Reid: Plan B means giving up

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday that House Speaker John Boehner's new "Plan B" proposal for addressing the fiscal cliff cannot pass the Senate and if Republicans press ahead with a plan to put the plan to a House vote, it would represent walking away from bipartisan negotiations with the White House.

Boehner has said negotiations continue with the White House. But Reid told reporters that he spoke to President Obama at 12:45 p.m. and Obama told him he'd heard nothing new from the Republican speaker on Tuesday.

Boehner told colleagues in the morning that he still hopes to reach a deal with President Obama to avert scheduled year-end tax increases and automatic spending cuts. But, in the absence of a deal, Boehner said he would ask Republicans to pass a bill that would allow tax rates to rise only on those making at least $1 million a year -- freezing tax rates for those making less. Democrats believe tax rates must rise on more wealthy households to reach a broad deficit reduction deal. Obama Monday suggested allowing tax rates to rise on all those making at least $400,000.

"Boehner’s proposal will not pass the Senate," Reid emphasized to reporters, recounting how conservative Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) rose in a closed Democratic luncheon to speak against continuing tax breaks for those making nearly $1 million. "Everyone clapped when he finished. We’re not going there," Reid said.

He said Obama's own proposal -- controversial among Democrats for including a change in the way inflation is calculated that would result in a cut to future Social Security benefits -- was a good overture to Republicans.

"I admire and appreciate very much the President showing the American people how reasonable he’s trying to be — significant tax increases, significant cuts," he said.

"I’m sorry to say this is a pattern we've seen time and time again," he said of Republicans. "Every time we get down to doing something for the long term financial security of this country, they take that football and it’s a Charlie Brown episode. They jerk the ball away."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) meanwhile offered some support to the Boehner plan, indicating he would prefer to freeze tax rates for Americans at all income levels, but noting the Boehner bill would spare nearly everyone a tax increase. McConnell noted that some Democrats, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), have in the past advocated a million dollar threshold for tax increases.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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Rosalind S. Helderman · December 18, 2012