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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.

Speaker John A. Boehner likes to say he learned to deal with “every character” that walked into his father’s bar while growing up.

Now the Ohio Republican has to deal with every character’s fiscal cliff plan, at least if the members of the Republican Study Committee have anything to say about it.

Members of the group vigorously discussed the party’s fiscal cliff strategy at a closed-door meeting Wednesday, with numerous lawmakers saying afterward that changes are likely to the “plan B” bill Boehner has put forward.

The group discussed “plan C, D, E, F, G and I think there was a Plan H,” Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., joked.

But the ideas could get more serious consideration if Boehner’s plan fails to attract enough Republican votes for House passage, a very real possibility.

A plan to extend all the expiring tax cuts was being led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, outgoing chairman of the RSC, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, who prepared late Wednesday afternoon to offer a replacement plan at a Rules Committee markup that will set the boundaries of the nascent tax package the House is supposed to consider. The effort had support from other key conservatives including Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who is in line to be RSC chairman in the 113th Congress.

Supporters said they wanted a vote that would affirm the main objectives of many House conservatives, instead of giving ground to Democrats. According to aides, the amendment offered by senior RSC members includes a proposal to provide an alternative roster of spending cuts — or sequester replacement measures — to take the place of the automatic spending cuts under the 2011 debt deal.

Party leaders have been vague about whether they would allow conservatives to offer their own across-the-board tax cut extension amendment on the floor, noting only that Republicans have previously had similar votes.

The rump campaign gained momentum after the RSC’s Wednesday lunch, where several participants said members had expressed mixed feelings about Boehner’s “plan B” proposal to extend the expiring tax cuts for taxpayers with annual earnings less than $1 million.

Among other prominent alternative plans is one proposed by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.

Under the Price plan, the House would vote on six amendments to a bill. Each amendment would extend the Bush-era tax rates on a single income tax bracket, and all six amendments would presumably pass the House.

But unlike a normal bill, this legislation would be sent to the Senate with instructions that whatever version of the bill the Senate passed could be sent to the president without another round of House approval.

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