The Corner

Boehner’s Burden

The House will take up “Plan B,” Speaker Boehner’s fiscal-cliff proposal, on Thursday. It’s a critical vote for Republicans. If it passes, the Senate and the White House will be pressured to either support it or amend it, especially if the ongoing debt talks continue to stall. If it fails, Boehner’s negotiating power will be diminished. If he can’t sway his caucus on a simple measure to extend tax rates for those making less than $1 million, Democrats doubt he’d be able to whip a broader deal.

Behind the scenes, Boehner is hustling to woo his increasingly uneasy colleagues. House leaders are huddling with backbenchers, assuaging their concerns and urging them to support the rule. Politico reported on Wednesday that due to the close whip count, Boehner is considering adding spending cuts to the Plan B package, in the hopes of winning more conservative support.

Outside of the House floor on Wednesday afternoon, Boehner allies, such as Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, told NRO that they’d back the deal, but many other members said they remain “undecided” since leadership is still hammering out the vote’s final details.

“The speaker’s plan is the best we are going to do and I think people recognize that,” says Representative Bob Turner of New York. “I think we’re being engineered off of the cliff by the president. So, we can pass this or we sit back and let the president determine how this ends.”

Nevertheless, many conservatives remain on the fence, and some are openly opposing the plan. “This is a tax increase and you can’t hide from that,” says Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a vocal Boehner critic. “I don’t think Plan B is going anywhere. It’s going to divide the conference and I don’t think it has any chance of passing the Senate or becoming law.”

Indeed, getting to 218 votes (the necessary threshold to pass the House) will be tricky. But leadership aides are privately confident that Boehner will ultimately be able to get his plan through the lower chamber. They point to the approval of major players in the debate, such as Grover Norquist and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as evidence that the odds are in their favor.

Outside groups, such as Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, are opposed to the plan, but the support of Norquist and Ryan is widely seen as an eleventh-hour blessing.

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