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As lawmakers creep closer to the fiscal cliff, they are working under the shadow of multiple failed attempts by President Barack Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner to strike a sweeping deal. And they have no clear legislative path forward outside those talks.
Boehner brought to the floor Thursday a plan that would allow taxes to increase only on millionaires — a sizable concession on the Ohio Republican’s part — but had to pull it for lack of votes. Even before then, though, leaders acknowledged that bill wasn’t the end game.
“There’s clear recognition this is not going to be the final package,” said House Rules Chairman David Dreier of California. “But I think this is a step down the road toward getting it resolved by the end of the year.”
Before pulling the bill, leaders whipped it furiously, in one of the most vigorous arm- twisting sessions of the 112th Congress, according to one member of the GOP whip team who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Committee chairmen were engaging their rank and file, and whip team members were asked to speak to every member with whom they had a personal relationship, whether it be a delegation colleague or just a friend.
“This is a point where his speakership’s on the line,” the member said regarding Boehner. “It’s a big vote and we want to be able to deliver for our speaker.”
At the same time, the member said the names of those who vote against the measure are being noted, an ominous sign after leaders recently pulled four GOP members from their plum committee assignments, apparently in retribution for not hewing the party line.
“You don’t think that list is going to be around for a long time and you need something from the speaker?” the member said. “In this business, if you can’t be here when your friend is in a fight like this, he’s not your friend.”
Even though Senate Democrats vowed they would not take up the measure and Obama has threatened to veto it, the vote was seen as important because Boehner cast it as not just a show of strength to Democrats but a dose of reality for his conference.