WASHINGTON – The lines of communication seem less open.
In a terse statement to reporters made not long after President Obama called on cooler heads to prevail in negotiations on the "fiscal cliff," House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans would press ahead with votes on his so-called Plan B option.
At that point, Boehner said, “The president will have a decision to make. He can call on the Senate Democrats to pass that bill, or he can be responsible for the largest tax increase in American history.”
The Ohio Republican said that the president’s most recent counteroffer, delivered Monday, still fails to meet the test of balance he’s called for.
In an effort to avoid automatic tax hikes scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, Republicans will vote on legislation to extend current tax rates for all Americans up to $1 million of income.
The White House says the president’s latest offer is still on the table. When talks seemed to be accelerating Monday night, an aide said the speaker had said he would consider Obama’s proposal. Both sides issued statements that included language familiar in the course of these talks, saying the “lines of communication remain open.”
If the House were to pass the “Plan B” proposal, it would move on to the Senate, where majority Democrats say it is unlikely to pass. Leaders there, in fact, still express puzzlement at Boehner’s strategy.
“One of two things will happen -- either the vote fails, and the speaker has to return to the negotiating table with the president with an even weaker hand. Or the vote passes narrowly, which would only prove that rank-and-file Republicans in the House have become comfortable with a rate increase on the wealthy,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said, adding that such a step would in fact "make it easier to pass a grand bargain through Congress."