“The only reason Speaker Boehner hasn’t brought our bill to the floor sooner is that he knows it will pass,” Reid charged. “Americans are not fooled by the speaker’s phony, procedural excuses for failing to bring this solution to a vote. They’re tired of excuses. They expect action.”
Boehner would rather take up a House-backed plan to continue all the Bush tax cuts. He and other Republicans also want Obama to offer more spending cuts. Democrats counter they’ve already offered plenty and urged the House of Representatives to consider extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone but those families earning more than $250,000.
Any progress in the days ahead is likely to come in private conversations, perhaps in phone calls between Obama, Reid and Boehner.
While hopes for a deal were still alive, “how we get there, God only knows,” Boehner said.
Obama and Boehner had been close to finding common ground. But Boehner was embarrassed Thursday night, when Republicans refused to give him enough votes to pass his tax-the-millionaires plan and the vote was canceled.
Boehner faces a big hurdle in overcoming his party’s reluctance to embrace measures that are highly unpopular with their constituencies. Democrats face the same problem.
Hardcore conservative Republicans are making it clear they are reluctant to back tax increases even on million-dollar earners. Liberal Democrats have been just as adamant they dislike changes that would reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits.
As a result, lawmakers have to craft a plan that will gain roughly equal numbers of Republican and Democratic votes in each House – not an impossible task, since the 2011 debt limit deal attracted that kind of coalition.
Boehner quickly moved to regain stature Friday, calling a morning press conference and having House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., a hero of hardcore conservatives, standing by his side and offering support.
Boehner’s chief message was he wants more spending cuts. He called his latest offer, $1 trillion in new revenue and an equal amount in cuts, his “bottom line.” He wants Democrats, who control the Senate, to make the next move.
“We only run the House,” he said. “Democrats continue to run Washington.”
Obama has offered $1.2 trillion in revenue and a nearly equal amount in spending reductions, but Republicans aren’t buying the spending part. They maintain that too much is interest the White House assumes would be saved and not enough is real trims to government programs.
“The president told me his numbers . . . were the bottom line, that he couldn’t go any further” Boehner said. “And so we see a situation where because of the political divide in the country . . . trying to bridge the differences has been difficult.”
Unless Democrats come up with more cuts, chances are Boehner will be unable to attract sizable Republican support for a deal.
Most Republicans have made it clear they’re unlikely to vote for any tax increases unless Democrats shoulder similar political pain, and they’re freely accusing Democrats of wanting higher taxes to pay for pet programs.
“The president may want to soak the American people to fund his vision of a social welfare state, but we are not going to let him do it,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Democrats have their own trouble, as many protest changing the way Social Security cost of living adjustments are calculated.
“It’s a benefit cut – pure and simple,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. “It’s particularly devastating for women – who live longer, rely more on Social Security, and receive lower benefits.”
Party leaders acknowledge they could have a problem getting members to back a plan, but are hoping that they can find exemptions, perhaps for poorer recipients, that will win some votes.
“The level of support will depend on what shape this takes,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, D-Conn.
Nothing, though, is likely to become final for awhile. Friday, the House chamber and offices were largely empty, and members had been sent home until further notice. The Senate spent its time wrangling over a disaster aid bill, planned to head home and not return until Dec. 27.