The House will vote as soon as this week on legislation raising tax rates on income above $1 million, a “plan B” that will be acted upon should the momentum of Speaker John A. Boehner’s negotiations with President Barack Obama end up stalling.
In their regular Republican Conference meeting Tuesday morning, the Ohio Republican told his caucus about the plan.
House Republicans gave mixed reviews Tuesday to the general outline of the deal.
Conservative Republicans such as Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee spoke out against the direction of the talks, saying that the any agreement was likely to contain unacceptable tax increases. A number of conservatives, including Huelskamp, had previously opposed Boehner’s offer to include $800 billion in new tax revenue in a debt deal, and vowed to oppose any increase in the amount of tax revenue provide by a debt agreement.
“Republicans have taken a pledge not to raise taxes, and a trillion tax increase is a violation of that pledge,” Huelskamp said.
“I am a don’t-raise-any taxes kind of girl,” Blackburn said. “I’m not going to be for raising the taxes.”
Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky said that it is his understanding that the “plan B” would include no spending cuts, but simply a clean tax rate increase on top earners, which he said would take the leverage away from Democrats.
“No, plan B will just be ... to cut the taxes on those under $1 million,” he said, when asked whether he would be tasked with finding spending cuts in his committee as part of the plan.
Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, a close Boehner ally, said a key impediment was the White House’s insistence on new infrastructure spending in its latest offer; he said Republicans would insist that any such new spending be fully offset.
“It would have to be offset,” Sessions said, referring to his desire for an equal amount of revenue-raising offsets or spending cuts. “I hope John and the president are able to reach an agreement, but the president’s request for $80 billion more of infrastructure spending still shows that he’s well outside the capacity to negotiate. ... That’s a problem.”
A spokesman for Boehner said the talks with Obama are still alive, “but with time running short, the House will act as a precautionary measure to ensure taxes don’t rise for most Americans on Jan. 1.”
Boehner’s plan would allow taxes to increase on Jan. 2 on income above $1 million and would trigger $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.
“Most importantly, we’d lock in a process for tax reform and entitlement reform in 2013 — the two big goals we’ve talked about for years,” Boehner said in prepared remarks.
“The president hasn’t been able to get there,” Boehner said in the statement. “He talked about a ‘balanced’ approach on the campaign trail. What the White House offered yesterday — $1.3 trillion in revenue for only $850 billion in spending cuts — cannot be considered balanced. We’re going to keep the door open in hopes the president can find a way to support a balanced approach.”
Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, chairman of a moderate faction, The Tuesday Group, said he was hopeful the talks would yield a final agreement in coming days.
“Things are moving, hopefully towards a resolution. I’m going to look at it and analyze it,” Dent said.
Other GOP lawmakers such as Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Brian P. Billbray of California said they were encouraged by reports of progress in the talks between Boehner and Obama, and said they were open to a deal.
“There are no tax increases being considered, it’s about how many tax cuts will be included,” Billbray said. “The biggest issue about the tax increases, is if you do it, it will prove that it’s not an issue. The issue is spending. If the president wins on this, it will prove he was wrong about this. You have to focus on spending.”
“We ought to do it the way the Constitution anticipated. We ought to have regular order on the floor of the House and have an open amendment process,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, a staunch critic of the closed-door negotiations between Obama and Boehner.
A number of key leaders such as Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan declined comment on the negotiations.