After progress over the weekend toward agreement on a broad package of measures to address the federal deficit, Obama on Wednesday blasted Boehner’s decision to temporarily halt negotiations and instead push the alternative plan.
“Take the deal,” Obama said at a midday news conference, suggesting that the main obstacle to an agreement is GOP antipathy for the president himself. “They keep finding ways to say ‘no’ rather than to say ‘yes.’ ”
Before the talks were suspended, the two sides had closed the gap dividing them, but significant differences remained. Obama, for instance, is demanding that tax rates increase on income over $400,000, while Boehner insists that tax hikes be limited to income above $1 million.
In a public statement that lasted less than a minute, Boehner repeated his charge that Obama’s last offer was not “balanced” — because, according to estimates, it raises more than $1.3 trillion in new tax revenue while cutting spending by only $930 billion. Boehner vowed that his plan, extending tax cuts for all but millionaires, would pass the House.
“Then, the president will have a decision to make,” Boehner said. “He can call on Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in history.” If the legislation wins approval, the speaker said he would resume talks with Obama on a broad plan to tame the federal debt.
In a meeting with business leaders at the White House, senior administration officials warned that Boehner’s “Plan B”, as he calls it, could ultimately lead the nation over the fiscal cliff.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has promised to block the plan if it passes the House, and Obama vowed on Wednesday to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.
Nor is it certain that Boehner’s proposal can pass his own House. If it fails there, congressional leaders fear it would leave Boehner politically debilitated and possibly unable to rally Republican support for a subsequent bipartisan deal with Obama, perhaps in January.
Democrats are not expected to lend Boehner a single vote, at least not until he shows he can deliver a majority from within his own ranks. Boehner is able to lose up to two dozen Republicans and still pass the measure strictly with GOP votes. But he had already seen more than 10 House conservatives defect by Wednesday evening over their opposition to tax increases. Boehner tried to mollify Republicans concerned that his plan would not avert military cuts by planning a second vote on legislation to shield the Pentagon budget from automatic reductions.