Behind the scenes: A breakdown of Boehner's miscalculation on Plan B
December 21st, 2012
10:13 AM ET
10 years ago

Behind the scenes: A breakdown of Boehner's miscalculation on Plan B

(CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner suffered a major political setback Thursday when he failed to garner enough votes to pass his back-up plan to a fiscal cliff deal, also known as "Plan B."

But what happened?

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Last weekend some of Boehner's big concessions-including an increase on tax rates for millionaires and an agreement to raise the debt limit–started to leak out, according to Republican sources. When Boehner came into his leadership meeting Monday morning, he got an earful from fellow Republicans, who said his strategy wasn't going to fly.

Late last week, GOP leaders had already started talking more seriously about a legislative path, so they decided why not take Plan B – raising taxes only on those making more than a million dollars a year – to the floor. The move also allowed Republicans to still protect most small businesses, which make less than $1 million a year. The fact that Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had endorsed it two years ago made them think that it would be an easier sell than it was.

Boehner reminded GOP members that while he does not want tax rates to go up, the American people disagree. One source said Boehner was effectively trying to save Republicans from themselves and prevent them from being painted as they are today – so extreme that they won't even raise taxes on millionaires.

Boehner did, however, have a majority of Republicans on his side, but it wasn't enough without help from Democrats. A Democratic source said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer was successful at ensuring the few moderate Democrats didn't cross party lines.

Meanwhile, many more GOP members than anticipated by House Republican leaders started saying no to Plan B because they simply did not want to go on record supporting any tax increase, especially one that had no chance of passing. One source involved in whipping GOP votes said a number of undecided members fell into the "no" column when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeatedly made it clear he would not take up the bill. What's the point, many asked.

Apparently, by the time a vote to replace the sequester with spending cuts took place at about 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday night, GOP leaders already knew they were not likely to get the votes for Plan B. Conservative groups were working hard to make that vote close, an effort to show the leadership that Plan B had no chance of getting enough GOP votes.

By that time, the GOP leaders' scramble had morphed into panic.

At 7:45 p.m. ET, inside a hastily arranged GOP conference, Boehner opened the meeting with the serenity prayer. House GOP conferences, which are held in private, are always opened with the pledge and a prayer, but the prayer is usually done by a rank and file member. This time, it came from the House speaker.

Boehner then announced they are pulling the bill. Some boos, as well as some cheers, could be heard from outside the door. One of the cheers came from Rep. Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi, who had open heart surgery this week but came back for the vote to support the speaker, a source said.

Then–as everyone was about to leave-Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania grabbed the microphone and started berating the conference for failing the speaker, telling his colleagues they need to do this. He shouted to the back of the room to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP whip, asking how far away they are from the number of votes necessary to pass the bill.

McCarthy responded saying, "Mike, we're not going to get there."

The speaker chimed in and said there is nothing more we can do.

And then it was over.

Filed under: Fiscal Cliff • House • John Boehner
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. jb1963

    John Boehner is pathetic. He is not a leader nor does he care. Let them go home and eat crow for the holidays.
    I hope they all choke on it.

    December 21, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. DOG1

    I find it interesting that Cantor is considered such a conservative threat considering his actual history. I remember an article a few months ago where it was pointed out that during the first few years he was a congressman he increased the salaries of his own staff more than 80% while publicly whining about government spending. In his own affairs he does not appear to follow the PARTY rules, huh!

    December 21, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  3. SillyWabbit

    Don't karma suck, Johnny Boy? Now, you know how it feels to be publicly humiliated by tea-pubs voting against their own ideas! How does it feel to experience what the President has had to put up with for 4 years?! AND, YOU STILL TAKE THE BLAME. Darn karma...

    December 21, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  4. California Gary

    Just another example demonstrating that when the GOP welcomed the Tea Party folks into their ranks, they made a deal with the devil. They have been pulled so far to the right that they can no longer offer up any reasonable solutions to anything. The GOP is out of control and doing serious damage to this country.

    December 21, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  5. Deathstalker

    Boehner is pathetic but only in that he actually was gullible enough to take Obama at his word. No way would anyone in their right mind agree to tax hikes now for spending cuts later. I'm glad Boehner's plan got shot down. Too many progressive parasites in this country want things for free. Let's go over the cliff so that they are forced to pay for those "freebies" that Obama has promised them. Perhaps, then, they'll realize that everything comes at a cost, whether your're in the 1% or the 99%.

    December 21, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. jennifer in Houston

    The republicans just don't get it.. they do not have enough votes to go it alone just as there were not enough tea party votes to win the election. John Boehner is a fool, his dislike of the President has over ridden all common sense. He and his fellow republicans seem set to collapse the economy again and this time they aren't even in power.. Dolts everyone of them.

    December 21, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. joe d

    So sad the shooter that killed the innocent in ct. diden't pay these dirty lowlife pigs in crongress a visit instead..I would have stood up and applauded

    December 21, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. John

    Boehner has a tough job in a fractured party....Half of the party believes that the Norquist pledge is more important than the pledge to serve the American people.

    December 21, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  9. ST

    John Boehner is not normal. Why did he jump into plan B without consulting his people first? Has anyone noticed how Boehner walks? He never swings his arms. He walks as if he is on parade. Unless some people changes this man completely, physically and mentally, there is no work will be accomplished under his leadership.

    December 21, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  10. Buc

    Boehner, worng man in the wrong job leading the wrong headed.

    December 21, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. Ray E. (Georgia)

    75 Years of the Liberal's in charge and now it all comes back to where it all started. When will you learn there is no free lunch. You want this you pay for it somewhere. The Conservatives all know too well that giving the Liberal's what they want will just raise the Federal Debt and kill jobs. The House passed a bill back in August the Liberal's refuse to take up. If the Republician's give you what you want, you will still have nothing. Well, Food Stamps.

    December 21, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. Dean

    No tax deals until Obama cuts some of the worthless spending. His idea of decreasing the deficit with tax increases will not work. You could tax the rich at 99% and still not wipe out his deficit spending ever.

    December 21, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  13. CryBabies

    All you libs chiming in about how pathetic Boehner is....fools! This country needs "tough love" regarding this fiscal crisis yet all the dems want is a "trophy" policy of higher taxes for the rich( an absolute useless ploy) and no REAL spending cuts or cuts to be promised at a later date. Fat chance that will happen! I say let Hairless Reid and Obama get what they want because they now own this economy. Continue to raise the spending and see where we are in four years. Pretty soon, if these jokers continue on the present path, you will be staring into the abyss. Good luck fools....continue to hail Pelosi, Reid and the idiotic liberal machine. We will converse again in four years and see how your "ownwership" works out.

    December 21, 2012 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  14. marita

    I very much hope, that at the end of these 4 years there will be enough left of this once beautiful country to save! I find it heart-breaking! – @ Marita.

    December 21, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  15. Sniffit

    "No tax deals until Obama cuts some of the worthless spending. His idea of decreasing the deficit with tax increases will not work. You could tax the rich at 99% and still not wipe out his deficit spending ever."

    Good thing he proposed about $1.2T in cuts too, eh? Oh, wait, you didn't know? Didn't Faux News tell you that part? No? Huh...looks like you might need a more accurate source of information.

    December 21, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  16. David

    The only thing that the repubs could agree on was taking money from single parents and the elderly and instead give it to the bloated military – pathetic.

    December 21, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  17. Political Agnostic

    "A House divided cannot long stand."

    Very profetic words especially when considering that they were spoken by the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

    December 21, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. DOG1

    Why is it no one even mentions cutting the other entitlements? You know Oil subsidies to companies that regularly report their profits (not earnings, profits) in tens of BILLIONS of dollars a quarter and yet the republicans make absolutely sure they get tax breaks, subsidies and other ENTITLEMENTS. Same for the huge agro-industrial companies. Sure, family farms and other small operations should get subsidized but the big companies are nothing but big oil companies with an agricultural slant. I guarantee that a bad season doesn't even put a scratch in their profit margin. Why is military spending off the table with republicans, because they all personally benefit from it. How about the company in Bohners district that was making the "alternate engine" or the raptor jet? They got a contract (wonder how?) to produce engines that cost millions of dollars each, in case the one actually designed and built for the raptor didn't work!!!! If anyone in this country does not think that was a scam they need to have a fifth grader explain it to them!
    These are examples of the ENTITLEMENTS where the cutting needs to begin, not social security, medicare, education, or any of the other things proposed by the republicans

    December 21, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Somehow, they're gonna blame Boehner's fiasco on the President. They always do. They're already trying to say, "It's not our fault. The President has to do something." He already did. The ball is still in Boehner's court. All revenue and spending bills must originate from the House.

    December 21, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  20. dontbow

    cnn writers apparently don't understand mediatiion, they just keep saying let obama ruin America and have his way completely. NOT gonna happen. Not even for times 'man of the ear' i mean year.

    December 21, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  21. encie

    i totally agree with dog 1.

    December 21, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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