Updated 8:16 p.m. ET -- Lacking enough support to pass a backup proposal to avert the "fiscal cliff," House Republican leaders on Thursday night pulled from the floor a vote on 'Plan B' legislation that would have preserved Bush-era tax rates for all earners making less than $1 million but raised rates on the country's top earners.
"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. "Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation's crippling debt. The Senate must now act."
Boehner and other GOP leaders had firmly indicated earlier Thursday that they had sufficient support to pass the Plan B legislation, along with another package of spending cuts. "We're going to have the votes to pass both the permanent tax relief bill as well as the spending reduction bill," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told reporters at a press conference at the Capitol."
But a breakdown became evident after the GOP-dominated House only narrowly passed the package of spending reductions, which was intended to replace automatic defense cuts, or "sequestration." That measure, meant to encourage possible conservative dissenters to support the tax proposal, squeaked to victory by a margin of 215-209, with twenty-one Republicans voting against the bill.
The House then immediately went into an unexpected recess, with members huddled behind closed doors before announcing the end of votes for the evening.
Boehner proposed the "Plan B" legislation Tuesday, saying that it would provide a backstop to prevent middle class tax rates from jumping. But the measure was panned from both sides, with the White House calling it a political ploy that would be subject to a presidential veto and Senate Democrats pledging that it would not even be taken up for a vote in the upper chamber.
Tax watchdog Club for Growth also urged Republicans to vote "no" on the measure, as did conservative group Freedomworks -- which originally supported the Plan B effort before abruptly switching to opposition on Thursday afternoon. The socially conservative Family Research Council also scolded that "Congress should know better" before the vote.
The House will now recess for the Christmas holiday, leaders said. Members have been advised that the House will return "when needed" before the end of the year.