Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) wasted no time Friday lambasting House Republicans for the failure of House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B."

Melina Mara/The Washington Post


“It’s too bad Speaker Boehner wasted a week on this futile political stunt – and that’s all we can call it,” he said. “But at least House Republicans have gotten the message loud and clear: A comprehensive solution to the looming fiscal cliff will need to be a bipartisan solution. No comprehensive agreement can pass either chamber without Democratic and Republican votes.”“Instead of making hard choices and compromising, as President Obama has been willing to do, the speaker retreated to his corner and resorted to political stunts,” Reid said later. “But that stunt fell flat. It’s time for the speaker and all Republicans to return to the negotiating table. We’ve never left.”

Reid once again called on Boehner to hold a vote on a Senate-passed measure that would raise taxes on Americans earning more than $250,000 annually – a part of Obama’s original post-election proposal to Republicans.

When he rose to respond, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to provide political cover for Boehner by placing the future of negotiations squarely on Obama.

“This isn’t John Boehner’s problem to solve, he’s done his part, he’s bent over backwards,” McConnell said. “Mr. President, how about rallying your party around a solution, how about getting Democrats to support something?”

As a solution, McConnell urged the Senate to hold a vote on a Republican-passed House bill that would extend Bush-era tax rates for another year. Because the Senate cannot constitutionally initiate legislation that affects taxes, Boehner also has urged Reid to take up the measure.

But because of that measure’s structure, conservatives and liberals opposed to the bill — or to any proposals to amend it — would have numerous opportunities to mount a filibuster. That would force Reid to muster 60 votes to proceed, an enormous political hurdle.

On Thursday, McConnell urged Reid to take up the bill, permit amendments and quickly return it to the House.

 “It’s called legislating, that’s what we used to do in Congress,” McConnell said. “Democrats may be popping champagne corks today about bringing down ‘Plan B,’ but all their effort to do so yesterday won’t protect a single taxpayer from a massive tax hike in just a few weeks.”

As McConnell spoke, Reid sat in his seat across from him looking through his BlackBerry, smiling and chuckling with a senior policy staffer as they made notes for how to respond. When he rose, he appeared to suppress laughter.

“My friend is struggling to find a way to blame Democrats,” Reid said, pointing at McConnell. “I like John Boehner, but gee whiz, I mean this is a pretty big political battering he’s taken. What he should do is allow a vote in the House of Representatives on a bipartisan bill. It will pass: Democrats will vote for it, some Republicans will vote for it. That’s what we’re supposed to do. But he’s trying to pass everything with that majority that he has that can’t agree on anything among themselves. Bring in the Democrats.”