WASHINGTON, D.C. (USA Today) - House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was handed a stunning defeat late Thursday by members of his own party who refused to support his "Plan B" to avoid the year-end "fiscal cliff" that threatens to send the economy in to a recession.
GOP leaders worked intensely Thursday to build support for Boehner's two-pronged legislative effort to cut spending and extend current tax rates for all but those earning $1 million or above, but they could not convince enough Republicans to vote for the proposal in the face of what was expected to be unanimous opposition from Democrats.
Boehner's failure to move his alternative plan through the House, as well as the current impasse with the president on how to address expiring tax rates and impending spending cuts, has thrown negotiations to avert the "fiscal cliff" in to disarray just 10 days before it hits.
In a brief statement, Boehner said his plan "did not have sufficient support for our members to pass" and he put the onus to avert the "fiscal cliff" on Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Boehner summoned his rank-and-file to a meeting late Thursday where he opened with the Serenity Prayer and informed his members that he did not have enough of their support to move forward. He told lawmakers that he would reach out to President Obama to determine the next steps. Lawmakers were told they could go home for the Christmas holiday. No votes are expected in Congress before Dec. 27.
"This was our attempt to lead," said Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., who supported Boehner's plan. "Clearly we were not able to do that. So now we're going to have to respond to whatever the Senate is able to do."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., supports President Obama's proposal to let tax rates expire for those earning $250,000 and above. In negotiations with Boehner, the president agreed to $400,000 and above, but it is unclear how the GOP's failure Thursday to approve their own tax plan will affect ongoing negotiations.
By Susan Davis, USA Today