House GOP Calls Off Vote on Plan B

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 20 2012 8:47 PM

House GOP Calls Off Vote on Plan B

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John Boehner (R-OH) arrives at his weekly news conference December 20, 2012 on Capitol Hill

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

So much for Plan B.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

House Speaker John Boehner abruptly called off a vote tonight on a Republican bill that would allow tax rates to rise for households earning $1 million and up after it became clear that he didn't have the votes he needed to push through the measure—which Senate Democrats had already declared DOA in the upper chamber anyway.

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"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass," Boehner said in a short statement, hours after his fellow GOP leaders had suggested that they had the support to push through the measure. "Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff."

Exactly what happens next remains unclear, as the New York Times explains:

The struggle to win Republican support for a measure that would allow income taxes to rise on a sliver of the top one percent of taxpayers telegraphed a grave decision for the speaker. A deal with the president would almost certainly lose a huge swath of his Republican conference, but it could pass with Democratic support. Does he make that deal and risk a Republican revolt, or do leaders allow the nation to careen off the so-called fiscal cliff?

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, meanwhile, runs us through the alphabet and settles on what looks like the most obvious answer:

Plan A, which was a deal with President Obama, was put on ice, many believe, because Boehner couldn’t wrangle the votes to pass anything Obama would sign. Plan B failed because Boehner couldn’t wrangle the Republican votes to pass something Obama had sworn he wouldn’t sign. 
The failure of Plan B proved something important: Boehner doesn’t have enough Republican support to pass any bill that increases taxes — even one meant to block a larger tax increase — without a significant number of Democrats. The House has now adjourned until after Christmas, but it’s clear now what Plan C is going to have to be: Boehner is going to need to accept the simple reality that if he’s to be a successful Speaker, he’s going to need to begin passing legislation with Democratic votes.

But the catch with Plan C, as Klein explains, is that it assumes Boehner remains speaker of the House, something that isn't necessarily a guarantee given his inability to unite his caucus.

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