Boehner: House Will Pass 'Plan B' Fiscal Cliff Legislation

With days ticking down to the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts deadline, President Obama took his case to the American public again on Wednesday — and House Republicans were not happy about it. House Speaker John Boehner responded with a statement that barely lasted a minute as the House prepared to vote on competing plans to avert the tax hikes but which do not address the spending cuts.

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The president's chiding on those fiscal issues did not appear to go over well among congressional Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner called the press to a media availability at the Capitol, and he delivered a very terse message. He called for the president to, in his words, get serious. The statement lasted less than a minute and made it clear that the speaker is pushing ahead on a separate path. Here's NPR's David Welna.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Speaker Boehner was brief and to the point. He rejected President Obama's latest offer, which he described as $1.3 trillion in revenue and $850 billion in spending reductions over the next decade, saying it was not a balanced approach. And Boehner confirmed that House Republicans will take up his Plan B - an extension of the soon-to-expire Bush-era tax cuts for all income up to a million dollars.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: Tomorrow, the House will pass legislation to make permanent tax relief for nearly every American - 99.81 percent of the American people. Then the president will have a decision to make: He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.

WELNA: President Obama has already raised his limit for income covered by an extension of the expiring tax cuts from $250,000 per household to $400,000. But House Democrats plan to offer an amendment to Plan B that would keep intact the president's original quarter-million-dollar threshold and extend other expiring tax breaks as well as unemployment insurance. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats will vote for that rather than Plan B.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: The middle income tax cut that is on the floor tomorrow is one that Democrats will support. If it fails, it will fail because we don't have a majority.

WELNA: It's not clear, though, that Boehner has the votes to pass his Plan B, although it allows the top tax bracket to rise from 35 to 39.6 percent. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform declared today that voting for it would not break the pledge most Republicans have made with him not to raise taxes. But other conservative anti-tax groups railed outside the Capitol against Boehner's Plan B. Brent Bozell chairs a group called ForAmerica.

BRENT BOZELL: If the Republicans support this tax increase, they will lose control of the House in the 2014 elections.

WELNA: This morning, the White House said President Obama would veto Plan B if it passed both the House and the Senate. But New York's Charles Schumer, the message man for Senate Democrats, says the president won't need to use his veto pen.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER: Only House Republicans could write a proposal with a million-dollar income threshold and still find a way to raise taxes on the middle class. It's the wrong approach. Even if the House passes it, it will be dead on arrival in the Senate. The speaker should simply return to the negotiating table with the president, because if he does, I firmly believe we can have an agreement before Christmas.

WELNA: One possibility Senate Democrats have not ruled out is that if Plan B does pass in the House, they'd gut it and replace it with the president's latest proposal, which they'd then send back to the House. But many of Mr. Obama's supporters are angry with his new plan because it includes a stingier formula for cost of living increases known as chained CPI, which would hold down Social Security adjustments. Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders says the White House repeatedly assured him that would not happen.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: ...and that Social Security should be off the table in terms of deficit reduction. I heard that many, many times. So I wonder how Social Security suddenly has gotten back on the table, including a chained CPI with devastating cuts to seniors and disabled vets.

WELNA: As things stand now, few lawmakers see all this getting sorted out by year's end, much less by Christmas. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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