in taxes and $850 billion in spending cuts.
Boehner told his conference on Tuesday that while he is moving to his backup plan to avoid January's fiscal cliff, he is not abandoning efforts to force the White House to agree to a deal with more spending cuts and fewer tax increases.
— This story was updated at 12:29 p.m.