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Reid: Boehner wasted a week on a 'futile political stunt' with 'Plan B'

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “Plan B” a “stunt.”

“We knew the so-called Plan B was no plan at all,” Reid said on the floor Friday. “It’s too bad Speaker Boehner wasted a week on this futile political stunt.”

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Boehner canceled a Thursday night vote to extend indefinitely current tax rates for income less than $1 million after it became clear Republicans didn’t have enough votes in their own party to pass the legislation. Boehner said it's now up to the Senate to consider a House-passed bill to extend all the Bush-era income tax rates.

"The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the Jan. 1 tax-rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation's crippling debt," Boehner said Thursday. "The Senate must now act."

Boehner and President Obama had been working on an overall deficit-reduction package, but Boehner decided to try to pass his Plan B as a fallback option when talks with the president made little progress. The two men were trying to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” which takes effect in January when Bush-era tax rates expire and deep spending cuts are triggered.

Reid said Republicans needed to come back to the negotiating table because they’ll need support from Democrats to pass a plan in the House.

“It’s time for Republicans to return to the negotiating table,” Reid said. “We’ve never left.

“This isn’t a game, this isn’t about scoring political points. It’s time for him to return to the negotiating table.”

Reid had been insisting since returning from the November elections that Boehner should hold a vote on the Senate-passed Middle Class Tax Cut Act, which would have extended Bush tax rates for 98 percent of taxpayers — those making less than $250,000.

“There is still time for Speaker Boehner to hit the brakes and avoid that cliff,” Reid said. “The only reason he hasn’t brought our bill to the floor sooner was because he knew it would pass.”

In a news conference at the Capitol, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also urged Boehner to get back to the negotiating table, in the wake of Thursday’s events.

“We have no right to walk out the door of Congress with no clear path to a resolution of this challenge,” Pelosi told reporters. “It's time to get back on track.”

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Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders said the least Boehner could do was bring up the Senate proposal to lock in tax rates for annual family income up to $250,000 a year.

“This House will say, 'yes, we believe,' to a bipartisan compromise bill,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “And, we believe it will say yes to the Senate-passed bill that is already pending.”

“Plan B may have failed,” said Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “It is time to get to plan C. Plan C is compromise, and plan C is comprehensive.”

Pelosi and Van Hollen also said that Boehner should not be concerned about having to rely mainly on Democratic votes to pass a “fiscal cliff” deal, noting that, as Speaker, Pelosi was forced to lean on Republicans to pass an Iraq war spending bill.

“I think Speaker Boehner should bring up a bill like that, that reflects that kind of balance and compromise just as Leader Pelosi did when she was Speaker of the House when it came to a bill that dealt with the Iraq war,” Van Hollen said.

Lawmakers are planning to return to work after Christmas in hopes of passing a deal before the end of the year.

Boehner has said he can’t allow a vote on the Senate plan because the Constitution requires all revenue-raising bills to originate in the House. Reid said Americans can see through Boehner’s “phony procedural” excuses.

— Mike Lillis contributed to this report.

— Published at 1:16 p.m. and last updated at 3:11 p.m.