WASHINGTON — Administration officials believe that John Boehner is proposing an alternative fiscal plan because he can't bring his own House Republican caucus to the table for a deal Boehner himself proposed to the President Obama this weekend, a senior administration official told BuzzFeed Thursday.
"Senior administration officials have been told by Republicans that the reason the Speaker turned to Plan B is that he concluded that he couldn't get sufficient Republican support for the offer that he presented to the President over the weekend," the official told BuzzFeed.
The overt shot at Boehner's control of his members comes at a bitter point in the negotiations between the White House and the speaker over a plan to avert a set of mandated spending cuts, especially to defense spending, and automatic tax increases. Boehner, who maintains an at-times-fragile grip on his very conservative caucus, is facing intense pressure from his right to back off his consent to tax rate increases on millionaires — a component of both his "plan b" and various drafts of a comprehensive agreement with the president.
Obama didn't accept Boehner's offer, instead proposing a counter-offer of his own. Boehner's office responded to the administration charge calling it "stupid and untrue."
"This is stupid and untrue," said spokesman Michael Steel. "Once the White House leaked their latest offer, the Speaker’s office immediately briefed reporters to explain how absurdly unbalanced it was. The Speaker was clear that he could not support the President’s plan, let alone recommend it to Members of the House.”
Boehner faced a backlash from within his caucus on the back-up plan, which would only deal with the middle class tax cuts. Realizing the plan didn't have the votes, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor quickly introduced a spending cut bill Wednesday that would replace the mandatory "sequester" cuts. Cantor said Thursday morning that House Republicans have the votes to pass both measures today.
The White House has already threatened to veto the "Plan B" and has accused Boehner of wasting time instead of negotiating a solution to the fiscal cliff. Boehner has called on Obama to "get serious" and present him with an offer with 1:1 spending cuts and revenue increases. (The White House maintains they've met that criteria, but the two sides disagree whether interest savings should be counted as spending cuts.)
Both sides maintain that staff talks between the two sides continue, but the two principals haven't spoken since Monday night.