WASHINGTON — With negotiations over the fiscal cliff seemingly stalled, the rhetorical war between Democrats and Republicans on Thursday quickly devolved into name-calling and finger-pointing as both sides sought to avoid blame for the looming collapse.
“We’re not taking up any of the things they’re working on over there,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said of Speaker John Boehner’s evolving “Plan B,” calling them little more than “pointless political stunts” designed to appease Boehner’s right wing.
Reid also took a personal shot at Boehner, charging that “he’s been wandering around over there in some kind of befuddlement,” and accused him of trying to protect himself from the wrath of Tea Party conservatives.
“We are not going to do anything to protect the Tea Party leadership in the House,” Reid vowed.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Thursday presented a proposal to replace the sequester — a last-minute addendum to Boehner’s “Plan B” — calling spending the “underlying problem” presented by the looming fiscal cliff.
“The president’s inability to come to a balanced agreement with our speaker leaves us with no other option,” Cantor said.
“This is the best option, and the Senate should support it,” Cantor added.
The measure would replace the sequester, which is set to cut roughly $110 billion over the next 10 years, with other spending cuts from welfare and health care programs, and by placing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the purview of Congress, among other items.
House Republicans will vote on Cantor’s proposal in addition to Boehner’s “Plan B” as a concession to some lawmakers within the conference who said they could not vote for the tax hikes alone.
Despite the sudden movement on Capitol Hill, it remains unclear when a final deal will actually be reached. Reid announced that Thursday is essentially the last full day for the upper chamber until after Christmas, pointing to Friday’s memorial and Sunday funeral in Hawaii for Sen. Daniel Inouye. The Senate will return a week from today to resume work on Hurricane Sandy relief.
Cantor, on the other hand, said the House was not going out of session following tonight’s vote on the “Plan B” proposal, although they could hit the exits sometime Friday morning.