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Congress Goes Home for the Holidays After House GOP Spurns Boehner’s Plan

December 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Congress broke for Christmas after conservative House Republicans spurned Speaker John Boehner's so-called "Plan B" budget deal. Boeher's plan would have raised tax rates for households making more than $1 million. Congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reports on efforts to resolve the fiscal crisis before the new year.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A cloud of uncertainty hung over official Washington today, after conservative House Republicans last night spurned a fiscal cliff plan put that had been forward by their leader, and as the president made a late Friday appeal to both sides to keep working toward an agreement.

NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

KWAME HOLMAN: House Speaker John Boehner went before cameras this morning just hours after he abandoned a vote on his Plan B.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, Speaker of the House: It’s not the outcome that I wanted, but that was the will of the House.

KWAME HOLMAN: Boehner’s plan would have raised tax rates for households making more than $1 million, whereas President Obama would raise rates on incomes above $400,000.

But, last night, as the vote neared, it became clear that at least two dozen rank-and-file Republicans still opposed any increase. So party leaders abruptly ended the session.

MAN: The House will stand in recess, subject to the call of the chair.

KWAME HOLMAN: At that point, Republicans called an emergency meeting here in the basement of the Capitol. And leaders told members they didn’t have the votes. They announced the House would break until after Christmas, but they didn’t name a date when the chamber would reconvene.

Today, the speaker dismissed any suggestion that the turn of events was a rejection of his leadership.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: They weren’t taking that out on me. They were dealing with the perception that somebody might accuse them of raising taxes.

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats said the speaker had wasted a week, only to be slapped down by his own party.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

REP. STENY HOYER, D-M.D., House minority whip: Last night’s vote showed us that resolving the challenge that confronts us with the fiscal cliff cannot and will not be done with a partisan vote.

KWAME HOLMAN: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed with that assessment, but he suggested there’s a way to recover.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., majority leader: Now, I like John Boehner, but, gee whiz, I mean, this is 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.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president this afternoon met with Reid, spoke with Boehner, then came to the White House Briefing Room.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In the next few days, I have asked leaders of Congress to work towards a package that prevents a tax hike on middle-class Americans, protects unemployment insurance for two million Americans, and lays the groundwork for further work on both growth and deficit reduction.

That’s an achievable goal. That can get done in 10 days.

KWAME HOLMAN: Boehner, in his appearance earlier, flanked by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, had sounded doubtful, but said he would be willing to try.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: How we get there, God only knows. But all I’m telling you is that Eric and I and our team here are committed to working with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol, and the White House to address that.

KWAME HOLMAN: Still, as the Capitol emptied for the holiday, the clock was ticking down to $500 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes kicking in.