Republicans will move forward with a vote this evening to pass House Speaker John Boehner's so-called Plan B option on the "fiscal cliff," a permanent extension of the current tax rates for taxpayers making up to $1 million, while also replacing the first year of automatic cuts to defense and domestic programs set to take effect Jan. 2.
While Presiden Obama has threatened to veto the backup plan and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today it is dead-on-arrival in the upper chamber, House Speaker John Boehner said he is "not convinced at all that when the bill passes the House today, that it will die in the Senate."
"Rather than tell us what they can't do, maybe they should tell us what they can do," Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a news conference today at the Capitol. "If Senate Democrats and the White House refuse to act, they'll be responsible for the largest tax hike in American history."
The speaker also called on Reid "to make sure that we have a vote" to address the so-called fiscal cliff "before the Senate adjourns."
"At some point the Senate has to act. They've failed to act," he continued. "We have a bill sitting at the desk in the Senate that protects all Americans from an increase in taxes. They could take up that bill sitting at the desk, they could pass it, they could amend it, and they could help move the process. But to date they've done nothing."
Boehner said he has made significant concessions in negotiations with the president, crediting House Republicans for passing multiple bills to address the looming crisis. But he chastised Democrats for inaction and wondered whether the president is "unwilling to stand up to his own party on the big issues that face our country."
"President Obama and Senate Democrats haven't done much of anything," Boehner said. "Their Plan B is to slow-walk us over the 'fiscal cliff, 'and for weeks the White House said that if I moved on rates, that they would make substantial concessions on spending cuts and entitlement reforms. I did my part. They've done nothing."
Republicans voted months ago to replace the sequester and extend all the current tax rates. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the votes today will demonstrate once again that Republicans are "taking concrete action to avoid the 'fiscal cliff.'"
"Our members understand that the nation faces the largest tax increase in its history come January 1, 2013," Cantor, R-Va., said. "We protect 99.81 percent of American taxpayers from a tax increase in these very difficult economic times."
Cantor said the sequester replacement, formally known as the Spending Reduction Act of 2012, creates about $200 billion in additional savings for deficit reduction and is "designed to stop fraud, to eliminate waste and, frankly, to replace the sequester that is indiscriminate in its cuts."
The Budget Control Act, signed into law August 2011, requires $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts equally divided between defense and domestic programs, in the next decade, with the first $109 billion due to take effect Jan. 2.
Regardless of the Senate's next move, Cantor promised to keep House Republicans in town until the stalemate on the "fiscal cliff" is broken.
"We're committed to fixing the problem here so we can get on about a growing economy," he added. "We also realize that the president's unwillingness or inability to come to a balanced agreement with our speaker presents us with very little option other than to try and work hard to avoid a tax hike on so many millions of Americans."
While Boehner and Obama haven't spoken since Monday, the speaker admitted that he and the president "have to work together" to address the obstacles preventing a deal.
"Our country faces serious challenges and the president and I, in our respective roles, have a responsibility to work together to get them resolved," he said. "I expect that we'll continue to work together."