Boehner Shows a Brave Face on Plan B Flop

House speaker's plan to avert the fiscal cliff fails, leaving the future of negotiations in question.

House Speaker John Boehner upset some members with his decision to skip voting on emergency relief legislation, which would have allocated money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.
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The morning after his "plan b" failed, House Speaker John Boehner was matter-of-fact about his disappointment.

"It's not the outcome that I wanted, but that was the will of the House," he said during a Friday press conference.

Still, the Speaker maintained an unruffled tone and emphasized that he still will work to try to reach a deal to avert the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled for January 1. Last night, Boehner scrapped his plan to maintain Bush-era tax cuts on all taxpayers except those making over $1 million per year, an option he called "plan b," when it became clear that he would not have enough votes to move the bill through the House.

Boehner said that some GOP House members perceived the bill as raising taxes. Though he noted that he disagreed with those members, he explained that some in his party refused the bill on principle.

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"We have a number of members who just did not want to be perceived as raising taxes," he said.

Even if "plan b" had passed, however, it would likely not have made it through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Boehner made sure to show that his party had made some headway on attempting to avoid the cliff, stressing that House Republicans passed a bill this summer that would have maintained Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans.

"We've been waiting since August 1 for the Senate to act [on that bill]," he said.

Aside from defending his party, Boehner also faced questions about his own place in Washington. Some have questioned whether the Ohio Republican can long maintain his speakership after his own proposal failed to pass the House, which may be taken as a sign that he has little control over his members.

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But Boehner denied he feared for his job.

Both parties have drawn their lines in the sand on how they want to change tax rates. While John Boehner drew his line at $1 million, President Obama earlier this week offered a proposal under which taxpayers making $400,000 or more would see their taxes go up.

Though the parties have reached an impasse, it appears that Republicans may suffer more than the president if the nation should go over the cliff. In a CNN/ORC poll released this week, 48 percent of respondents said that Republicans would be "more responsible" if tax increases and spending cuts occurred, compared to just 37 percent who said the president would be more responsible.

Despite his differences with the president, Boehner said that he's not walking away from talks with the White House. He said that he wants to keep working to avoid the cliff, and on this one point he and the White House appear to be in agreement. A White House statement likewise expresses resolve to avert tax hikes as quickly as possible.

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"The President will work with Congress to get this done and we are hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan solution quickly that protects the middle class and our economy," said Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement released Thursday night.

The Senate has recessed for the holidays, but Majority Leader Harry Reid said this week that Senators will return on December 27 to continue work on the fiscal cliff. Boehner said Thursday night that it is up to Obama and Reid to work on a deal to avert the pending tax hike and spending cuts.

The House adjourned this morning, but could also reconvene after Christmas to work on a fiscal cliff deal.

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Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter @titonka or via E-mail at dkurtzleben@usnews.com.