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Democrats Come Out Strong Against Boehner’s ‘Plan B’

The White House and congressional Democrats swiftly panned Speaker John A. Boehner’s plan to push legislation in the House that would let tax rates rise only for millionaires, the Ohio Republican’s “plan B” to avert the fiscal cliff.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement saying the president remains willing to work with Republicans to reach a bipartisan solution to the fiscal cliff and he is “hopeful” they will.

The president, however, “is not willing to accept a deal that doesn’t ask enough of the very wealthiest in taxes and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors,” Carney said. “The Speaker’s ‘Plan B’ approach doesn’t meet this test because it can’t pass the Senate and therefore will not protect middle class families, and does little to address our fiscal challenges with zero spending cuts.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was also swift to reject the plan.

“It will not protect middle-class families because it cannot pass both Houses of Congress. The Senate bill is the only ‘plan B’ that can be signed into law and prevent taxes from rising by $2,200 on the average middle-class family,” Reid said in a statement. “Now is the time to show leadership, not kick the can down the road. Speaker Boehner should focus his energy on forging a large-scale deficit reduction agreement. It would be a shame if Republicans abandoned productive negotiations due to pressure from the Tea Party, as they have time and again.”

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said he will push his Democratic colleagues to vote against legislation that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., proposed as recently as May.

The Maryland Democrat said he talked with Pelosi on Tuesday morning and the two leaders are in agreement that Democrats should oppose Boehner’s proposal. Hoyer explained that Pelosi’s push for the plan in May was merely a “political ploy.”

Still, a floor vote on the plan could put some Democrats, including the moderate New Democrat Coalition, in a difficult position.

Boehner told Republicans at a closed-door meeting earlier Tuesday that he plans to bring forward legislation extending current rates for income below $1 million annually. The proposal, which split the GOP conference, mirrors a plan put forward by Pelosi in a May 23 letter to Boehner. When liberal interest groups balked at the proposal, fearing it would not bring in sufficient revenue, Democratic aides said Pelosi’s intent was to force Republicans into a difficult position.

Drawing the line at $1 million “will clearly demonstrate whether Republicans stand with millionaires or the middle class,” a House Democratic leadership aide said then.

Hoyer, in a pen and pad with reporters Tuesday, dismissed Boehner’s proposal, saying it won’t reduce the deficit by a sufficient amount. “It’s not a serious effort to get us to where we need to be,” the Maryland Democrat said.

Asked about Pelosi proposing the same plan seven months ago, Hoyer said, “I’ve been very consistent on this, whoever proposed it, whether it was Chuck Schumer” or Pelosi.

“I think Leader Pelosi floated that, again, as a political ploy … not because she believed that was the level [she wanted], but she wanted to show that Republicans wouldn’t even vote for $1 million” as the line below which lower tax rates would be extended,” Hoyer said.

In a May 30 pen and pad with reporters, days after Pelosi sent the letter, Hoyer said, “I share Ms. Pelosi’s view that — that we ought to bring the middle-class tax cuts to the floor and deal with that early on to create confidence among the middle class that their taxes will not be going up on January 1.” He did not specifically address at what income level the rates would be extended at.

Two months later, in an appearance at the Center for American Progress, Hoyer said he supported extending rates for income below $250,000, in line with President Barack Obama’s position.

The most recent fiscal cliff proposal from the president, however, would raise rates on those making more than $400,000.

A Boehner spokesman was incredulous at the rejection.

“After spending months saying we must ask for more from millionaires and billionaires, how can they reject a plan that does exactly that?” asked spokesman Brendan Buck. “By once again moving the goal posts, the president is threatening every American family with higher taxes.”

He also called Reid’s reaction “nonsensical.”