WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House threatened Wednesday to veto House Speaker John Boehner's backup plan for averting the "fiscal cliff," saying it was time for Republicans to stop political posturing and continue trying to reach a compromise deficit-cutting package.
Boehner, R-Ohio, proposed his so-called Plan B on Tuesday, a measure that would block tax increases from being triggered Jan. 1 on everyone but those whose incomes exceed $1 million. The White House said Boehner's package did not raise enough revenue from the country's top earners, would leave too big a deficit-reduction burden on the middle class and omitted tax breaks used by families and businesses.
"The president urges the Republican leadership to work with us to resolve remaining differences and find a reasonable solution to this situation today instead of engaging in political exercises that increase the possibility that taxes go up on every American," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a written statement.
Boehner is planning a House vote on his proposal on Thursday, hoping it would raise pressure on President Barack Obama to make concessions as both sides continue reaching for a bipartisan deal on averting the "fiscal cliff." Without an agreement among lawmakers, broad tax increases on nearly all taxpayers and budget-wide spending cuts will be triggered in early January.
Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said White House opposition to the GOP backup plan "is growing more bizarre and irrational by the day." He said Republicans prefer a deficit-cutting plan that is balanced between tax increases and spending cuts, but Obama has yet to offer such a proposal.
"If Democrats disapprove of this bill, then there is a simple solution: amend it in the Senate and send it back to the House," Buck said in a written statement.
Senior administration officials said there have been no talks advancing the negotiations on a big fiscal cliff deal since Monday, after Boehner called Obama to say he was going to take a Plan B to the House. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the negotiations.
In the absence of a deal with Obama, Boehner's Plan B is attracting support from Republicans eager to cast a vote preventing tax increases on as many people as possible.
Obama's latest offer — focusing tax boosts on incomes above $400,000 — would affect nearly 1.1 million taxpayers. Limiting the tax boosts to income exceeding $1 million would target just 237,000 households, according to the latest Internal Revenue Service figures for 2009.
Boehner's backup plan could serve other purposes besides letting GOP supporters vote to protect more than 99 percent of taxpayers from paying higher levies.
Allowing a vote on Plan B might increase GOP support for a negotiated compromise with Obama. Some Republicans might feel more comfortable supporting an accord with Obama — which would likely include more tax increases than they want — after being given a chance to vote for Boehner's narrower tax increase on millionaires because it would let them show voters that they preferred a smaller tax boost.
Even so, House GOP leaders are laboring to line up enough support for the backup measure in the face of conservatives reluctant to boost anyone's taxes. Even if it could survive in the House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has declared it dead in his chamber and now the White House has promised to veto it should it somehow reach Obama's desk.
The backup plan by Boehner would do nothing to head off deep cuts in defense and domestic programs scheduled to begin taking effect in January. And it contains none of the spending reductions that both Obama and Boehner have proposed in their efforts to strike a compromise.