December 19, 2012

White House threatens veto of GOP budget plan

House Speaker John Boehner is planning a House vote on the proposal on Thursday, hoping it will raise pressure on President Obama to make concessions.

Alan Fram / The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The White House threatened Wednesday to veto House Speaker John Boehner's backup plan for averting the "fiscal cliff," saying it was time for Republicans to stop political posturing and continue trying to reach a compromise deficit-cutting package.

click image to enlarge

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, is joined by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, left, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., right, as they finish a news conference about the fiscal cliff negotiations at the Capitol on Tuesday.

AP

Boehner, R-Ohio, proposed his so-called Plan B on Tuesday, a measure that would block tax cuts from being triggered Jan. 1 on everyone but those whose incomes exceed $1 million. The White House said Boehner's package did not raise enough revenue from the country's top earners, would leave too big a deficit-reduction burden on the middle class and omitted tax breaks used by families and businesses.

"The president urges the Republican leadership to work with us to resolve remaining differences and find a reasonable solution to this situation today instead of engaging in political exercises that increase the possibility that taxes go up on every American," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a written statement.

Boehner is planning a House vote on his proposal on Thursday, hoping that it would raise pressure on President Barack Obama to make concessions as both sides continue reaching for a bipartisan deal on averting the "fiscal cliff." Without an agreement among lawmakers, hundreds of billions of broad tax increases on nearly all taxpayers and budget-wide spending cuts will be triggered in early January.

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said White House opposition to the GOP backup plan "is growing more bizarre and irrational by the day." He said Republicans prefer a deficit-cutting plan that is balanced between tax increases and spending cuts, but Obama has yet to offer such a proposal.

"If Democrats disapprove of this bill, then there is a simple solution: amend it in the Senate and send it back to the House," Buck said in a written statement.

In the absence of a deal with Obama, Boehner's Plan B is attracting support from Republicans eager to cast a vote preventing tax increases on as many people as possible.

Obama's latest offer — focusing tax boosts on incomes above $400,000 — would affect nearly 1.1 million taxpayers. Limiting the tax boosts to income exceeding $1 million would target just 237,000 households, according to the latest Internal Revenue Service figures for 2009.

Even so, House GOP leaders are laboring to line up enough support for the backup measure in the face of conservatives reluctant to boost anyone's taxes. Even if it could survive in the House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has declared it dead in his chamber and now the White House has promised to veto it should it somehow reach Obama's desk.

The backup plan by Boehner would do nothing to head off deep cuts in defense and domestic programs scheduled to begin taking effect in January. And it contains none of the spending reductions that both President Barack Obama and Boehner have proposed in their efforts to strike a compromise.

"The speaker is trying to get as much leverage as he can to deal with the president," said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., describing the pressure Republicans were hoping it would put on the White House. But he added that he wasn't sure the plan was the best way to get that leverage.

"I'm still trying to figure that out," Boustany said.

Others were more supportive. Rep. Patrick Tiberi, R-Ohio, said Plan B would let Republicans vote to protect as many people as possible from tax hikes while leaving Democrats with the blame if it failed.

If the Senate decides not to vote on the House bill or ignores it, "That's not our problem," Tiberi said. "The ball's in Harry Reid's court."

(Continued on page 2)

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