House Speaker John Boehner abruptly pulled his "Plan B" tax rate bill from the floor Thursday night, after struggling to garner support from fellow Republicans -- leaving lawmakers once again without a vehicle for averting the looming fiscal crisis and the public facing an imminent tax hike.
The surprise decision capped a tumultuous day on Capitol Hill. Over Democrats' vocal objections, Republican leaders had pressed forward with two bills that composed what Boehner called his "Plan B." The first, a plan to replace automatic spending cuts set to hit next month, narrowly passed Thursday evening on a 215-209 vote.
But, in a move that signaled turmoil in the Republican caucus, the House was called into recess right before the scheduled vote on Boehner's other bill -- to prevent tax hikes on all but those making more than $1 million. Republican leaders called an emergency meeting and it was apparently clear within minutes Boehner did not have enough support, with some Republicans still opposed to raising rates on anybody.
The speaker, unceremoniously and with no indication as to whether it might be rescheduled, then put off the vote as he prodded the Senate to act.
"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 statement. "Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff."
Boehner noted the House had already passed legislation to stop all tax rate increases, in addition to the spending cuts bill. He concluded: "The Senate must now act."
The tumult raised even more questions about how lawmakers, if at all, might be able to avoid the crushing wave of tax hikes and spending cuts poised to hit at the beginning of January. Lawmakers were sent home for the holidays, told they would be given 48 hours notice to return if anything changes.
Democrats used the chaos to press Boehner to reach out to Democrats, claiming the night's events proved he cannot get his members in line. Boehner lost 21 Republicans on the spending cuts bill, and lawmakers later claimed at least 40 Republicans came out against the tax plan -- enough to scuttle the bill absent Democratic backing.
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