House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants called off a vote on a fiscal… (Alex Wong, Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- House Republican leaders abruptly called off a vote Thursday night on their "Plan B” tax proposal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, which ran into stiff resistance from the party's right flank.
A tight vote on a preliminary measure that had been expected to pass with ease led House Speaker John A. Boehner and his lieutenants to cancel the vote on legislation that would have extended the George W. Bush-era tax rates only for those making less than $1 million.
Earlier in the day, the House leadership had vowed to secure the necessary votes to pass the plan, but many conservative groups had mobilized against it as a betrayal of the party’s anti-tax position.
Democrats were largely unified against a proposal that party leaders considered a political stunt.
Boehner had presented Plan B as a last-ditch attempt to avoid automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect at year’s end after he said President Obama’s latest counteroffer Monday failed to cut as much spending as Republicans want in return for supporting tax increases.
Without a deal, all the Bush-era tax cuts will expire, raising taxes for everyone. In addition, broad government spending cuts are set to go into effect Jan. 2.
The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, has already passed a bill that would keep the lower tax rates for household income less than $250,000.
The White House had already threatened to veto "Plan B" if it passed both chambers of Congress, and said the Democratic-controlled Senate was considered unlikely to consider the plan.
Spokesman Jay Carney said that the difference between Obama’s and Boehner’s previous offers “was not that great,” and that the president remained willing to work with the speaker on a larger deal.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said earlier that members would stay in Washington after Thursday’s vote. But any significant congressional action before the Christmas holiday is considered unlikely. A memorial service is scheduled Friday at the National Cathedral in honor of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who had been the longest-serving senator. Some senators were also planning to fly to Hawaii to attend services there over the weekend.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would resume Dec. 27.
On Thursday, Obama to traveled to Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., to visit wounded soldiers and their families. He and Boehner have not spoken directly since Monday.
The White House would not say Thursday if Obama would be traveling to Hawaii for the Christmas holiday as he had planned and as he has done for the previous three years.