John Boehner press conference rejecting the president's offer
Last night, President Obama made an offer
to John Boehner: in exchange for extending middle-class tax cuts, raising the debt limit, extending unemployment benefits, and new spending on infrastructure, he would continue Bush's high-income tax cuts for income up to $400,000 and would cut Social Security benefits.
Boehner's response to the president's concessions? Reject and attack:
Boehner will make the argument to House Republicans that tax rates will go up on everyone come Jan. 1. “The question for us is real simple: How do we stop as many of those rate hikes as possible?” Boehner plans to tell House Republicans.
“For weeks, Senate Republicans — and a growing number of you — have been pushing for us to pivot to a ‘Plan B,’” he will say. “I think there’s a better way. But the White House just can’t seem to bring itself to agree to a “balanced” approach, and time is running short. Taxes are going up on everyone on Jan. 1. They’re baked into current law. And we have to stop whatever tax rate increases we can. In the absence of an alternative, as of this morning, a ‘modified Plan B’ is the plan.”
So the president agrees to continue some of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and to cut Social Security ... and John Boehner's response is to push for even more concessions. Shocking, I know. But while Boehner's "Plan B" is pure baloney, it won't matter unless the president continues making the case that Republicans should not hold middle-class tax cuts hostage.
Thus, even as he attacks President Obama, Boehner is making it clear he wants to keep the president at the table, where he won't be able to use his bully pulpit to gain leverage over his negotiating rivals (my emphasis):
“He talked about a ‘balanced’ approach on the campaign trail,” Boehner intends to say. “What the White House offered yesterday — $1.3 trillion in revenue for only $850 billion in spending cuts — cannot be considered balanced. We’re going to keep the door open in hopes the president can find a way to support a balanced approach.”
Actually, what Boehner really means is that he's going to keep the door open in the hopes that President Obama won't make the case to the public that Republicans should extend middle-class tax cuts with no strings attached. Because the longer Boehner can keep the president behind closed doors and away from the public, the better a deal he'll ultimately get.
7:33 AM PT: I added video of Speaker Boehner's remarks following the meeting of the House Republican Conference. In the press conference, Boehner echoed the leaked reports of what he planned to tell his fellow Republicans. Boehner also said he planned to have a vote by the end of the week on his "Plan B" on taxes and that while it might address the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, it would not address spending issues, including the sequester.
7:37 AM PT: Another point worth making: the fact that Boehner feels compelled to offer a "Plan B" illustrates the extent to which he is worried about how the politics of the tax cut issue will impact Republicans. The fact that he is even thinking about unilaterally passing a bill that wouldn't extend the Bush tax cuts for income above $1 million is pretty strong evidence that for all of the GOP's threats over taking tax cuts hostage, the last thing they want is to have their bluff called.
7:42 AM PT: I haven't seen anything yet about whether the White House would veto the "Plan B" but the answer to that question will be important. They have said they would veto any extension of all the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but based on their offer yesterday, clearly they would accept extending some, at least under the right conditions. In the face of GOP obstinancy, it's beyond me why they wouldn't wait until next year to deal with the rates, however.