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“I think there’s sort of an intuitive feeling on our side, and I don’t necessarily agree with it ... that we just want to mitigate as much damage as possible,” Fleming said. “The idea is ... when the American people start blaming us, we can point to some legislation and say, ‘This is what they asked for. We gave them what they asked for and they still refused.’”
Right-wing activists added pressure by beginning to mobilize on Wednesday, encouraging members to vote against the plan B and vowing to fund primary challengers in the districts of members who back it.
“If the Republicans support this tax increase, they will lose control of the House in the 2014 elections,” Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center, said during a press conference in front of the Capitol. “Not only that, but a whole lot of members who thought they were safe and who thought they could get away with this will lose in their own districts.”
Bozell’s statement came despite the blessing of the plan B by Grover Norquist. His group, Americans for Tax Reform, with its pledge of no new taxes, holds considerable sway over Republicans. But the group gave Boehner cover by releasing a statement saying the plan B does not violate the pledge.
Many conservatives, such as Fleming, already said they will vote against it, and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina offered an alternative in the Rules Committee on Wednesday night that would extend all the tax rates.
Members of the House Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, were lukewarm because the plan B does not address sequestration, which includes deep cuts to the military. That could be enough to sink the bill, even if a few Democrats vote for it.
Exemplifying the fluid nature of the plan, a GOP leadership aide confirmed late Wednesday that they will no longer bring to the floor an amendment that extends tax rates only for those making $250,000 and less. Instead, they will bring forward a measure to replace the automatic spending cuts as a separate amendment — an acquiescence to pressure from members, particularly those on the House Armed Services Committee.
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said there could be some Democratic defections in favor of the plan B, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed Wednesday that it “will not pass as a result of Democratic votes.”
All this plays while time to conquer a big fiscal cliff deal works against lawmakers. Besides the Jan. 2 deadline, work on a deal will undoubtedly be shortened by the upcoming holidays and the unexpected memorials in Washington, D.C., and Honolulu for Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, who died Monday.
Many of D.C.’s most important figures are planning to attend Inouye’s service at the National Cathedral on Friday morning. And, according to multiple sources from both parties, a government plane has been commissioned Saturday to carry lawmakers to Honolulu for Inouye’s Sunday morning funeral service.