Earlier Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner announced a “Plan B” to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. The plan, which he intends to bring to the House floor for a vote, includes tax hikes for incomes above $1 million, while the Bush-era tax cuts would remain in place for all other income brackets.The irony of Boehner’s plan is this: Six months ago, he would have had the support of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — but not his own caucus.
In May, Pelosi sent a letter to Boehner demanding immediate consideration of a vote on a Bush tax cut extension for incomes below $1 million.
“It is unacceptable to hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage to extending multi-billion dollar tax breaks for millionaires, Big Oil, special interests, and corporations that ship jobs overseas,” Pelosi wrote.
Of course, that is the exact plan that Boehner plans on bringing to a vote soon. It was a plan that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) loosely proposed as far back as 2010.
But circumstances have changed, and today Democrats, not Republicans, stand firmly opposed to the plan. President Barack Obama won re-election and has claimed a mandate to increase taxes on incomes above $250,000, a campaign pledge. (He backed off that pledge on Monday with a new offer to Boehner that would increase rates on incomes above $400,000.) Fresh off Obama’s victory, Democrats are viewed more favourably, in general, in than Republicans in fiscal-cliff polls.
House Democratic Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer told Politico on Tuesday that Pelosi was making a “political ploy” with her May letter to Boehner. He also said Boehner was doing the same thing with the new “Plan B” vote.
In a statement, Pelosi echoed Hoyer’s thoughts, saying it served as a tacit admission that Republicans have conceded on raising tax rates.
“Earlier this year, I put forward a plan to smoke out the Republicans’ true position: a proposal to raise taxes on those making over $1 million per year in context of a big, bold, and balanced plan,” she said.
“Republicans said ‘no’ six months ago; the President took his case to the American people to use $250,000 as a threshold for higher tax rates, and the public supported him. With the fiscal cliff just two weeks away, Republicans’ so-called ‘Plan B’ is nothing more than a cynical ploy that is harmful to the middle class and the economy.”
Boehner’s plan also differs in details from the Democratic-led plan in the summer, and it does not address the mandatory spending cuts set to kick in as part of the fiscal cliff.
Nevertheless, it puts Democrats in an awkward political position.
“For years, Washington Democrats — led by Sen. Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi — have been calling for a bill to stop the tax hikes except on millionaires,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “They even voted in favour of it. To oppose it now would make them entirely responsible for the tax hikes that tens of millions of Americans face in less than two weeks. They know that, and the President knows that.