With Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" tax proposal pulled from the House floor and the House officially delaying all legislative business until after the Christmas holiday, there are now only six days, starting the day after Christmas, for John Boehner to figure out a way to avoid the fiscal curb starting January 1st. House Republicans planned to vote on the Speaker's backup tax plan that would have preserved most Bush-era tax rates and allowed rates to increase on millionaires, but conservative Republicans refused to back the plan. The GOP huddled to discuss its options. According to conservative radio host Mark Levin's Facebook page, Speaker Boehner pleaded for votes during this meeting, telling Republicans that they would lose their negotiating power if they did not vote for "Plan B."
Levin wrote, "I am told the G-O-P leadership in the House is now threatening members with losing their committee posts if they do not vote for the Boehner tax increase."
Because Boehner could not get enough Republican votes to pass his tax increase bill, he was forced to pull the bill from the floor--a sharp repudiation of his leadership. He issued the following statement:
"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass. Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation's crippling debt. The Senate must now act."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said earlier today a big deal is still on the table. "The President is ready right now to negotiate a compromise along the lines of the one he put forward. It's available, it's a good deal. It's right here. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has put it forward. It's a good, fair deal, and a balanced deal, and they ought to continue to negotiate to try to achieve something big for the American people."
The White House issued a statement:
The President’s main priority is to ensure that taxes don’t go up on 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses in just a few short days. 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.
After the Plan B vote was aborted, conservatives pounced. Kansas Congressman Tim Heulskamp, whom Boehner removed from his committee assignment, released a statement Thursday night. "The House should stick to its original objective of extending ALL Bush-Obama tax cuts... Republican leadership thought they could silence conservatives when they kicked us off our Committees. I'm glad that enough of my colleagues refused to back down from the threats and intimidation, thus preventing the Conference from abandoning our principles.
Persuading a majority of House Republicans to vote for a tax increase proved to be too difficult for the Speaker. He could've used the support as potential leverage in future negotiations with the White House. Now, the abandonment of his tax plan has made his inability to unite his party painfully obvious.
msnbc contributor Ezra Klein indicated on The Last Word that Boehner's speakership may be in further trouble.
"I do wonder come January 1st when he needs to run for re-election as Speaker, remember you need a majority of the entire House to become Speaker, not just a plurality. Not just more than the other guys. So if a couple conservatives decide this guy is now going to cave, because he doesn’t have a choice and they just run somebody against 25, 30 votes, that’s enough to deny him Speakership until a consensus candidate comes along like Kevin McCarthy or Eric Cantor, and the GOP rallies around them. It looks like a bad situation to Boehner for me."
msnbc's Lawrence O'Donnell agreed that Speaker Boehner "may have a serious struggle at a first ballot victory as Speaker."