With just 14 days to avoid the fiscal cliff and the holiday around the corner, House Speaker John Boehner introduced a "plan B" to keep taxes from increasing on Americans making less than $1 million a year Tuesday.
Boehner says the back-up plan is a precaution and a response to slow negotiations with the White House.
"I believe it is important to protect as many taxpayers as we can. I continue to have hope that we can reach a broader agreement with the White House that would reduce spending as well as put revenues on the table. I think it would be better for our country," Boehner said during a press conference. "But having a back-up plan to make sure that as few American taxpayers are affected by this tax increase as possible [I think] is the right course of action for us."
The tax bill, which would not address the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts due to hit in January, could be brought to the floor as soon as Thursday, according to House aides.
But even if it passes the House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Boehner's "plan B" stands no chance of passing in the Senate.
"Speaker Boehner should focus his energy on forging a large-scale deficit reduction agreement," Reid said in a statement. "It would be a shame if Republicans abandoned productive negotiations due to pressure from the Tea Party, as they have time and time again."
Boehner met with his caucus Tuesday to sell them on the idea of raising tax rates for those making more than a $1 million and briefed them on ongoing negotiations with the White House. While many Republican lawmakers coming out of the meetings described the mood in the room as tense, most said they were willing to do what the speaker asked of them in an effort to expedite a remedy to the fiscal cliff.
"We are all going to support the speaker," says Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas. "We are not cliff divers," an apparent reference to Democrats in the Senate who said they'd be willing to go over the cliff to keep from extending the Bush-era tax rates for Americans making more than $1 million.
While many Republicans continue to argue the country has a spending-driven debt crisis, not a lack of revenue, members say they are prepared to vote yes on legislation that keeps the majority of Americans from seeing their taxes go up.
"The speaker understands what reality is. He understands he's got a difficult sell ahead of him with a number of members of our conference," says Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas. "By law, taxes are going up. This is an opportunity by our conference to do what we can to save as many Americans from a tax increase on Jan. 1 as we possibly can."
Many members say they'd still prefer to see the White House work with Congress to negotiate a broader deal, but sticking points remain.
The White House contends they'd be willing to settle on a grand bargain that raises tax rates for those making more than $400,000, but not more than $1 million. And Boehner says the White House's latest proposal, which offers $850 billion in spending cuts and $1.3 trillion in revenue increases is "not balanced." Boehner would like to see dollar for dollar cuts.
"This is a difficult time for Americans and that is why while we continue to have conversations with the White House and we continue to have hope that we can come to an agreement," Boehner says. "It is not a time to put Americans through more stress."
- A Simpleton's Guide to the Fiscal Cliff
- Fight Over FISA Brewing in Senate
- Legislators Talk Gun Reform, But We've Seen This Before
Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at email@example.com.