Signaling a showdown the weekend before Christmas, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says that Republicans have the votes to pass two measures on Thursday night: one that would extend income-tax rate cuts for most Americans and another that would replace the looming sequester cuts to military and other programs with spending cuts in other parts of the federal budget.
After that, he said, President Obama will have “a decision to make.”
“He can support these measures or be responsible for record spending and the largest tax hike in American history,” Cantor said.
Cantor said that House Republicans will remain in Washington after the vote, apparently to await the president’s answer. That could set up a weekend standoff over which side will give in.
One of the measures is Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B,” which would freeze most tax rates lowered under President George W. Bush, scheduled to expire at year’s end. It would allow rates to increase only on annual incomes over $1 million. Obama’s latest offer in their negotiations would set that top income level at $400,000 annually.
The speaker has said he’s offering his tax bill as a stopgap if he and Obama can’t close their differences and reach agreement on a broader plan to avert the year-end fiscal-cliff combo of those looming tax rate hikes and the automatic sequester cuts set to kick in on Jan. 2. Senate Democrats have said they will not take up Boehner’s Plan B, and the White House said that Obama would veto it if it reached his desk.
The second Republican measure to be voted on Thursday night – an eleventh-hour addition to the Republican strategy – would replace the $109 billion in first-year sequester cuts to military and domestic spending kicking in on Jan. 2 with other budget cuts, Cantor said. It would also add approximately $200 billion in additional savings for deficit reduction.
House Republicans previously pushed for such an approach in their House-passed budget plan, where many of the new spending cuts would come from safety-net programs, such as food stamps.
“We do not intend to send members home after this vote,” Cantor said. “We want them to stay here. We want to avoid the fiscal cliff from happening.”
But he said of the two measures to be voted on, “absent a balanced offer from the president, this is our nation’s best option, and Senate Democrats should take up both of these measures immediately.”