Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Conservatives Grapple With Fiscal Cliff Strategy

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Members of the Republican Study Committee, including Mulvaney, raised concerns about the speaker’s “plan B” to avert the fiscal cliff at a Wednesday meeting.

Thus, House Republicans could be on record extending rates for all income brackets and simultaneously put Senate Democrats in the hot seat of trying to decide where to draw the line on whose taxes go up.

But the plan is strongly opposed by House leaders, who fear the result would be increased tax rates on more income brackets than in the “plan B.”

Their rationale is that under the Price plan, the Senate would quickly extend current rates for only income below $250,000, providing a total Democratic victory.

Adding drama to the discussion is the budding rivalry between Boehner and Price.

Price was recently unmoored from the leadership team when he lost a contest for conference chairman to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington. Price dismissed the notion of any power play on his part, saying “It’s not a rival plan.”

Numerous Republicans expressed preference for Price’s plan, including Florida Republican Reps. Allen B. West and Dennis A. Ross, as well as Reps. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, and Walsh.

Another plan under consideration was to combine two previously-passed House bills: one that extends current tax rates on all income and a second bill that replaces spending cuts in the debt ceiling deal sequester with other cuts.

“That’s what we ought to be passing,” said Rep. Paul Broun, who, like Price, is a Georgia Republican with potential ambitions to take on Sen. Saxby Chamblis, R-Ga., in a 2014 primary.

Other members suggested that Republicans could just highlight to voters that they already passed those bills, rather than passing them again.

“We’ve already passed tax cuts for everybody. So, you know? They need to take our bills up that are waiting,” said Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, referring to the Senate.

“I’ve always supported the bill originally passed by the House with 19 Democrats to prevent anybody’s taxes from going up. So far, that’s the only bipartisan plan that’s come before either chamber,” Scalise said.

Others backed Boehner’s “plan B.”

Rep. Tom McClintock drew an analogy to a lifeguard to underscore that under current law, rates will go up on all income brackets if Republicans do not act.

“Here’s the fine point of it: if a lifeguard sees 10 swimmers drowning off his beach and he can only save nine of them, it doesn’t mean that he’s drowned the tenth one. And no lifeguard would be worth a damn if he said: ‘As a lifeguard I maintain the principle that nobody should drown off my beach; and since I can’t save all 10, I won’t save any because that would go against my principles,’” McClintock told members at the meeting.

Driving the discussion was the question of which bill puts Republicans in the best position to pin blame on Democrats if the country goes over the fiscal cliff.

Members are convinced that Democrats are actively thwarting the negotiations to ensure that scenario, hoping to benefit from it politically.

“We don’t think anything we pass out of the House is going to make it in into law, it’s all about positioning ourselves for what happens when Democrats deliberately put us in the fiscal cliff situation,” said Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana.

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