Boehner's Bluff: Van Hollen Says Fiscal Cliff Deal Stalled by Leadership Election

Boehner may be looking for more than just a tax deal in fiscal cliff talks.

House Speaker John Boehner shows off his new gavel after being elected speaker, Jan. 5, 2011.
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Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen told reporters Wednesday he is worried House Speaker John Boehner is slow-walking fiscal cliff negotiations in an effort to preserve his position as the leader of the House.

"I am getting increasingly concerned that one of the reason's the speaker is going to string out these discussions is that he wants to wait until Jan. 3 when the election for speaker takes place," Van Hollen said during a breakfast with reporters. "People should understand we could get this done if the speaker was willing to bring a bill to the floor of the House — a bill that did not necessarily get the majority of Republican votes."

It's no secret Boehner's legacy hinges on whether he can negotiate a grand bargain with the White House to avoid tax hikes and $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts, but his position as leader might depend on whether he is able to stand his ground long enough to placate his own party.

[RELATED: House Conservatives Rip Boehner After 'Purge']

A few members of the conservative caucus agree that Boehner's speakership might be in danger if he brings a plan to the floor that raises taxes and fails to slash the deficit fast enough.

"I wouldn't be surprised if his actions have caused him to be a little more concerned about negotiations and the kind of damage he might do to his own political situation if he negotiates a bad deal," says Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash.

But while progress has been slow, many Republicans have stood behind Boehner as he has negotiated a deal on their behalf.

"I think Speaker Boehner is going to do the best he can with the hand he has been dealt," says Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador.

[ENJOY: Political Cartoons on the Fiscal Cliff]

Labrador and a handful of conservative colleagues in the House have even signaled they are open to whatever their leader lays out in front of them if the plan includes significant spending cuts to entitlement programs. Even if it means they must concede on the fight over tax rates for high earners.

"If there are real cuts and real reform, I think all of us would have to reconsider our position," Labrador says.

Boehner's latest offer to President Barack Obama Tuesday would generate $800 billion in new revenues through revising the tax code, but reports say it would permanently extend Bush-era tax rates for households making more than $250,000. Obama has said he would veto any legislation that did not raise rates on top earners.

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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News & World Report. She can be reached at lfox@usnews.com or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.