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Party leaders in Senate trade accusations of blame for Plan B failure

December 21, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (Alex Wong / AFP/Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed Democrats for forcing House leaders to pull a vote on the Plan B proposal to extend the current tax rates for all but the wealthiest Americans, and said the onus is now on them to find a workable solution in time to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has "done his part" to try to find a path to a deal, McConnell said Friday. "He's bent over backwards," he said, adding, "This isn't John Boehner's problem to solve."

Until Democrats present an alternative, McConnell said, the Senate should take up legislation the Republican-controlled House has already passed to extend all current tax rates for an additional year, with instructions to enact comprehensive tax reform in 2013. If Democrats have amendments they want to offer, they should, and differences could then be worked out with the House, he said.

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"It's called legislating. Its what we used to do in Congress,” McConnell said.

With the failure of Boehner's Plan B, any solution to avert the year-end fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts is likely to come down to negotiations between the White House and Senate, meaning McConnell will have a key role. A spokesman would not say whether the Kentucky senator has had any preliminary discussions with the White House.

Responding to McConnell during a back-and-forth exchange on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada bristled at the suggestion that Democrats were to blame for the failure of Plan B, which he dubbed a "political battering" for the speaker.

Boehner halted a vote on the bill because he could not round up the Republican votes to pass it; Democrats had pledged not to support it.

Reid said McConnell was "struggling to find a way to blame Democrats."

"I've served in the House. The speaker is all-powerful in the House. To blame us for the travesty that took place over there ... is pretty incredible," he said.

Rather than take up a House bill that the Senate already voted down, Reid said the House should take up his chamber's proposal to extend the current tax rates for income up to $250,000 a year.

"It's time for the speaker and all Republicans to return to the negotiating table. We've never left," he said.

McConnell said he was just trying to suggest a pathway forward, and that time has run out for continued "finger-pointing."

"Somehow, someway we need to find a way forward here," he said.

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