WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John A. Boehner has launched "Plan B" in budget talks, announcing Tuesday that he will bring for a vote his proposal to extend expiring tax breaks for all but the wealthiest Americans who earn more than $1 million a year.
The Ohio Republican's decision, shared behind closed doors during a morning meeting of rank-and-file lawmakers, is an abrupt shift after he and Obama substantially narrowed their differences in the latest round of talks.
The prospects in Congress for Boehner's proposal are unclear. The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, has passed a bill that would extend the tax breaks for household income less than $250,000. That's the proposal that Obama had campaigned on, although he suggested raising that threshold to $400,000 in recent talks with Boehner.
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The speaker wants to prevent a tax hike in the new year on most Americans, which would happen if no agreement is reached, according to a source familiar with the private meeting but unauthorized to discuss it. A vote could come as soon as Thursday.
"We have to stop whatever tax rate increases we can," the speaker was expected to tell his troops. "In the absence of an alternative, as of this morning, a modified Plan B is the plan. At the same time we're moving on Plan B, we're leaving the door wide open for something better."
Boehner is not cutting off talks with Obama as they continue to pursue a broader deficit reduction package to avert automatic tax hikes and spending cuts in the new year.
He and the president spoke by phone late Monday after a morning meeting at the White House amid accelerated talks.
The White House responded by dismissing the Plan B measure, with press secretary Jay Carney saying that it "doesn’t meet this test because it can’t pass the Senate and therefore will not protect middle class families," in a statement.
Carney added that Obama "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."
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[For the Record, 8:32 a.m. PST Dec. 18: This post has been updated to include the White House's response to Plan B.]
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