Speaker John Boehner will move to pass his "Plan B" in the House, but the political implications of going ahead without the White House and possibly without the backing of his own GOP caucus could prove a major blow up for him.
Thursday, the House will hold votes on two pieces of legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff. One would permanently extend the Bush-era tax cuts for households making less than $1 million a year. The other bill would offset the more than $500 billion in automatic Defense Department cuts slated to hit in January with discretionary cuts to other programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and the Affordable Care Act.
Experts agree passing "Plan B" is Boehner's attempt to bolster the public opinion's of the GOP if no deal can be brokered before January, but they also say there are also major risks. "Boehner's motivation is that he can say Republicans passed something and have a talking point," says Kyle Kondik, a congressional expert at the University of Virginia.
"If the fiscal cliff does happen for a moment before it is rectified, it will be a blame game between the president and the Republicans in the House."
The latest polling shows that if the country falls over the cliff, 48 percent of Americans will blame GOP leader John Boehner. Only 37 percent said they would blame the president.
"The optics of this favor the president and the Democrats," Kondik says. "Honestly, how many people are paying attention to Boehner's 'Plan B?' This is a more difficult fight for the Republicans than it is for the president."
And there is still a chance Boehner won't be able to pass his "Plan B." Republicans in red districts see little incentive to vote for tax increases on the ultra wealthy.
Despite multiple messaging meetings, Boehner still hasn't managed to get his entire caucus behind him. Assuming every Democrat votes against the bill, only 24 Republicans can vote "no" in order for the bill to pass. Already, The Hill reports 11 Republicans—including Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, Texas Rep. Joe Barton, and Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp—have vowed to vote against the legislation that raises taxes.
"Boehner will look bad if it goes to the floor, and it is defeated," Kondik says. "But while there is some drama about whether this passes or not in the House, there is no drama about what is going to happen in the Senate."
Senate Leader Harry Reid said the legislation would not make it through the both houses and President Obama already made a veto threat if the legislation lands on his desk.
James Thurber, the Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, says Boehner's calculated this could win him points in the short run, but that ultimately "Plan B" could increases the risk that the country goes over the cliff.
"This is a chess game, and I think Boehner has been very clever, but it makes it more difficult for a deal to come together," Thurber says. "A good sign is when everything is quiet. Right now, when everything is out in the media; it is a public confrontation that makes it more difficult to negotiate."
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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.